Tejano Trout: When Trout Were Wild and Rivers Cold

This April 15 marks the 310th anniversary of the naming of the Guadalupe River. One of my ancestors, Juan Bautista Chapa, was on the Spanish expedition in 1689 with Captain De Leon, when they came across the river on the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The crossing was well downstream from the Sattler area where we fish in the winter for trout—actually, closer to Victoria. As Secretary to the Captain, one of Juan Bautista’s duties was to observe and record just about everything they encountered on their journey.

The purpose of the expedition was to investigate rumors that the Frenchman La Salle had established a colony in the Matagorda Island area. This particular expedition ranged from present day Northern Mexico to far East Texas.

Along the way they encountered numerous Indian tribes, buffalo, herds of deer, and various fish. The fish mentioned were bagres (catfish), robalo (bass), mojarras (unknown), and truchas (trout!).

Trout, such as rainbows and browns, are coldwater fish, meaning they need water temperatures of around 65 degrees to flourish. Today, no description exists of those trout that Captain De Leon and his party encountered.

There is no doubt that the trout could survive back then, since Texas was in the middle of the "Little Ice Age." Their spring expedition departure was no accident. During the winter it snowed regularly and the temperature dropped down far enough for the rivers in central Texas to freeze. The weather back then was much like what you would expect in Michigan today.

Today we are able to fish for them primarily during the winter months due to the stocking efforts of GRTU and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Although TP&W stocks several sites throughout Texas, the Guadalupe River is one of the heavily stocked locations due to the fact that the water released at Canyon Dam comes from the cold lower levels of Canyon Lake. This low water temperature, enables the trout to thrive, reproduce, and to some degree survive year round.

My son Bruce and I help GRTU stock trout in this river and fly fish for them at every opportunity. We are fortunate that we can fish during the winter while the rest of the country only reads about fishing or watches it on TV.

Eventually the La Salle settlement was found. The local Indians, however, had decimated the inhabitants and La Salle had been killed by his own people. One last note by my ancestor mentions that they found fishing gear in the remains of the settlement.

Whether the French used cul-de-canard flies or live bait remains a mystery, but it is nice to think that my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Ancestor coveted the French rod and reel and spent an off moment casting to Tejano Trout, like my son and I do today.

By Raymond Chapa, Jr.