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Largemouth Bass and Prey Surveys Completed on Wichita Falls Area Lakes
ATHENS — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries office in Wichita Falls recently completed fall electrofishing surveys on area lakes. Electrofishing surveys examine populations of largemouth bass and prey species such as sunfish and shad. Electrofishing surveys occurred at Arrowhead, Graham, Jacksboro, Millers Creek and Palo Pinto reservoirs.
While several of the reservoirs showed signs of negative impact from the drought, bass populations in Millers Creek and Palo Pinto reservoirs are doing well. Millers Creek and Arrowhead were neck-and-neck in the numbers of legal sized bass surveyed. All the reservoirs contained adequate forage, though the species varied from one reservoir to another.
Arrowhead’s largemouth bass catch rate (number of fish per hour) was 37.0 per hour, which is below the historical reservoir average of 49.6 per hour. The decrease in abundance was caused by a lack of small bass being sampled. The low water conditions caused by the drought resulted in very poor spawning conditions and recruitment. The good news is that there are plenty (17.0 per hour) of legal sized (14-inches or longer) bass available to the angler, and body condition was considered good. Most of the bass collected were associated with rocky points. Gizzard shad abundance was at an all-time high with nearly all of them being in the smaller size range that is preferred by predators. Bluegill catch rate was at the historical average.
Graham also had a marked decrease in the electrofishing catch rate from previous surveys also caused by a lack of young bass being sampled. The catch rate was 63.0 per hour, which is the lowest recorded for the reservoir and well below the historical average of 132.0 per hour. Not only was the total catch rate down, but the number of legal sized bass was also down (6.0 per hour) from previous surveys. The good news is that there are lots of bass that should attain the minimum length limit of 14 inches next year. Body condition was considered adequate. Gizzard shad numbers were also below the historical average with the population trending to the larger size. Bluegill numbers were also at an all-time low. However, threadfin shad were abundant.
Jacksboro Lake shares a spillway with Lost Creek, but that is where the similarities end for the two reservoirs. While Lost Creek is a deep, clear reservoir with lots of flooded timber, Jacksboro is a shallow, turbid reservoir ringed with water willow. Both reservoirs have an abundant bass population but Jacksboro (92.0 per hour catch rate) has a much higher abundance of legal sized bass (9.0 per hour) than Lost Creek, though the body condition is considered poor. Gizzard shad catch rate was poor with all shad too big for bass to consume. Threadfin shad are present but are too small for the larger bass. Bluegill numbers were excellent.
Millers Creek’s largemouth bass catch rate was 48.0 per hour, which is near the historical average of 52.5 per hour. The bass are in excellent condition, and Millers Creek had the highest catch rate of legal sized fish (18 per hour) of any of the surveyed reservoirs this year. Many bass over 18 inches (10.0 per hour) were caught, so anglers looking for numerous big bass should not overlook this reservoir. Most of the bass were associated with submerged stickups and trees. Gizzard shad are plentiful and of the perfect size for predators. Bluegill abundance was near the historical average.
Palo Pinto was a pleasant surprise. The catch rate of largemouth bass was at an all-time high (127.0 per hour), and the number of legal sized bass (7.0 per hour) was also up from previous surveys. Body condition was considered adequate, and there are lots of bass around 10 inches that will be of legal size in the next two years. The gizzard shad catch rate was above the historical average with most of the shad being of a smaller size. Threadfin shad are also abundant in the reservoir. Bluegill abundance was at an all-time high along with redear sunfish, a population that seems to be building.
Three of the above reservoirs sampled—Arrowhead, Graham and Millers Creek—are also popular bass tournament lakes. TPWD encourages bass clubs to share their tournament results to help manage the bass population. Information on 32 tournaments was received from Arrowhead. Average weight of the bass weighed in was 2.54 pounds, and anglers averaged weighing in 1.29 bass per tournament. Big bass averaged 5.26 pounds.
At Graham, 11 tournaments reported information with bass averaging 2.22 pounds, and anglers averaged weighing in 2.51 bass per tournament. Average big bass was 5.72 lbs.
Millers Creek bass averaged a nice 3.09 pounds per bass, and anglers weighed in an average of 1.81 bass per tournament. Big bass averaged 6.62 lbs. Six tournaments there reported information.
Obviously for all these reservoirs there were tournaments that reported no information. TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist Robert Mauk encourages anglers and tournament directors to share their results with his office. Mauk may be reached at (940) 766-2383 e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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