Expanding Public Support for Conservation of Native Black Bass Populations Through Increased Recreational Access and Sustainable Use of Texas Rivers

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 3:20 PM
Marriott Ballroom C (The Marriott Little Rock)
Timothy Birdsong , Inland Fisheries Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, TX
Ryan McGillicuddy , Inland Fisheries, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, TX
Gary Garrett , Inland Fisheries Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Mountain Home, TX
Angler interest in river fishing is on the rise in Texas and a number of high-quality river fishing opportunities exist in the state for black basses.  As interest in river fishing grows, so does the demand for expanded public access, and increased use of the resource is not without conflict or concern. The Devils River has long been considered one of the most pristine rivers in Texas, providing a wilderness experience for paddlers and high-quality fishing opportunities for non-native smallmouth bass and a unique, endemic form of largemouth bass.  The 2010 acquisition of the Devils River Ranch State Park by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) expanded public access to the Devils River, but also exacerbated concerns from anglers, paddlers, conservationists, and private landowners on potential user conflicts and sustainable management of the river.  To minimize user conflicts and support sustainable use, a constituent workgroup was formed to identify strategies that would be included in a Devils River Use Management Plan.  Strategies identified by the workgroup focused on approaches to manage public access to avoid or minimize negative impacts to aquatic resources, preserve the wilderness experience, and maintain natural functional processes in the watershed that support healthy habitats and sustainable populations of native fishes.  These strategies are now being applied by TPWD as guiding principles for a new river fishing access initiative implemented through public-private partnerships with landowners and local community organizations.  This presentation will focus on how the initiative has been used to expand angler access, reduce user conflicts, promote stewardship of Texas rivers, and enhance the management and conservation of native fishes and their habitats.