On Monday, a cooperative effort between local fishermen was launched. Belton Anglers Stocking Hybrid (BASH) was officially launched last week. BASH exists to purchase and store hybrid striped bass in Lake Belton whenever the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is unable to source or produce enough hybrid striped bass to meet its own storage goal in this area. of water.
Hybrid striped bass fishermen just endured their most difficult season in the past three decades in 2021 after fish stocked in 2018 generally did not survive. The reason for this failure is subject to speculation. The main causes of seeded hybrid striped bass failure are heat shock (due to a sharp drop in water temperature shortly after seeding) and lack of food (these small fry depend on eating even smaller creatures called rotifers).
The news gets worse before it gets better. Due to flooding downstream of the dams of several reservoirs where the egg-laden female striped bass is normally collected by TPWD for hybrid production, Lake Belton completely missed its annual restocking in 2019. This missed restocking will have a negative impact on hybrid fishing here in 2022 when these potential three-year-old fish would normally grow past the 18-inch threshold and could legally be included in a fisherman’s five-fish daily limit.
On the bright side, many of the 600,000 fry stocked in 2020 appear to have survived and thrived and have now grown to around 11 inches in length based on my own observations by regularly catching these fish as bycatch when fishing for white bass at Belton. Lake.
In order to prepare for the implementation of BASH, I laid the foundations by first obtaining the authorization of TPWD to support them in this way. Thanks to my strong working relationship with TPWD Inland Fisheries Management District Supervisor John Tibbs, this clearance was granted in the spring of 2021.
Then, in order to get budget and logistics under control, my wife and I traveled to Keo, Arkansas, just east of Little Rock, in the summer of 2021 to meet with the management and staff of this fish farm. who will supply the hybrid striped bass fry when needed.
There are two varieties of hybrid striped bass. The palmetto strain results from the crossing of a female striped bass with a male white bass. Sun strain occurs when a female white bass is crossed with a male striped bass. Keo Fish Farm will provide a sunny strain hybrid.
TPWD initially started stocking saw palmetto fry (which are larger than fry and more expensive to raise and transport), but more recently started raising and storing sun fry, while continuing to also stock saw palmetto stump fish.
The current cost of a sunny-strain hybrid striped bass fry is half a cent. The fry are packed in oxygen-rich water in thick, lined plastic bags placed in an insulated rigid foam box. There are 50,000 fry per box. Therefore, the cost for a box of fry is around $ 250, plus a $ 45 per box cost for airlift from Little Rock to Austin.
To establish the fundraising goal for BASH for 2022, we looked at the maximum number of hybrids stored in any given year. That number was 1.2 million fish. At current prices, and assuming TPWD will not be able to stock a single fish in 2022, BASH is looking to be prepared to purchase those 1.2 million fish at a cost of just over $ 7,000.
TPWD’s ideal target for 2022 is 1 million hybrids for Belton. If, for example, TPWD could only provide half of that amount, BASH would buy the balance and defer its remaining funding until 2023 while also looking to replenish its account in order to be ready to purchase a full year of storage at all. time in the future, if need be.
Under no circumstances could the BASH stock hybrid exceed the target number of TPWD stocked fish for any given year.
BASH is neither for profit nor for profit. BASH is an entity that exists simply to raise funds, which is intended only for the purchase of fish. All efforts are unpaid volunteer efforts, and all administrative costs are the responsibility of the BASH participants. Aside from the small transaction fees that platforms like Square, PayPal, and Venmo charge for using their money transfer technology, all of the money is used to buy and store fish.
BASH organizers started receiving donations when the organization went live earlier this week. Organizers are currently planning a fundraising raffle to raise the majority of the proceeds needed to purchase the necessary fry. End of February will be the most likely date for this event.
Those interested in following and / or supporting BASH’s efforts can do so by calling me, Bob Maindelle, at 254-368-7411. There are intentionally no membership requirements, boards of directors, policies, bureaucracy and bureaucracy associated with BASH. This was done to keep the organization as nimble and responsive as possible in order to make Belton Lake’s hybrid fishing as good as possible.
BASH promises full financial transparency so donors know exactly where their donations have gone.
If, as you read this, you have a desire to help, please consider two things. Firstly, just getting the word out is of great value and secondly, if you are able to provide any raffle products or services, please contact me at the number above.
If you’re a Belton Lake angler, another handy thing you can do is make sure you know the difference between a white bass and a hybrid striped bass, and do everything you can to unleash a hybrid under. -sized unscathed. Using a pair of 6 inch curved tip forceps / hemostats is the best tool for this job, far exceeding the usefulness of straight needle nose pliers for removing hooks.
TPWD has worked hard to develop the Belton Hybrid Fishery, but nature has given us all tough hands in recent years. Now is the time to work and cooperate with each other to be good stewards of our natural resources and make the most of what we have.