TPW TV – Steve Nelle: Biologist or Psychologist?

June 16th, 2017
Steve Nelle speaking to a group of landowners.

Steve Nelle speaking to a group of landowners.

This is Passport to Texas

Author and Hill Country Land Trust member Jill Nokes holds Steve Nelle in high regard.

He has this knack for connecting with people wherever they are.

Nelle, a natural resource specialist is part biologist and part psychologist.

Even though we’re trained in the technical skills of plants and animals and soil and conservation, when we go onto farms and ranches, we’re really more in the people business.

This is especially true when evaluating damage following natural disasters. The Texas Parks and Wildlife TV Series on PBS features a segment where Steve Nelle visits landowners, like Bill Johnson, affected by the Blanco Floods.

 [Bill Johnson] There was just devastation. The riparian area was stripped of all vegetation. With two big floods in one year, you get pretty down and you sort of feel hopeless almost. But he reminds you that nature is very resilient and it will recover.

[Steve Nelle] I’ll walk with the landowner across an area that’s been devastated and find a few good things. And you can show them how nature’s trying to recover and heal this area back up.

Catch the segment about Steve Nelle next week on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Check your local listings.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series….funded by your purchase of fishing and hunting equipment and motorboat fuels.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

A New Way to Think About Trophy Fish

June 15th, 2017
Female flathead, Photo by  Matt Williams

Female flathead, Photo by Matt Williams

This is Passport to Texas

The prevailing wisdom regarding trophy fish has been:

If we want to have trophy fish [in the future] we have to protect the trophy fish [in the present].

Fisheries biologist Kris Bodine says, as a rule, trophies aren’t easy to find, let alone catch.

And that’s the thing. They’re hard to come by. They’re hard to find, because they’re just rare in the population.

Someone tell that to hand fishers. They can consistently find (or catch) trophy-sized catfish. Concerned about the effect removing trophy fish might have on the population, researchers conducted a study of flathead cats on Lake Palestine, which revealed something unexpected.

It’s not the trophy animals that need protecting. It’s the animals that are going to produce the trophies. So, the young adults.

Bodine says we should protect these younger fish because not only are they more abundant than their big sisters and brothers, they also have more life left in them.

These big trophy fish—they’re old. More of them are dying of old age than are being caught by anglers. And I don’t care what fishing method we’re talking about. I mean, throwing them [trophies] back probably isn’t going to create more big fish. But throwing back the young adults would help your cause.

Find the rules of hand fishing on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series, and is funded by your purchase of fishing equipment and motorboat fuel.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Is Hand Fishing Bad for Fisheries?

June 14th, 2017
Big Blue Cat, Lake Tawakoni. Image: Capt. Michael Littlejohn.

Big blue cat caught conventionally in Lake Tawakoni. Image: Capt. Michael Littlejohn.

This is Passport to Texas

Hand fishers locate catfish nesting sites along river banks, reach in until a fish latches onto their arm, and then remove both arm and fish from the water.

This is historically a controversial fishing method. First off, we’re taking fish off of active nests, and some people don’t like that. And, historically it’s been illegal.

Legal in Texas since 2011, hand fishers only make up about one percent of all anglers. Fisheries biologist, Kris Bodine says hand fishers regularly harvest trophy fish. The belief has been that their harvest of trophy fish is detrimental to the population.

And if we want to have trophy fish, we have to protect the trophy fish [by catch and release], and since hand fishers are catching [harvesting] trophy fish, everybody viewed them as a problem.

Thus prompting a study at Lake Palestine. After analyzing results from the study, it turns out harvest was low; very low.

For flatheads, which hand fishers tend to target, we were looking at around 3-4% [harvest rate]. And we were finding that the populations [in Lake Palestine] could withstand two or three maybe four times that, before any kind of problem started existing.

This was a revelation. So if trophy cats don’t need our protection, which ones do? That’s tomorrow.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Noodling: Hands on Fishing

June 13th, 2017
Catching big cats by hand. Image: http://archive.gosanangelo.com/

Catching big cats by hand. Image: http://archive.gosanangelo.com/

This is Passport to Texas

Hand fishing, commonly called noodling, became legal in Texas in 2011.

What they do is they find holes that are typically on the bank, or in structure timber, what have you. And, fishermen will search around in the water blindly, feeling in holes until they find these fish, and then they’ll pull them out with their hands.

Fisheries biologist Kris Bodine says far from being a fringe activity, this technique is quite old.

Before we had fishing poles, it was a way folks fished. They were just grabbing fish for food.

Hand fishers are more efficient at catching trophy-sized fish using this technique.

Big fish of any species—I don’t care whether it’s catfish, or bass or what have you—they’re hard to find. And, so, this particular technique has offered folks a chance to catch more big fish than they would at any other time, because they’re really concentrated in these areas.

What impact does removing so many big fish have on the overall catfish population?

There’s a perception among anglers and among fisheries biologists that high harvest of trophy fish is majorly detrimental to the catfish population.

Researchers conducted a study of hand fishers, with eye-opening results. Details tomorrow.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series and is funded by your purchase of fishing equipment and motorboat fuel.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Get Dad Outdoors for Father’s Day

June 12th, 2017
Family time on the water.

Family time on the water.

This is Passport to Texas

A lot of men don’t want friends and family making a big fuss over them on special days – but we’re going to do it for Father’s Day anyway, Daddio, so deal with it.

Show your Dad what he means to you by giving him the gift of the great Texas outdoors on Father’s Day, June 18th.

Maybe the kiddos could spring for a Texas State Parks Pass (which is really like a gift for the whole family); it allows unlimited access to all state parks for a year, discounts on camping, as well as discounts at state parks stores.

Or, you could take Dad fishing at a state park—because everyone fishes for free at Texas State Parks that have fishing opportunities. Some parks even have tackle loaner programs. Just bring your own bait. Plus, you could catch something tasty for your Dad Day Dinner. How cool is that?

If your Dad prefers alone time with nature, and doesn’t already have a limited use permit from Parks and Wildlife, giving one to him provides access to a million acres of public land in Texas where he can hike, mountain bike, do some wildlife viewing, fish—and in some cases—primitive camping.

Texas is a big state that offers an exciting world of outdoor opportunities. Doesn’t your Dad deserve the best of Texas?

That’s our show for today…Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.