Texas Striped Bass, the Next Victims of the Drought?

Photo couresy of Accident on Eclectic via Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/nakrnsm/

Striped Bass cannot exist in Texas unless they are bred and stocked in the state's rivers and lakes.

David Barer, an intern at StateImpact Texas, researched and reported this article.

The fish hatchery that supplies much of the striped bass in Texas may be the first state-run hatchery to close due to lack of water.  This spring water levels at the Kemp Reservoir, the main source of water for the Dundee Fish hatchery near Wichita Falls, will be too low to support agricultural, municipal and hatchery use.

“We draw water from a public water source; when those water sources are low, for the hatcheries…we can’t draw water into our structures…that will impact our operations tremendously,” Todd Engeling, Texas Parks and Wildlife’s chief of inland fisheries told StateImpact Texas. “Without water we really can’t do anything.”

The Dundee hatchery will not be able to pull water from Lake Kemp if lake levels fall below 1125 feet above sea level, according to a TPWD press release. The lake is currently at 1126 feet, but agricultural activity will increase this spring. That will pull more water from the lake and bring levels down further unless the area sees major rainfall.

The hatchery is one of four hatcheries in the state run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and supplies up to five million striped bass fingerlings (or baby fish) per year.  Unlike most other species of sport fish in Texas, striped bass do not naturally procreate in the state. Without the stocking program the populations will steadily decline and disappear in Texas.

Texas Parks and Wildlife hopes to move a large portion of the Dundee’s operation to a different hatchery to continue striped bass production this spring.

Yesterday StateImpact Texas reported on the damage that dropping sales of fishing licenses can have on funding for hatcheries.  The drought and extreme heat of last year brought fewer anglers to state waters, and even if the hatchery programs survive there may be fewer anglers in Texas lakes to fish for Striped Bass.

“People are just not coming,” Ray Williamson, a fishing guide on Lake Buchanan told StateImpact Texas. “A lot of the resorts are out of water a lot of people are having a hard time.”

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