THE NUECES RIVER flows out of some of Texas’s most beautiful landscapes in Real County.
From 2,400 foot elevations of limestone-encrusted mountains to open valleys, the area is a treat for the eyes. Plus, 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, This is a small bass with the state record weighing just 3.71 pounds.
The Guadalupe bass, like other “black bass” including largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, is not a true bass at all but a member of the sunfish family Centrarchidae.
According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials, economic impact from fishing in Hill Country streams has been estimated at more than$50 million a year, Of those anglers, 42 percent targeted Guadalupe bass.
Cousins Amos and Jaxon are part of the Wild Wishes program that grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling.
Last summer, they got a chance to go on a special Guadalupe bass catch-and-release conservation mission. The goal was to raise awareness of the species along with stream health in Texas.
This was the pilot project for a new branch of Wild Wishes called Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expeditions. It involves taking kids from the Wild Wishes programs on expeditions to train them to become wildlife conservationists.
Their trip started off in Lost Maples State Natural Area, a gorgeous tract that is considered a sanctuary for Guadalupe bass. However, despite catching numerous largemouths, we found no Guadalupes.
The 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. Jaxon was super happy to catch a huge Rio Grande cichlid.
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. Within 10 minutes Jaxon’s father Josh caught a Guadalupe. Jaxon followed suit five minutes later.
Within two hours we all had caught a Guadalupe bass.
While I stood 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.”
“Indeed my friend,” I replied.
The boys were surprised to learn that introduced smallmouth bass have caused hybridization problems with this uniquely Texas species. After spending time in these streams, the boys were concerned about stream health. They 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 inaugural Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expedition was about.
Through these two boy’s hearts 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 not only to survive, but thrive.
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 this Texas original fish with them.
Most important, it gave everyone time to reflect on how 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.
For more information on Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expeditions go to www.wildwishes.org.
—story by CHESTER MOORE