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July 2011 cover image Every Drop Counts

Stocking the South Llano

River gets Guadalupe bass, sees new watershed protection effort.

By Tom Harvey

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department completed the first stocking of Guadalupe bass in the South Llano River in May, marking a new chapter in a decades-long effort to save the state fish of Texas. The release is part of a prototype effort of a new watershed-scale approach to water resource conservation in Texas.

Since 1992, TPWD has been stocking Guadalupe bass in the Guadalupe River system, trying to restore a balance that was upset when native Guadalupes started interbreeding with imported smallmouth bass. Interbreeding creates a hybridization problem by causing native fish to lose their genetic identity. In the South Llano, biologists have a chance to make a big difference.

“When we started in the Guadalupe River system almost 20 years ago, Guadalupe bass hybridization there was already at 30 percent and worsening,” says Gary Garrett, TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist and a leader of the agency’s new watershed program. “But in the South Llano, samples show only 3 percent hybridization. We’re starting this one early, and that’s why we have such a great chance to nip the problem in the bud.”

Four fish releases were performed, with about 175,000 Guadalupe bass fingerlings released into the South Llano River this year.

The restoration effort is broader than just the bass releases. Led by TPWD, a diverse coalition is also planning to fight erosion and protect river water quality through tactics like improving riverbank stabilization, planting native plants, creating log complexes and building boulder installations. An important goal is to remodel poorly designed road crossings that alter the riverscape and are often barriers to fish passage.

The restoration coalition will empower landowners by assembling and communicating best management practices showcasing river protection tactics. The TPWD Landowner Incentive Program is offering grants to landowners to manage not only the river corridor but also uplands that drain into the river and affect water quality. A key partner is the South Llano Watershed Alliance, composed of riverside landowners and other stakeholders.

TPWD is even working with locals and applying for grants to create a new Texas paddling trail for kayakers and canoeists along the South Llano.

To help pay for these South Llano River projects, TPWD has assembled close to $1.4 million in funding.

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