By Justin Walker
Communications Specialist

State biologists are evaluating fish populations in Central Texas and the Hill Country as flood waters recede.

Local anglers and members of the public have expressed concerns over populations as water levels in the Llano, Colorado, Pedernales and other rivers begin to recede. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists do not expect the flooding to have a direct impact, but the long-term outlook depends on the response to downed trees and debris in and along these rivers from landowners and communities.

Fish in the area have adapted to flooding, which is common. During floods, fish will either be displaced downstream or take refuge behind boulders, wood or similar structures in the river to avoid high current velocities.

“Recent fish tracking studies conducted by TPWD and Texas Tech University on the Colorado and Trinity Rivers showed that some species of fish seek refuge in smaller, calmer tributary streams during floods, while others move into the slower moving waters on the floodplain,” David Buckmeier, director of TPWD Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center, said. “Once the rivers settle back down, fish will often move back in the same reaches of river that they previously occupied.”

Flood waters will often strand fish on river banks and lake shores, which recently occurred at Lake LBJ. This should not cause a negative impact on fish populations, according to fisheries biologists. The floods allowed fish access to nutrient-rich floodplains, which could help increase some species.

Many anglers were concerned about Guadalupe bass, but biologists believe conditions will improve for the species.

“Floods benefit Guadalupe bass habitats by clearing out excess sediment, rebuilding gravel bars and riffles and adding boulders and woody debris to river channels, enhancing habitat quality for Guadalupe bass and other sport fishes,” Tim Birdsong, chief of Habitat Conservation for TPWD Inland Fisheries Division, said.

As waters recede, the impact to landowners is revealed, which can include erosion, uprooted trees or brush and other material deposited along river banks. Landowners should be careful when cleaning debris to avoid compacting soils, damaging stabilizing vegetation and exacerbating erosion during future floods.

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