The True Trout Of Texas

“I wish we had a native trout in Texas.”

As I spoke those words to Therese Thompson of the Western Native Trout Initiative, her reply took me by surprise.

“Well, Texas used to have the Rio Grande cutthroat,” she said.

What?

The only trout I was aware of living on the Gulf Coast-speckled, sand, and Gulf trout, and they are not true trout anyway.

It has spot and sorts of looks like a trout but a speckled trout (spotted seatrout) is not a true trout. That didn’t stop the author from being all smiles when catching this big one on Louisiana’s Lake Calcasieu. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

They are members of Sciaenidae, not the Salmonidae family.

Then it hit me. In the early years of my career as a wildlife journalist, I remembered coming across a study on this issue, but in the first half of a career spent more in saltwater than streams, it was not a priority.

Now it was.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout. (Public Domain Photo)

A 1991 study by Gary C. Barrett and Gary C. Matlock called “Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout In Texas” provides conclusive evidence this species of trout once dwelled in certain areas in western Texas.

Historic records provide evidence that Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis) were indigenous to some Texas streams. This information includes railroad survey reports and several accounts in a major sporting publication of the late 1800s, including a drawing with color description. Published accounts continued through the mid-1900s, after which man’s activities made these streams unsuitable for trout survival.

The study notes that because of the locations of the populations, the trout would have to have lived and reproduced in Texas, which would make them true natives.

These locations, including the Devil’s River, Lampia Creek, and San Felipe Creek, were spring-fed streams of relatively high flow before human settlement.

Rio Grande cutthroat are stunningly beautiful fish that currently live in New Mexico and southern Colorado.

While they no longer live in Texas, is it possible they could come back with concerted conservation efforts?

The species was part of a discussion on native stream species restoration at a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department hearing in 2014, and there is support for recovery among fly fishers who are aware of the species Texas past.

This story came about through a conversation about the Western Native Trout Initiative, which is a public-private Fish Habitat Partnership that works collaboratively across 12 western states to conserve (protect, restore, and recover) 21 native trout and char species.

Youth in our Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expeditions will be taking part in July to pursue the Yellowstone cutthroat and help raise awareness of this very worthy initiative.

Yellowstone cutthroat trout. (Public Domain Photo)

Sometimes it merely takes talking with someone to change perspective on an issue and open one’s eyes to the amazing wonders of nature.

I’ve caught thousands of speckled, sand, and Gulf trout in Texas waters, rainbows in Arkansas and browns in New York but to catch a Rio Grande cutthroat in their native waters…that would be a whole new experience.

Look for more on native trout, including the Rio Grande cutthroat in the coming weeks and months.

Chester Moore, Jr.

A Strike Against CWD

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a killer-no doubt.

It has caused the death of thousands of whitetail, mule deer, elk and other deer in numerous states and at least two Canadian provinces.

Yet there is some skepticism over what precautions should be taken to prevent its spread. 

A deer infected with CWD. (Public Domain Photo)

Several states have considered bans on natural urine-based scents common in deer and elk hunting across America.

Many hunters consider them vital to their hunting success during the rut period when sex-based scents can lure help lure big bucks and bulls into shooting range.

Last week I spoke with Sam Burgeson, the President of Wildlife Research Center and he said his company along with Tink’s are using a special test to detect any possible CWD risk before the product leaves the factory.

He said a commercial laboratory began testing deer urine for the scent companies in 2019, enabling two of the industry’s largest manufacturers to test 100 percent of their natural deer urine products before releasing them to the marketplace. 

The laboratory company CWD Evolution has expanded and is testing products for commercial scent manufacturers. Products that have been tested will be authorized to include the “RT-QuIC Tested“ logo.undefined

“We have made major investments as a company to ensure that our products are safe” said Sam Burgeson, President of Wildlife Research Center. 

“It is frustrating that government regulators are either ignoring these advances or are unaware that these technologies are readily available.  Our industry has not stuck our heads in the sand on this issue but have rolled up our sleeves and taken action to address the very real CWD concerns.”

Burgeson said urine producers participating in the Archery Trade Association’s Deer Protection Program are using best practices to ensure CWD stays out of their herds, and several states have adopted regulations that allow urine sourced from these facilities to be used by hunters.  

