Written by Cody Craig
Here is a call to informed anglers: Identify what you catch! There is a growing trend amongst the fly-fishing community to bring to hand as many different species of fish as a possible, all on the fly. Not everyone wants to take it to this extreme, BUT getting an accurate ID of every fish you catch can give you a better understanding of the ecosystem you are operating in and ultimately help you catch more fish.
Texas’ inland waters are diverse. From the braided prairie steams cutting through the panhandle sands to the clear spring-fed waters of the Edwards Plateau; from tea-colored tannic streams of east Texas’ piney forests to wide meandering coastal streams; The fish that occupy these waters are as diverse as habitats themselves. Texas is home to over 190 inland species of fish, and many of those (especially in west Texas) are found nowhere else on earth!
Identification of commonly caught species is easy and occurs subconsciously for seasoned anglers. For example, most bass fisherman in the South can identify a largemouth, because of a deeply rooted culture of bass fishing that has existed in the region for generations. Anglers, often unknowingly, rely on what is called a distinguishing characteristic to identify a species. Specifically, a distinguishing characteristic is something about the fish’s body shape (morphology), color (pigmentation), or counts (meristics). For example, a Largemouth Bass is green, often times fat and has a large mouth. This is easy enough for bass anglers to identify, but throw in the other three species closely related to Largemouth Bass found in Texas, and finding a reliable characteristic becomes way more challenging. Without knowledge of other fish species, anglers may not know what distinguishing characteristics to look for, especially in less common species.
Now after hundreds of man hours, in partnership with Dr. Tim Bonner, a professor at Texas State University, and other TX State Grad Students .. we have developed a dichotomous key that is much simpler to use "
Scientists have been using distinguishing characteristics to help identify and study species, specifically through a tool called a dichotomous key, for over 500 years. A dichotomous key uses distinguishing characteristics to separate species or groups of species. It is essentially a series of “if then” statements that one can follow to distinguish a single species from a larger group. The problem is that with 193 species of fish in Texas, that’s a lot of “if then” statements!
Users may download both of these files above. Arguably, these research caches are some of the most comprehensive compilations of Texas freshwater fish research in the world. We hope you find them useful!!
I am a passionate outdoorsman with over 25 years of hunting and fishing experience across the state of TX.