Lake Buchanan has suffered multiple setbacks from drought in recent years — boat ramps out of water, declining striped bass fishery and decreased tourism — but a local conservation group has engineered ways to combat all those problems.
Working in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Lower Colorado River Authority and Burnet and Llano counties, the Lake Buchanan Conservation Corporation has built boat ramps, improved fish habitat in the lake, stocked fish and improved recreational facilities at public parks.
“Our overall goal is to increase tourism to Lake Buchanan,” said Todd Boyd, president of LBCC, which has about 200 members. “We want to bring people to the lake to enjoy what it has to offer.”
One of the things Boyd enjoys is fishing, and Lake Buchanan has long been known as one of the premiere striped bass fisheries in Texas.
“Lake Buchanan is the uppermost lake in the Lower Colorado chain of lakes above Austin, making it relatively more productive than the lakes downstream,” said Marcos De Jesus, the TPWD fisheries biologist who manages the lake’s fishery. “The productivity translates to good production of shad, which is the main forage species for fish like stripers. Striped bass have been stocked into the lake since 1977. Hybrid striped bass, a cross between white bass and striped bass, require the same habitat and forage, and they have been stocked into the lake since 2006.”
This year the LBCC will stock 75,000 two- to three-inch hybrid striped bass fingerlings into Lake Buchanan. The stocking will take place Thursday, July 26, at 9 a.m. at the boat ramp off CR 225 in Llano County.
Stocked reservoir populations of striped bass are most often incapable of reproducing due to environmental constraints, while hybrid stripers are naturally infertile. Maintaining the fishery depends on consequent annual stockings.
TPWD has stocked more than 10 million striped bass into the lake since 1977, but recently, drought and outbreaks of golden alga have limited the ability of TPWD fish hatcheries to meet the statewide requests for both stripers and hybrids.
The LBCC stepped in, holding fundraisers to earn the money to buy hybrid striped bass from an Arkansas fish farm and, with TPWD’s blessing, stock them into the lake. Since beginning the stockings in 2006, the LBCC has stocked more than 5 million hybrids.
“TPWD’s fish surveys and gillnet studies determined how many fish needed to be put into the lake,” Boyd said. “Hybrids are an open water species, and you don’t need an expensive boat or gear to catch them. They are very family friendly. Stocking them has increased tourism to the lake.”
Having both stripers and hybrids in the lake has helped the fishery, said Ken Milam, a fishing guide on the lake. “The hybrids seem to be doing better than the stripers,” he said. “Sometimes you will catch both together, but often you will catch just one or the other. One day you’ll catch all stripers, the next day all hybrids. It seems like something is always biting.”
The LBCC also put fish-attracting structure into the lake to help anglers home in on the fish. “One of our members owns property with cedar trees on it, and we go out every year and cut hundreds of trees, and TPWD helps put them into the lake.” Commonly called brush piles, the submerged trees began attracting fish almost immediately.
“They really draw the fish and the people,” Abshier said. “Nobody thought Buchanan was a crappie lake, but within weeks after we put the first brush piles in, reports started coming in of people catching all kinds of fish off them.”
A map and GPS coordinates of the brush pile locations are available on both LBCC and TPWD’s web sites. Brush piles ring the entire lower lake from the dam to the mouth of Silver Creek.
“Lake Buchanan and its fishery have a significant economic impact in the local area,” De Jesus noted. “Through the past few years, when TPWD has not been able to meet stocking requests, the LBCC has worked by our side to ensure this fishery continues to provide the angling opportunities that drive the local economy. It’s a great example of how community groups can partner with state and local governments to accomplish tasks that might not otherwise be possible.”