What’s more fun than catching a big bass? For many people, it’s catching a lot of bass.
That’s the theory behind a new kind of urban fishing lake Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is developing in Wichita Falls with the help of the City of Wichita Falls and the local Academy store.
TPWD’s Neighborhood Fishin’ Program (NFP) partners with local governments to stock small neighborhood lakes with rainbow trout and channel catfish every two weeks throughout most of the year. This program enables many Texans living in urban areas to have enjoyable fishing experiences close to home that includes keeping some fish to eat. Wichita Falls residents have an NFP pond, South Weeks Pond, available for their fishing pleasure.
“Sitting back and relaxing, watching a bobber, waiting on catfish or trout to bite at South Weeks is great,” Wichita Falls District Fisheries Supervisor Tom Lang said. “However, Maplewood Pond gives us the chance to offer a different type of fishing experience. Some folks don’t like sitting around waiting for a fish to bite. They want to move around and cast lures or fly-fish. So we decided to make Maplewood into a largemouth bass fishery that should provide high catch rates of small to medium-sized bass. You’re not going to catch a ShareLunker there, but you should catch a lot of fish.”
TPWD partnered with the City of Wichita Falls, the local Academy Sports and Outdoors store, and the local chapter of Texas Master Naturalists and on March 22 officially opened Maplewood Pond, located on Maplewood Avenue between Lawrence Road and Kemp Boulevard.
Why make a pond with a lot of little bass in it instead of trying to make big bass?
“A pond can only support so many pounds of fish in it,” Lang explained. “You can have a few big fish or a lot of smaller fish. We want to increase the chances that a lot of people can catch something. A kid or an angler new to fishing doesn’t need to catch a 10-pound bass to have fun, but it sure is nice if they can catch something, and even a 12-inch bass puts up a pretty good fight. So we decided to try and manage this pond to provide a lot of people a good chance to catch something, regardless of their fishing skill level.”
At first glance the three-acre Maplewood Pond doesn’t seem like much. However, the city-owned retention pond has great access, since it is completely encircled by a concrete walking path. Even in the grip of an extreme drought, Maplewood is still nearly full of water, and testing shows good water quality as well. Its location with a neighborhood on one side and the local Academy store on the other seems ideal for a fishin’ hole.
Partnerships are what make the project work, according to Lang. “We are very grateful for our partners on this project. Without their support we wouldn’t have been able to offer this great opportunity to the community,” Lang said. “The pond is owned by the City of Wichita Falls, and the Academy staff keeps the area free of litter. Habitat work was carried out by the Texas Master Naturalists, and the fishery is managed by TPWD. Maplewood is a testament to the power of partnerships.”
Many urban anglers are used to harvesting the fish they catch. Unlike catfish and trout, catchable largemouth bass aren’t readily available from hatcheries. That means for Maplewood to continue being able to provide the fast-action fishing of largemouth slamming lures, anglers must practice catch and release. Nearly all of the largemouth bass in Maplewood are less than 14 inches in length, the minimum length limit required to legally keep one.
“We simply don’t have the resources to continually stock catchable largemouth bass the way we do channel catfish and rainbow trout in our NFP program,” Lang noted. “But this management strategy can work if anglers simply follow the regulations and remember that every fish they put back is a fish they have a chance to catch on their next visit.”
TPWD plans to conduct a thorough evaluation that includes monitoring usage, catch rates, angler satisfaction and demographics. ”We want to know for sure if Maplewood is doing what we think it can,” Lang said. “What we learn at Maplewood will help us make it better, of course, but I think it also has the potential to help fisheries biologists across the country.”
Lang hopes the idea of high catch-rate urban bass lakes will catch on. “In offering an additional type of fishing opportunity that wasn’t here before, we think we’ll better meet the wants and needs of potential anglers,” he said. “We’re tickled to see the number of men, women, youth and families enjoying Maplewood. Fishing provides a great many social, recreational, economic and conservation benefits to our society and of course, as we all know, Life’s Better Outside.”
For additional information on the Neighborhood Fishin’ Program or to find an NFP lake close to you, visitwww.NeighborhoodFishin.org.
For additional information on Maplewood Pond call the TPWD Inland Fisheries Office in Wichita Falls at (940) 766-2383 or find them on Facebook by searching for “Texas Parks and Wildlife Wichita Falls.”