Amistad Rise Fuels Economic Bonanza

Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277,

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DEL RIO, Texas — Travel U.S. 90 through Del Rio and out to Amistad International Reservoir and it’s obvious there’s something going on in this border town.

New motels and restaurants are going up, and parking lots of old ones are crowded.

Skeletons of houses under construction dot hillsides overlooking the lake.

Del Rio and Val Verde County are experiencing an economic boom based on a commodity that’s normally scarce in this area perched on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert: water.

Following a 10-year drought, soaking rains refilled Amistad beginning in 2003. The rising water flooded vegetation that had grown up on the dry lake bottom, and submersed vegetation such as hydrilla expanded as well, making lots of hiding places where baby bass could grow up.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) took advantage of the rising water and stepped up its fish stocking program, putting 874,000 largemouth bass fingerlings into the lake in 2004 and 2005. In 2006 the lake received 4,519 Budweiser Sharelunker fingerlings as a result of ShareLunker 400 coming from the lake.

TPWD and the National Park Service cooperated on studies in 2002-2003 and 2007 that gave snapshots of the lake before and after the rise. During 2002-2003 anglers fished for 319,473 hours on Amistad and spent $4.2 million in Val Verde County and another $1.2 million in Texas outside the county.  During the 2002-2003 annual period anglers caught 197,000 total bass. 

Amistad received a great deal of national publicity in 2006 due to several highly successful televised bass fishing tournaments. Hours spent fishing skyrocketed to 606,189 in 2007. Preliminary results from an economic impact study show direct expenditures by anglers in 2007 jumped to $13.7 million in Val Verde County and $7 million in Texas outside the county. Add it all up and that’s $20.7 million in actual dollars spent, an increase of $15.3 million, or 183 percent. A considerable portion of this increase was new money to Texas as representation of non-Texas anglers at Amistad increased from 7 percent in 2002-2003 to 13 percent in 2007 according to Jeremy Leitz, a fisheries researcher for TPWD.

That was good news for the local economy, but the news for largemouth bass anglers was even better.

"The 2007 creel survey indicated that the Amistad bass fishery remains one of the best in the country," said Randy Myers, the TPWD fisheries biologist in charge of the lake. "Catch and harvest of largemouth bass increased substantially, with a significant number of fish four pounds and larger. This suggests that the reservoir’s fish population continued to support high angling success for an increased number of anglers."

There’s a Louisiana saying that sums up the situation best: "Laissez les bons temps rouler" (Let the good times roll) or as they might say in Del Rio, "Deje que los buenos tiempos continúen."

The good times are now on Amistad. Long may they roll.