Big Creek Lake - 2003 Survey Report
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Prepared by Kevin W. Storey and Randall A. Myers
Inland Fisheries Division
District 3-B, Tyler, Texas
This is the authors' summary from a 26-page report. For a copy of the complete report, use the download link in the sidebar.
Big Creek Lake was surveyed from June 2003 to May 2004 using electrofishing, trap netting, gill netting, a littoral zone habitat survey, an aquatic vegetation survey, and an angler access and facilities survey. This report summarizes the results of the surveys and contains a management plan for the reservoir based on those findings.
Big Creek Lake (520 acres) is located on Big Creek, a tributary of the South Sulphur River, in Delta County, Texas. It was constructed for municipal water supply. Fishing tournaments are prohibited on this lake. Angler access is adequate with one public boat ramp. Bank angling access is poor because of dense growths of aquatic and terrestrial vegetation along the shoreline in the vicinity of the public access area and the fishing pier is unsafe. The shoreline is characterized as featureless and the littoral zone contains several species of native aquatic plants and Eurasian watermilfoil. Aquatic vegetation coverage, estimated at 36.7%, is considered excessive. American lotus accounted for 21.6%, native submerged types (muskgrass and coontail) 5.2%, and Eurasian watermilfoil 9.9%.
- Prey species: Electrofishing catch rate of gizzard shad was considerably greater in 2003 (846.0 fish/hour) than in 1999 (175.0 fish/hour) and 1996 (407.0 fish/hour). The population was dominated by fish in the 4-5 inch size range; an optimal prey size for adult largemouth bass. Electrofishing catch rate of bluegill in 2003 (229 fish/hour) was slightly lower than in 1999 (291.0 fish/hour) but higher than 1996 (122.0 fish/hour). The population was dominated by 4 inch fish. Redear sunfish were collected for the first time (92.0 fish/hour) and this population consists primarily of fish >6 inches. Big Creek Lake’s sunfish populations provide an alternative recreational fishery.
- Catfishes: Although fingerling blue catfish were stocked in 1988, 1990, and 1991, they have never been collected in gill net sampling. Although historically collected (1996), no channel catfish were collected by gill net sampling during 1999 and 2003.
- Black bass: Results from surveys conducted in 2003 show the presence of a relatively stable largemouth bass population exhibiting good reproduction, recruitment, and size structure. Total electrofishing catch rate of largemouth bass in fall 2003 (142.0 fish/hour) was similar to 1999 (150.0 fish/hour) and 2001 (145.0 fish/hour). Most fish collected in 2003 were age-0 individuals (ranging in size from 2-4 inches total length) indicating a successful spring spawn and perhaps the production of an unusually strong year class. Numbers of stock-size fish (>8 inches) have declined in recent years; however, size structure has improved. Preferred-size individuals (>15 inches) accounted for 56% of the stock in 2003; an increase from 1999 (15%) and 2001 (28%). Relative weights for most stock size fish were 90 to 100, suggesting adequate prey availability. Big Creek Lake largemouth bass typically attain legal-length (>14 inches) between their third and fourth years. Florida largemouth bass allele frequency, as determined from electrophoretic analyses of age-0 individuals, was greater in 2003 (57.4%) than in 1999 (48.3%) or 1996 (43.5%). Despite its small size, this reservoir’s bass fishery has demonstrated a history of producing trophy fish. The lake record is 14.06 pounds and in spring 2000, a 13.19 pound fish was caught and donated to TPWD’s ShareLunker Program. Results of additional sampling conducted in spring 1998, 1999 and 2001 also indicated a high quality largemouth bass population.
- Crappie: The crappie community in Big Creek Lake in 2003 was dominated by white crappie. Catch rate of white crappie in trap nets was lower in 2003 (16.8 fish/net night) than in 1999 (25.4 fish/net night), but greater than in 1996 (4.0 fish/net night). White crappie reach legal-length (>10 inches) between their second and third years. Catch rate of black crappie in 2003 (1.4 fish/net night) and 1999 (0.2 fish/net night) was much lower than in 1996 (5.2 fish/net night). Insufficient numbers of black crappie were collected in 2003 to conduct age and growth analysis.
Based on survey results all species should continue to be managed under current regulations. The Eurasian watermilfoil in Big Creek is not considered problematic at present, but total vegetation coverage is excessive. Electrofishing will be conducted every second year to monitor the largemouth bass population. In every fourth year, age-0 fish will be collected and electrophoretically analyzed to assess the genetic composition of the largemouth bass population.
Performance Report as required by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act Texas Federal Aid Project F-30-R-29 Statewide Freshwater Fisheries Monitoring and Management Program