Exotic Fish Wins $10,000 Scholarship
ATHENS, Texas — New Braunfels High School sophomore Andrew Cumberland was fishing for sunfish in the Guadalupe River July 12 when he spotted a really ugly fish in shallow water. Thinking it was a carp, he switched to dough bait, which the fish took immediately.
“I was surprised when I pulled it into the kayak,” Cumberland said. “I had never seen a fish that looked like it—it seemed to be prehistoric.”
With the help of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) fisheries biologists at the A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery in San Marcos, Cumberland determined that he had landed a suckermouth catfish. The 21-inch fish weighed 3.45 pounds.
Cumberland did not return the fish to the water, the correct action under the circumstances. “These fish are the most destructive exotic fish in Texas,” said Dr. Gary Garrett, a fisheries scientist and TPWD’s Director of Watershed Conservation. “They take over important habitats such as springs, push out and replace native species (including listed species and species of conservation concern), decimate native vegetation and undermine and destabilize banks. In no way do they have any redeeming qualities.”
TPWD recommends that anyone catching a suckermouth catfish follow Cumberland’s example and not return it to the water alive.
Invasive and exotic species are a serious and growing threat in Texas. For information on how you can help protect the state from these invaders, visit www.texasinvasives.org.
Cumberland’s catch became the new state rod-and-reel record for the species and garnered him two $5,000 scholarships from the Federation of Student Anglers (FSA), an international student angling organization based in Bulverde, Texas. FSA awards a $5,000 scholarship to any student member who catches a Texas state record of any species. The second scholarship was awarded for catching the Texas record while fishing in an officially sanctioned FSA event, FSA’s Tuesday Night Fishing Series Tournament.
Cumberland is the son of Dale and Gina Cumberland of New Braunfels.
The Federation of Student Anglers has more than 2,000 members from elementary through college level in school-based chapters nationwide. For information on how to start a chapter in your area, visit www.fishingstudents.com.