The Nueces River flows out of some of the Texas’s most beautiful landscapes in Real County. From 2,400 feet elevations of limestone encrusted mountains to open valleys, the area is a treat for the eyes. And in the waters that flow through here lives the state’s most unique freshwater fish-the Guadalupe bass.
Dwelling in only a handful of river drainages in the Edwards Plateau, they are a small bass with the state record weighing just 3.71 pounds.
According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials, economic impact from fishing in Hill Country streams has been estimated at over $50 million a year, and 42 percent of those anglers targeted Guadalupe Bass.
Cousins Amos and Jaxon got a chance to go on a special Guadalupe Bass catch-and-release conservation mission to raise awareness to the species and to stream health in Texas.
The trip is part of the Wild Wishes® program founded by me and my wife Lisa in 2014. It grants wildlife encounters to children who have terminal illness or have lost a parent or sibling.
We are now finding ways to train these young people to become wildlife conservationists. We realized no one can better understand wildlife that is threatened, endangered or in need of attention than children who have faced great struggles themselves.
We started off in Lost Maples State Natural Area, a gorgeous tract that is considered a sanctuary for Guadalupe bass. And despite catching numerous largemouths, we found no Guadalupes.
Our next stop was in a roadside stream near Camp Wood and once again we found no Guadalupes. However, we did find an incredible concentration of gorgeous Rio Grande cichlids and had a great time catching and releasing them.
Our next step was a stretch of the Nueces River just outside of Barksdale.
This river had plenty of flow which is the preferred haunt of this species and within 10 minutes Jaxon’s father Josh caught a Guadalupe.
Jaxon followed suit five minutes later.
And within two hours we all had caught Guadalupe bass.
While standing next to Amos in the stream he reflected on the day.
“This is such a beautiful place Mr. Chester. I thank God we got to fish it,” he said.
“Indeed my friend,” I replied.
The boys were surprised to learn introduced smallmouth bass have caused hybridization problems with this species that is uniquely Texas. After spending time in them they were concerned about the health of streams and asked deep questions about water quality, pollution and the impact of dams and drought.
Young people can ask big questions about nature if you give them the opportunity and that was what this Wild Wishes trip as all about.
Through these two boy’s heart for fishing and wildlife thousands of people will learn about the Guadalupe bass and maybe even decide to take a trip to the Hill Country in pursuit of them.
They are after all the Texas State Fish and deserve to not only survive but thrive.
And so do children.
When they go through tragedies or face health trials spending quality time in God’s Creation can do wonders. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with this wonderful family and pursue a fish that has always intrigued me.
TPWD is doing a great job managing the Guadalupe bass fishery and I will have more on them later this summer after a second Wild Wishes mission hits the streams of the Hill Country.
For now ponder how you can make a positive impact on this special fishery by getting involved with local stream cleanup efforts and using social media to raise awareness to Guadalupe bass existence, challenges and triumphs as you learn of them.
And maybe even more importantly reflect on how time in nature, pursuing simple stream fishing can heal wounds in young people and not so young people alike.
When Jaxon released his first Guadalupe bass back into the clear waters of the Nueces he looked up and said, “This is awesome!”
Yes it is little buddy.
Yes it is.
Chester Moore, Jr.