ATHENS—Gill net surveys recently completed on Possum Kingdom Reservoir by the Wichita Falls Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) fisheries office shows that some fish populations have bounced back from fish kills caused by golden alga between 2000 and 2010.
“Our surveys indicate that most fish populations have done relatively well since 2010, and we now have good numbers of older, larger fish available,” said TPWD fisheries biologist Robert Mauk.
Striped bass have done particularly well, and Possum Kingdom now has good numbers of fish up to 30 inches. “Our surveys have not shown this many larger striped bass since the first fish kill in 2001, and there are also lots of seven-inch to 20-inch fish, which bodes well for the future,” Mauk said. “It takes two to three years to produce legal-length white and striped bass, but it takes much longer to replace the age classes and larger fish.”
White bass numbers were down from previous surveys, but Mauk says that’s not surprising. “White bass and stripers compete with each other for the same food source and utilize the same habitat,” he explained. “Also, white bass typically run up-river to spawn, but with the drought, river connectivity to the reservoir is a problem. They must spawn on wind-swept points, and those are not as prevalent as they are at normal pool, so there are not as many young white bass. But there are plenty of bigger white bass, and they are in good condition.”
Striped bass are stocked with the intention they will be harvested at some point. TPWD sets harvest regulations with this in mind. “We could put a special regulation on the striped bass population such as lowering the bag limit or limiting the number of large stripers anglers can keep,” Mauk said. “However, Possum Kingdom had major kills in 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2010. There is no guarantee there won’t be another one in the future. It would be a waste to reduce the harvest and then have a kill occur. Lots of fish would die that could have been harvested and consumed. If a few more years go by without a kill occurring, and the data indicate problems with the population, then we might consider a regulation change.”
Blue catfish abundance was the highest documented for the reservoir, and fish ranged in length from 11 to 35 inches. “Our nets had five blue cats over 30 inches, which is very good considering the nets are not made to capture fish that big,” Mauk said. “The bigger fish were in excellent shape, with huge bellies. There is plenty of prey the perfect size for them to consume. Most of the fish were caught above Costello Island.”
The catch rate for channel catfish was up slightly from the previous surveys and was above the historical average for the reservoir. Channel catfish ranged in size from seven to 21 inches in length.
Gill net surveys are used in the spring to monitor striped bass, white bass and catfish populations. Fall 2014 electrofishing surveys and angler catches of largemouth bass in Possum Kingdom show that species is also doing well.
Even though the lake remains low, there are four boat ramps available for launching: Scenic Point, Elm Creek, and North and South D&D locations. “The Brazos River Authority has been trying to extend ramps when possible, so boaters should check on what ramps are available before travelling to the reservoir,” Mauk advised. “Also, please remember to clean, drain and dry your watercraft before visiting and after leaving Possum Kingdom or any other lake to help prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species.”
For more information contact Mauk at (940) 766-2383 or [email protected]. Or look on Facebook for Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries—Wichita Falls.