Lake Fairfield - 2012 Survey Report
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Prepared by Jacob D. Norman and Richard A. Ott, Jr.
Inland Fisheries Division
District 3-C, Tyler, Texas
This is the authors' summary from a 46-page report. For a copy of the complete report, use the download link in the sidebar.
Fish populations in Lake Fairfield were surveyed from June 2012 through March 2013 using electrofishing and gill netting. A vegetation survey was conducted in the summer of 2012. Anglers were surveyed from March through May 2013 with a creel survey. This report summarizes results of the surveys and contains a management plan based on those findings.
Lake Fairfield is a 2,032-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. Bank access is adequate and two boat ramps are present, although boat access is limited during low water levels. Giant cane and cattails form a fringe in the littoral zone around most of the lake. American lotus is present in shallow water (<4 feet deep), primarily in the backs of coves.
Lake Fairfield has experienced late-summer fish kills since 2005 (annually since 2008), primarily attributed to rapid declines in dissolved oxygen levels. Annual stocking of Red Drum was halted after 2011 until further characterizations and knowledge of the annual fish kills were understood. Fish kills from single events ranged from an estimated 189 fish valued at $1,041 to 1,261,494 fish with an estimated value of $4,381,494. Traditionally, important sport fish included sunfishes, Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, and Red Drum. An access creel survey was conducted during the spring quarter, March through May 2013, to further assess the effects of annual fish kills on directed angler effort and success.
- Prey species: Threadfin Shad and Gizzard Shad were present in the reservoir; however, electrofishing catch rates in 2012 were down from long term averages. Only twenty percent of the current shad population appears to be readily available as prey. Redear Sunfish and Bluegill catch rates were also down from long term averages, but a substantial population of sunfish <4 inches still remains, providing adequate prey for sport fish.
- Channel catfish: Spring 2013 gill net catch rates for Channel Catfish were the highest they have been since 2005. These data are very promising compared to the 2011 survey which only collected three fish. The majority of catfish appear to be within 13 to 22 inches, indicating abundant fish available for angler harvest.
- Largemouth bass: Fall 2012 electrofishing catch rates were the highest they have been since 2004. Similar to Channel Catfish, these data are very promising compared to extremely low catch rates in 2010. No fish were collected over 15 inches; however, average fish condition was excellent, indicating a healthy, rapidly growing population.
- Red drum: Red Drum have not been collected in spring gill net surveys since 2009. A small number of individuals were sampled during fall electrofishing in 2010 (N = 2) and 2012 (N = 1). Stocking of Red Drum ceased in 2011. No additional fish will be stocked until annual fish kills abate.
- Blue tilapia: Blue Tilapia are a prohibited exotic species likely introduced in Lake Fairfield by anglers. Sustained warm temperatures during winter have allowed population numbers to remain high. Anglers target tilapia primarily by cast netting and to a lesser extent, bowfishing, providing a substantial food fishery. Tilapia may offer another food source to the predator species in Lake Fairfield.
- Work in conjunction with TPWD park staff, TPWD Kills and Spills Team and Luminant to monitor late summer fish kills in Lake Fairfield.
- Conduct biennial electrofishing and gill netting to monitor the condition of Largemouth Bass and Channel Catfish populations if annual fish kills do not occur.
- Conduct angler access and aquatic vegetation surveys every four years.
Performance Report as required by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act Texas Federal Aid Project F-221-M-3 Inland Fisheries Division Monitoring and Management Program