“Louisiana has adopted regulations that require RT-QuIC testing, and it is hopeful that other states will follow their lead rather than pursuing blanket bans that prohibit traditional hunting methods and would hurt responsible hunting product companies,” he said.

Burgeson said states proposing bans are getting their recommendations from a document created by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in 2018 that recommends a series of best management practices for dealing with CWD. 

He said it did not include recommendations from the deer scent industry.

CWD is real. CWD is a problem. But CWD in many ways is mysterious. 

There is still much speculation about its long-term impact, potential reach and even how it can spread.

It is currently causing changes in the way wildlife managed.

Texas recently adopted a policy of no longer translocating mule deer which are sometimes moved from the Panhandle to Trans Pecos or from one part of those two regions. They don’t want to risk CWD transmission.

Montana recetnly completed a survey that showed 86 positives in a test that included 86 whiteails, 53 mule deer, two moose and an elk.  That state is seeking more ways to detect and curtail CWD.

It is good to see members of the hunting industry taking positive steps to stop its spread and further encroachment on the hunting lifestyle.

Consider this a strike against CWD and a positive strike against a force that is as complex and controversial.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Deep Woods Dangers (Humans) Pt. 1

Ted Bundy.

It’s a name that invokes horror some 40 years after this despicable reign of terror.

And that was the name carved into a tree deep in a national forest in Utah where Josh Slone was bowhunting mule deer.

“It was an old inscription and it was chilling, especially knowing Bundy lived in Utah and killed people there,” Slone said.

There are other alleged Bundy tree carvings but this one was far, far off the beaten path.

Had one of the most evil people who ever walked the planet actually carved that into the tree?

There is no way to tell but there is no question that bad people often do the worst things in remote places.

A couple of years ago someone asked me what was the most dangerous thing to encounter in the woods.

Since I’ve written and broadcasted extensively on cougars, snakes, feral hogs and bears they were expecting one of those as the answer.

“People, ” I said.

“There is nothing more dangerous than people, especially in remote forests and mountainous regions.”

Deep woods can sometimes mean big dangers. (Public Domain Photo)

The answer came from collecting stories as a journalist over the years and my own personal experiences which I will discuss in upcoming posts and broadcasts.

The stories are omnipresent.

Take for example the caller to my radio program “Moore Outdoors” on Newtalk AM 560 KLVI who found a body burning while teal hunting with his son south of Houston.

Another caller revealed that in the 70s he and his father were out night fishing near High Islalnd, TX and see someone against the shoreline burying something and decided to leave.

Turns out it was monstrous serial killer Dean Corll who brutalized dozens of teenage boys.

Remote areas are often the most peaceful but due to the isolation can be extremely dangerous.

The author often finds himself in very remote locations. Here he glasses for bighorn sheep in a remote valley in Colorado.

My goal is to educate people on what can happen in these areas and how to be prepared so that all deep woods hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing trips are safe.

That will require bringing to light some uncomfortable facts. And it will also involve creating a system of proactive safety.

I see these human-related threats falling into four categories.

*Idiot Hunters: These are those rare , unethical, clueless hunters who should not be in the woods (and give the rest of us a bad name). Every years stories of people shooting someone because they heard something coming through the bushes. This is probably statistically the most dangerous human threat because of the widespread nature of hunters in America.

*Poachers: Encountering a poacher in the woods can be dangerous if they assume you will turn them in or if you make the mistake of confronting them instead of law enforcement handling the duties. It’s not as dangerous as it is in Africa where organized crime and even terror cells are involved in high stakes rhino and elephant poaching but it is a potential threat.

*Drug Trade: Finding meth labs and pot farms is not good. People do not want their operations found out and will go to any length to stop someone from squealing.

*Predators: This is the highest level. This is coming across someone hunting humans whether to rape, kill or terrorize.

There is no way to tell if the Bundy inscription at the beginning of the story was actually made by that monster but think about what would happen if you had stumbled upon him carving into a tree with knife in hand.

Would you be ready to defend yourself? Would you even be suspect of this person?

There are lots of questions that need answering and we will do that here and on my other media platforms throughout 2020.

Chester Moore, Jr.