Lake Athens - 2005 Survey Report
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Prepared by Patrick A. Beck and Richard A. Ott, Jr.,
Inland Fisheries Division
District 3-C, Tyler, Texas
This is the authors' summary from a 35-page report. For a copy of the complete report, use the download link in the sidebar.
The Lake Athens fish community was surveyed from June 2005-May 2006 using electrofishing, gill nets, and trap nets. A habitat and vegetation survey was conducted in August 2005. Angler use and harvest information was collected using a roving-creel survey, which was conducted from March-May 2004. This report summarizes the results of the surveys and contains a management plan for the reservoir based on those findings.
Lake Athens is a 1,799-acre reservoir on Flat Creek, a tributary of the Neches River, Texas, built to provide water for municipal and industrial purposes. Boat access is adequate, but public bank angling access is limited to the marina area and bridge crossings and parking at the bridge crossings is limited. There are no handicap-specific facilities but the convenience pier at the marina may allow limited wheelchair use. The reservoir contains a diversity of littoral habitat types.
Important sport fish include sunfishes (Lepomis spp.), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), white bass (Morone chrysops), channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), and black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus). The management plan from 2001 included stockings of Florida largemouth bass (M. s. floridanus) to increase Florida alleles in the population. Stockings were done in 2003-2005. The length limit was changed in 1996 to a 14-21 inch slot-length limit. Monitoring of largemouth bass growth rate has continued. A harvest regulation modification was considered for largemouth bass, but was not implemented. The popularity of the sunfish fishery has increased due to news releases. Channel catfish size distribution and growth has been continually monitored. Boat access and angling access is available, and improvements have been recommended, but not implemented. Vegetation surveys have identified hydrilla (Hydrilla verticilata) and waterhyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) in the system. Hydrilla is currently managed by herbicides, while the water hyacinth continues to be manually removed.
- Prey species: Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense) continue to be present in the reservoir. Electrofishing catch rate of gizzard shad (D. cepedianum) was low, and few gizzard shad were available as prey to most sport fish. Despite low shad catch rates, sunfish (<4inch) catch rates were adequate to provide non-limiting forage for piscivorous sportfishes. Sunfish provide an excellent fishery at Lake Athens where catch rates and growth rates exceed the normal.
- Catfishes: The channel catfish population size structure has improved from previous years. Catch rates of stock-length fish were higher than previously documented. Angling effort for channel catfish in Lake Athens was minimal.
- Temperate basses: White bass are present in the reservoir. Size structure and body condition are exceptional at Lake Athens, with white bass to 18 inches collected in gill net samples. The fishery does not appear to be entirely consumptive with 55% of legal fish captured released.
- Largemouth bass: Size distribution of largemouth bass indicates a balanced population.
Electrofishing catch rates of stock-length fish were higher than the previous sampling period. Size structure has improved over previous surveys. Growth rates of protected fish show no improvement. Anglers appear to be harvesting few fish, releasing 90% of legal length fish. The percent of pure Florida largemouth bass has remained constant since 2001.
- Black crappie: Trap net catches continue to be variable, with low sample sizes. Collected fish were of preferred sizes, and in good condition. The fishery is harvest-oriented. Crappie reach legal length by age 2.
Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) are of high importance in this system, therefore, additional monitoring of their growth rates and size distribution will be conducted in fall of 2007. The sampling will also provide fish for electrophoretic analysis. Channel catfish recruitment and population structure will continue to be monitored in 2010 sample. The increasing abundance of exotic vegetation warrants annual vegetation surveys through 2010.
Performance Report as required by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act Texas Federal Aid Project F-30-R-31 Statewide Freshwater Fisheries Monitoring and Management Program