Livingston Reservoir - 2003 Survey Report
Prepared by Jeff Henson and Mark Webb
Inland Fisheries Division
District 3-E, Bryan, Texas
This is the authors' summary from a 36-page report. For a copy of the complete report, use the download link in the sidebar.
Livingston Reservoir was surveyed in 2003-2004 with electrofishing, trap nets, gill nets, a creel survey, a structural habitat/aquatic vegetation survey, and an angler access survey. This report summarizes the results of these surveys and comparisons are made to historical data (1990-2002). Based on this information, a management plan was developed for the reservoir.
Livingston Reservoir is located on the Trinity River in Trinity, Polk, San Jacinto, and Walker Counties, Texas lying within the Piney Woods Vegetational Area. Soil types are Kaufman-Trinity, Lufkin-Tabor, Bowie-Kirvin, and Susquehana Associations. Livingston Reservoir was constructed in 1969 by the Trinity River Authority (TRA) and the City of Houston to provide water for municipal, agricultural, and industrial purposes. Livingston Reservoir has a surface area of 90,000 acres, a drainage area of approximately 15,700 square miles, and a shoreline length of approximately 350 miles. Rainfall in the watershed averages 48.0 inches per year. There is considerable private and commercial real estate development, as well as Lake Livingston State Park and several TRA public parks, around the lower two-thirds of the reservoir.
- Prey species: Clupeids (threadfin & gizzard shad) continue to dominate the forage base in Livingston Reservoir. The electrofishing catch rate of both species combined in 2003 was 614.0 fish/hour; the highest combined catch rate for these species in over 14 years. Most gizzard shad in the sample were available as prey with over 75% under 7-inches total length. Sunfishes are the second most abundant prey species in Livingston Reservoir. Longear sunfish were the most abundant sunfish in the 2003 sample (117.5 fish/hour). In the fall of 1999 the catch rate of bluegill was 201.5 fish/hour but declined in 2003 to 75.0 fish/hour. Most individuals captured were less than 6-inches total length and were available as prey. Other prey species present in the 2003 sample were bullhead minnow (7.5/hour), inland silverside (4.0/hour), warmouth (7.0/hour), and redear sunfish (1.0/hour).
- Catfishes: Blue catfish continue to be the dominant catfish species, by number, in Livingston Reservoir. In 1999, the gill net catch rate was 19.6/net-night, the highest since 1992, and in 2004 the catch rate increased again to 23.9 fish/net-night. Length frequency data indicate good size distribution with fish as large as 31 inches in the sample. The Proportional Stock Density (PSD) of the sample was 11 in 1999; increasing to 14 in 2004. The condition (Wr) of the blue catfish was excellent across all size classes. Channel catfish are far less abundant than blue catfish in Livingston Reservoir. Only 34 individuals were captured in the 2004 gill net sample. This was, however, the highest number captured since 1991. Anglers spent 29,392 hours seeking catfish at Lake Livingston, harvesting over 54,000 fish during the creel period from June 2003 to May 2004.
- Temperate basses: Gill net catch rates of white bass have been sporadic since 1991. The highest gill net catch rate was observed in 1996 (19.6/net-night), but in 1999, the catch dropped dramatically to 1.7 fish/net-night. In the spring of 2004, the catch rate rebounded to 11.3 fish/net-night. Although striped bass have been stocked into Livingston Reservoir almost every year since 1977, our monitoring has failed to detect the presence of a significant population. In 2004 the catch rate was only 2.4 fish/net-night, the highest ever observed. Striped bass stocked in the reservoir are thought to support a significant striped bass fishery in the tail water area below the dam. This same area is also used by TPWD to obtain large striped bass brood fish necessary to support statewide hatchery production of both striped bass and hybrid striped bass. It is also possible that some of the large striped bass in the tail water area are actually anadromous fish that, during spring, migrate into the area from the Gulf of Mexico. The striped bass that we do observe in the reservoir are in excellent condition growing to 18 inches at age 2. Although the intended effort of anglers seeking white bass is low (5,589 hours), the catch rate is very high (4.98 fish/angler hour). This indicates a small but very specialized group of anglers targeting white bass. Creel survey findings indicate that only a few anglers are targeting striped bass. The directed effort was estimated at only 228 hours during the creel period with just over 1,300 striped bass caught by all anglers combined.
- Black bass: Electrofishing catch rates of largemouth bass have always been low, usually 20 to 40 fish/hour in any given sample. Poor bass recruitment, due to the scarcity of rooted aquatic plants to provide adequate juvenile habitat, is the most probable cause for this low population density. Livingston Reservoir also collects a very high volume of silt that, over time, has contributed to the overall decline in habitat quality. A notable change in the size distribution of the largemouth bass samples has been observed since 1993. Both PSD and RSDp have declined in recent years. In 1999 and 2003, no bass longer than 14 inches (the minimum length limit) were captured, and only one bass over 14 inches was captured in 2001. Largemouth bass in Livingston Reservoir normally reach 14 inches after age 3. Over 43% (>34,000 hours) of the total directed angling effort at Livingston Reservoir targets largemouth bass, making it the most sought-after species in the reservoir. Directed angler catch rate was estimated at 0.53 fish/hour. Anglers harvested bass ranging in size from 12 to 22 inches, but harvest was low at 0.17 fish/hour. Florida largemouth bass fingerlings were stocked in 2000 and 2001 (over 1 million fish) in an attempt to increase the number of Florida genotypes in the population. There has been no change in allele frequencies, and in 2003, no pure Florida largemouth were collected.
- Crappie: Trap net catches of white crappie have declined since 1991. The catch rate in 1991 was 15.7 fish/net-night, but by 1999 it had dropped to 1.1 fish/net-night. The trap net catch rate in 2003 was back up to 6.0 fish/net-night. Length frequency data suggest that a strong year class has recruited into the stock at Livingston Reservoir, probably from 2002. White crappies observed in our sample were in good condition. Black crappies occur very infrequently in trap net samples; only 10 were captured in 2003. Growth is good with crappie reaching 10 inches by age 2. Creel data indicated a very minimal fishery for crappies. Less than 2% of the intended effort was directed toward this species. Creel data were insufficient to generate estimates of directed catch and harvest rates. An estimated 2,931 white crappie were harvested by all anglers combined.
- Based on current information Livingston Reservoir should continue to be managed under current harvest regulations.
- Livingston Reservoir provides a very high quality blue catfish fishery, a somewhat sporadic white bass sfishery, an underutilized striped bass fishery, and quality crappie and largemouth bass fisheries in creeks and other areas of the reservoir where littoral habitat is abundant. Strategies should be employed to increase utilization of the available fisheries through education while attempting to improve littoral habitat.
- Stocking of Florida largemouth bass has been less successful than desired. Future stocking requests should be based on and conducted only within known areas of littoral habitat.
- Habitat management at Livingston Reservoir has two major components; exotic vegetation control and littoral habitat enhancement. The TRA currently treats water hyacinth and water lettuce throughout the growing season to keep these species under control. TPWD has worked with Texas Black Bass Unlimited to plant native aquatic vegetation. Some success has been achieved; however, far more effort is needed to mitigate the results of siltation and turbidity. Future efforts toward habitat enhancement should be concentrated in creeks and backwater areas where these efforts have the best chance for success.
- The creation of a local lake management organization, similar to the Lake Conroe Restocking Association, could be of assistance in the creation of habitat enhancement projects, as well as in raising funds to purchase and stock advanced size crappie and/or Florida largemouth bass. The stocking of advanced size juvenile fish might artificially increase recruitment in limited areas of the reservoir.
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