Lake Fairfield - 2004 Survey Report
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Prepared by Richard A. Ott, Jr., Ph.D. and Timothy J. Bister
Inland Fisheries Division
District 3-C, Tyler, Texas
This is the authors' summary from a 32-page report. For a copy of the complete report, use the download link in the sidebar.
Lake Fairfield was surveyed during the period June 2004 to May 2005 using electrofishing, trap nets, gill nets, roving angler creel survey, littoral zone habitat and vegetation surveys, 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.
Lake Fairfield is a 2,034-acre reservoir on Big Brown Creek, Texas, a tributary of the Trinity River, providing cooling water for two 575-megawatt lignite-fired electric generation units. Boat and bank access were adequate with two boat ramps and one fishing pier. The fishing pier meets ADA specifications. Native emergent vegetation (giant cane and cattails) formed a fringe in the littoral zone, around most of the lake. American lotus was abundant in shallow water (<4 feet deep) in the back of the coves. Hydrilla was less abundant than in previous years and only occupied a narrow fringe in shallow water areas.
- Prey species: Electrofishing catch rate of gizzard shad was higher in 2004 (42 fish/hour) than in the previous survey (2002 = 10 fish/hour), and was similar to 2000 (60 fish/hour). Approximately half of the catch was fish < 5 inches in length. Electrofishing catch rate of threadfin shad was 112 fish/hour and all were a size available to predators in this lake. Sunfish (i.e., bluegill and redear sunfish) also contribute to the prey base. Electrofishing catch rate of sunfishes, < 4 inches in length, was over 300 per hour, providing excellent prey for the lakes’ predators.
- Catfishes: Channel catfish at Lake Fairfield provide an excellent fishery. The catfish fishery accounted for over 14% (1.5 hours/acre) of the total fishing effort (second only to largemouth bass) from December 1, 2002 to February 28, 2003. Angling catch rate of catfish was 4.2 fish/hour and harvest rate was 3.7 fish/hour. The majority of channel catfish collected in gill nets were legal size (>12 inches). Gill net catch rate of stock-size channel catfish in 2005 (18.4 fish/net night) was similar to 2003 (19.2 fish/net night) and 2001 (17.4 fish/net night), but was considerably higher than 1996 when the catch rate was only 2.6 fish/net night. Age-and-growth analysis was not conducted as part of the 2005 assessment. Previous analysis (Ott and Bister 2001) indicated that channel catfish growth was rapid with fish reaching legal size (12 inches) by age 1 or 2. Prey availability for channel catfish was adequate as mean Wr for most inch classes was >100 and showed only a slight decreasing trend with increased length.
- Palmetto bass: Palmetto bass have not been stocked in Lake Fairfield since 1999. Only one specimen was collected in gill nets in 2005 and it is unlikely that this species still contributes to the fishery. No directed effort or harvest was reported during the quarterly creel survey conducted from December 1, 2002 through February 28, 2003.
- Sunfishes: The sunfish populations in Lake Fairfield consisted primarily of bluegill and redear sunfish. High reservoir productivity and good habitat likely contribute to the abundance of bluegill which were the predominate species. Bluegill as large as 8 inches in length were collected and represent a potential sport fishery for light tackle or fly fishers. Directed effort for sunfish, estimated from the angler creel survey conducted December 1, 2002 to February 28, 2003, was only 0.16 hours/acre. This survey did not document any catch or harvest by anglers targeting this species group. However, a few redear sunfish were harvested by anglers seeking other species.
- Black basses: The largemouth bass population continued to provide good quality fishing. Largemouth bass were the most sought after species (angling effort = 7.9 hours/acre; 78% of total effort) from December 1, 2002 to February 28, 2003. Angling catch rate of largemouth bass was 0.50 fish/hour. Recruitment of largemouth bass has remained consistent and electrofishing catch rate of sub-stock size fish (89 fish/hour) was similar to previous surveys. However, electrofishing catch rate for 14 to 18 inch fish (15 fish/hour) was somewhat lower than in previous years. Average age of 14 inch fish was 1.5 years and mean Wr for most inch classes was > 90. Florida largemouth bass continue to dominate the genetics of this reservoir. Of the 30 age-0 fish collected for electrophoretic analysis, 86% contained Florida largemouth bass (FLMB) alleles and 59% were pure FLMB.
- Crappie: Crappie do not provide a substantial fishery at Lake Fairfield. Reproduction and recruitment of crappie is low: similar to other lignite-fired power-plant reservoirs in east Texas. Directed effort toward crappie during the December 1, 2002 to February 28, 2003 creel period was less than 0.05 hours/acre. However, anglers who targeted crappie had high catch and harvest rates (9.5 and 4.5 fish/hour) respectively. Trap net catch rate of black crappie at Lake Fairfield has historically been low (usually less than 1 fish per net night). However, in 2004 trap net catch rate increased to 3.6 fish/net night. Most of the fish were below the10-inch minimum legal length but do show the potential for a fishery as these fish grow. Average age of 10-inch black crappie at Lake Fairfield in fall of 2004 was one year.
- Red drum: Red drum have been stocked in Lake Fairfield since 1984 but have proven difficult to sample by gill net. Fish were only collected in 1996 and 2005. However, anglers report success in catching red drum by rod and reel and the current state freshwater red drum record (36.83 lbs, 44 inches) was set on Lake Fairfield in 2001. Directed effort for red drum was 0.5 hours/acre during the winter quarter (December 1, 2002 – February 28, 2003) creel period. No angler catch or harvest was reported at that time. However, this is primarily a warm weather fishery and park staff report high directed-effort during summer and fall.
Based on current information, Lake Fairfield fishing regulations should be maintained at their current status. Annual stockings of red drum should be continued because past efforts have established a popular fishery. Due to the importance of the red drum and catfish fisheries at Fairfield, additional optional-year gill netting should be conducted during spring 2007 to monitor these populations. Stocking of Florida largemouth bass has been unnecessary at Lake Fairfield due to the high percentage of pure Florida and Florida alleles in this population. Largemouth bass allele frequency should be re-evaluated in fall 2006 to assess genetic makeup and determine the possibility of collecting Florida brood stock from this location. With the decline in hydrilla coverage, the potential exists to introduce native submersed macrophyte species in several areas to mitigate the loss of hydrilla. Control of American lotus in the State Park swimming beach should continue.
Performance Report as required by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act Texas Federal Aid Project F-30-R-30 Statewide Freshwater Fisheries Monitoring and Management Program