BOB MAINDELLE: A partnership to secure the future of hybrid tracers in Belton Lake | Outdoor sports
Last Thursday my wife and I left central Texas on our way to Keo, Arkansas, just outside of Little Rock.
The purpose of this trip was to meet the owners and staff of the 1,200-acre Keo Fish Farm of Water, which is a private commercial hatchery specializing in breeding hybrid striped bass, especially the sunny strain of striped bass. hybrid. .
In 2020, I requested and obtained consent from John Tibbs, the District Supervisor of Inland Fisheries of the Waco District of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, to complement the state’s efforts to stock hybrid striped bass in the lake. Belton with privately funded fish. , all to ensure that Belton Lake is supplied with an optimal number of hybrid tracers each year, and at an optimal time, as well
maximize their survival rate.
Achieving this goal of stocking the optimum number of fish at the optimum time of year has proven to be a challenge. Perhaps the biggest hurdle has been the successful hunt for egg-laden female striped bass in a handful of escape lanes from dams where they exist in Texas.
Flow rates through dams that are too high or too low have, in the past, prevented successful electroshock efforts which, in turn, can compromise the production of a sufficient number of hybrids.
Striped Bass. This is the case with the palmetto strain of the hybrid striped bass.
The hybrid saw palmetto strain is produced by crossing a female striped bass with a male white bass.
To deal with this reality, TPWD has started experimenting with hybrids of sun strains that are produced by crossing a female white bass with a male striped bass. These two parent fish are many
obtained more easily and from a wider variety of sources than the female striped bass.
Regardless of the strain, TPWD has also experimented with fry-sized hybrids that have grown to around two inches, as well as fry, which are only a few days past the
fertilization of eggs with milt (the fish version of semen).
The effort devoted to additional private stocking of hybrids at Lake Belton would be as follows: First, I will work to raise funds among professional and recreational anglers who fish Lake Belton, such as
as well as other local businesses with a vested interest in maintaining reliable hybrid fishing on the lake.
These funds will be held in reserve for use if / when TPWD is unable to produce and / or procure sufficient hybrids to adequately store Lake Belton.
Once it is determined that the storage efforts will be insufficient, TPWD will give the green light to secure the hybrid fry with private funds and store them.
I would then place an order with Keo Fish Farms with a specific delivery date. Keo Fish Farms would then produce the sun strain hybrid fry, bag them in chilled water, place those bags of fish in
insulated foam containers and ship them by air from Little Rock to Austin.
I picked them up, drove them to Belton Lake and, using my own boat and / or with the help of others, took the fry to the designated release points.
Once at the release points, the bags would be removed from the foam containers and placed in Lake Belton, still closed, so as to allow the temperature of the water in the bags to equalize with the lake water.
Temperature. After 15-20 minutes, the bags would then be opened and the fry released.
Fast forward three years, and the goal is to produce large numbers of legal fish over 18 inches long and over three pounds for the fishing public.
We arrived at Keo Fish Farms on Friday with a lot of questions, mostly focused on supply logistics, and the details surrounding a successful outing. We inquired about costs, ordering times and air freight limitations. We asked questions about the best time of year to store, the best water temperature to store at, how to identify ideal discharge locations and more.
The owners, Mike Freeze and Martha Melkovitz, were patient with us, answered all of our questions and made us feel comfortable doing business with them in the future.
There will be a lot more of this story to tell as spring 2022 approaches. Belton Lake anglers have just suffered what I consider to be the worst year for hybrid fishing in almost 30 years. peach
the lake, and the outlook for 2022, based on the stocking history for 2019 that would produce the legal fish for that year, does not look rosy.
Just because the optimum number of fish is stored does not guarantee success, and storing more fish does not always translate into more legal fish in the lake many years later.
We just hope to serve as an effective and ready-to-implement Plan B so that when nature, budget, politics, or the unexpected prevent Tibbs and his team from doing what they know needs to be done to help.
Belton Lake produces what it can do, we can provide it with the tools it needs.
Those interested in more closely following the progress of this effort and / or helping fund the purchase of Sun Striped Bass fry can contact me by email at [email protected]