FROM STAFF REPORTS
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials are more optimistic about fish populations in the Llano River after a recent multi-day sampling trip with the Llano River Watershed Alliance.
The two entities conducted the study in March to assess fish populations in four stretches of the Llano River to determine how they were rebounding after the October 2018 flooding. They focused on the areas near the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s leased public fishing and boating access sites.
“In 2018, the Llano River was greatly affected by a 100-year flood that significantly altered its fish habitat,” said John Botros, the department’s River Access Program coordinator. “Many anglers and local landowners expressed concern to us about the status of the fish populations following this catastrophic flooding. While the abundance of fish in the river is lower than it was before the flood, we are happy to report that fish populations are showing signs of recovery.”
Although fish were caught throughout the river, biologists saw a big difference in the types of fish and their numbers between the main branch of the Llano River and the South Llano River near Junction.
“The most abundant and diverse populations of fish were found on the stretch of the Llano River near the city of Junction and on the South Llano River,” Botros said. “This stretch appears to be less affected by the flood. We caught multiple species of minnows, suckers, and game fish, including largemouth bass and our state fish, Guadalupe bass. Anglers visiting the area this year will likely have higher fishing success focusing on this stretch of the river.”
Farther downstream, on the main stem of the Llano River between Castell and County Road 103 in Llano County, the number of fish and types were much lower than upstream near Junction. Botros said that, although few game fish were caught – mostly largemouth bass – the fish were considerably larger than those caught from the South Llano River.
“Although fish abundance on the mainstream Llano River appeared low, this was to be expected since a near-historic flood occurred only a few months prior,” Botros said. “Fish tend to be displaced during large flood events, and it takes time for them to repopulate. Flooding is a natural part of river systems, and the fish that live there are adapted to handle it; however, it may take a couple of years for populations to return to pre-flood conditions after a flood this large.
Spring and early summer is when the bass and catfish in Llano River spawn,” he continued, “so we expect juveniles produced by these remaining adults will bolster populations throughout the river by this fall.”
The department’s River Studies Program staff also reported recovery of aquatic invertebrate populations, which are a food source for fish, amphibians, aquatic birds, and other river animals.
With recovering habitat and aquatic invertebrate populations, biologists are optimistic that fish will continue to rebound, barring any additional catastrophic flooding. Followup fish and aquatic invertebrate surveys are planned for this fall as well as surveys to monitor for aquatic invasive species that often spread during flood events.
“We paddled most of the river between Junction and Schneider Slab Road, and anglers shouldn’t hesitate to visit the river this year for an enjoyable and scenic paddling and fishing experience,” Botros said. “River flows are good this spring, and while the flood decreased the abundance of fish, the river is still very much alive and well on the way to a full recovery.”
Public fishing and paddling access can be found at five Texas Parks and Wildlife Department leased sites, including the South Llano River at County Road 150 and the main stem of the Llano River at Pete’s Pecan Patch, Maso-Llan Road, Castell Crossing, and HR Seventh Heaven. Find more information and maps at the River Access and Conservation Areas website.