Texans tend to claim that things are bigger in the Lone Star State. That claim seems to hold true when it comes to trout. Starting in November of each year, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department begin dumping some 300,000+ rainbow trout into waters around the state as part of their annual Winter Trout Stocking Program. Most of these fish range between seven and twelve inches, but this year, the Guadalupe River is receiving some true trophy fish.
Charlie Schoenherr, a schoolteacher outside of Austin, Texas, has frequented the Guadalupe River for several years and noted a change in the size of the fish he had been catching lately. “In all the fish I’ve caught on the Guadalupe River, I’ve only seen one with a kype. In the past month my friends and I have landed a half-dozen with huge kypes on them. [These fish] are much bigger than normal.”
This report could easily fall under the category of “fishing tales” so we made sure to fact check Schoenherr’s claims by talking to Chris Johnson, the owner of Living Waters Fly Fishing in Round Rock, Texas. Johnson holds the title of VP of Membership for the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited chapter, which also happens to routinely stock the Guadalupe River with its own trout that are larger than their Parks & Wildlife counterparts. “Our chapter of TU is responsible for three annual stockings of rainbow trout… in the 14 to 18 inch range.”
But according to Johnson, this year the fish are even bigger. “We have a good relationship with our hatchery and if they have a bone to throw our way, they tend to do so. This year we received a good portion of retired broodstock fish.” These retired egg-producers grew much larger than the average hatchery fish. “I was talking to a friend of mine and he caught one that measured an honest 25 inches.”
In addition to providing anglers the chance to land some gigantic rainbows, these oversized brood fish are an opportunity to increase the number of wild-born fish in the Guadalupe River. In the words of Johnson, “These big brood fish came off the truck hot and heavy and ready to spawn. There are redds in the river this year. It’s the strangest thing in the world to go down a rapid and two trout sitting on a redd. I mean, we’re in Central Texas, that’s a little strange.”
****UPDATE**** We’ve received a bit of flack for running an online piece about a fishery supported by stocked fish. We were under the assumption that most people knew that the Guadalupe River received X,000,000 hatchery fish each year. However, would you rather these Texans drive into Colorado/New Mexico/Wyoming/Montana/etc. to chase after wild fish (many of which are not native) by the bus load? We appreciate the Guadalupe River for giving Texans the opportunity to catch trophy fish (no matter how artificial they may be) in their home state. Maybe that angler will make a connection with the resource and eventually become a conservationist and look into the value of wild places that aren’t necessarily stocked by the truckload.
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.