Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cedar Bayou Fish Pass in Texas is Open Again

Cedar Bayou Fish Pass is now open after restoration in 2014 - photo By Lisa Laskowski

On the Gulf of Mexico the lingo can be just a little different, and what some on the East coast may call an inlet, the Texans call a bayou. Furthermore, Cedar Bayou separates Matagorda Island and San Jose Island just north of Rockport, but it isn’t open for boats to navigate. Cedar Bayou is what they call a fish pass, and after being closed for more than two decades by siltation, it was reopened in September as a water exchange between the Gulf and Mesquite Bay.
It was back in 1979 during an oil spill in the Gulf that decision makers decided to close off Cedar Bayou via heavy machinery moving earth and sand, to avoid contamination of the entire inland estuary. The strategy worked, but over time the fish pass stayed silted in and the flush of water from the Gulf no longer occurred there. Texas is CCA country, and the Coastal Conservation Association represents recreational anglers, and they were keen to take this project on in the name of conservation.
A healthy Texas redfish caught and released
Researchers from the Harte Research Institute for the Gulf of Mexico began conducting biological surveys in the area and noticed that the ecosystem was healthy, but perhaps not firing on all cylinders. The smallest and most delicate parts for the ecosystem were no longer present without any saltwater flow from the Gulf. September 25, 2014 is the date that Cedar Bayou was reopened and amazingly by October 14 researchers found that red drum larvae were newly present in the area.
January 2014 Issue
The project cost 9.4-million dollars to implement and took years of commitment by Aransas County. Texas Parks and Wildlife contributed a significant sum to the total cost and CCA Texas put in 1.6-million of the total. Now that Cedar Bayou is open the county pledges to keep the pass flowing via maintenance dredging as warranted. After all, it’s not just about the fish since the entire ecosystem will benefit including blue crabs, which are an interesting part of the food chain.
The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) runs along the coast and an Endangered Species of wading bird seeks this area out as a wintering ground. Blue crabs are the preferred food of Whooping Cranes and they migrate down to Aransas to stay warm and to eat well. While there is fishing in Aransas NWR, the birdwatching may be better. While fishing near Cedar Bayou via airboat, I had trouble deciding whether to concentrate on the fishing or on my birding, and I can't wait to return in 2015 to continue that debate.

To view this magazine feature article article click on All At Sea.

To view past blog entries about CCA working with Guy Harvey click here.

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