Habitat Improvement Projects Building Better Fishing on Brazos River Basin Reservoirs

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Collaborative Effort Bolsters Lake Granbury, Possum Kingdom and Proctor

AUSTIN — Thanks to collaboration between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Brazos River Authority (BRA) and other supporters and volunteers, new habitat enhancements designed to provide better fishing opportunities and improve habitat for a variety of fish species are now in place at Lake Granbury, Possum Kingdom Lake, and Proctor Lake.

Several different kinds of enhancements, including artificial structures made of recycled plastics and natural structures made of recycled bamboo and Christmas trees, have been deployed recently on these three popular reservoirs to create new habitat and improve areas with existing habitat for popular sport fish and prey species. The habitat improvements are made possible through a joint project between TPWD and the BRA, with additional support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at Proctor Lake.

While fishing has long been a popular activity at all three lakes, environmental conditions such as golden algae, drought and the natural reservoir aging process can affect fish populations, according to Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Division regional director. “These habitat enhancement projects will offer improved areas for spawning and feeding and provide cover from predators to help fish grow to maturity.”

On Lake Granbury, 100 fish habitat structures were placed at various locations in early October, including 70 “crappie condos” or plastic buckets of concrete with bamboo placed in them. The other 30 structures deployed in Lake Granbury are called Mossback Safe Havens. The fish habitat structures were placed around the Rough Creek fishing pier, adjacent to the 144 bridge and around the City of Granbury fishing pier off of Business 377.

“The artificial structures are environmentally friendly,” said John Tibbs, TPWD Inland Fisheries Division district supervisor in Waco. “They have been tested by the manufacturer to make sure they don’t contain anything that would be harmful and that’s important. We’ve used crappie condos at several other reservoirs with very positive feedback from anglers. They are very effective. They are also inexpensive and because of that we were able to augment the number we installed.”

At Possum Kingdom Lake, TPWD has been partnering with the BRA and two chapters of Friends of Reservoirs (Hells Gate Bass Club and Mineral Wells Bass Club) for several years to enhance fish habitat, including placement of artificial reefs and brush piles and planting live aquatic vegetation. Through planning, the partners have created a diverse underwater landscape customized for specific areas of the reservoir, taking into account each area’s depth and contours of the lake bottom. The artificial reefs include both safe havens, structures that provide tight spaces for sunfish, shad and crappie, as well as trophy trees to provide larger spaces for predator fish to ambush prey.

“With their work and input on locations, we feel very confident that we are not just enhancing the fish populations but also the fishing for every angler,” said Tom Lang, TPWD Inland Fisheries Division district supervisor in Wichita Falls. “Utilizing different structures in the reef is a great way to attract all types of fish to an area.”

At Possum Kingdom, artificial reefs were built at the following locations: Rocky Hollow, located off a hump in 10 to 18 feet of water when the lake is full; Bee Creek, located in a ridge in 10 to 20 feet of water when the lake is full; and Peanut Patch, following a 12 to 15 foot contour when the lake is full.

Proctor Lake in Comanche County is no stranger to the drought-flood cycles that affect West Texas reservoirs. Reservoir aging has also degraded available fish habitat by siltation, loss of vegetation and breakdown of woody habitat. To tackle the fish habitat issues, TPWD, BRA, USACE and volunteers worked to create recycled Christmas tree brush piles and eight reef-like areas. About 130 artificial structures and 19 brush piles were placed in strategic locations.

“The Christmas tree piles will eventually break down (within five years) but will provide habitat in the shallower areas of the reservoir,” said Michael Homer Jr., TPWD Inland Fisheries Division district supervisor in Abilene. “Artificial reef areas will persist much longer and may be crucial refuges for fish when water levels drop.”

Several models of Fishiding fish habitat structures and Mossback Safe Havens were installed at Proctor Lake. Each structure is unique in its design, height and complexity of limbs providing cover for fish ranging in size from small bait fish to larger bass, crappie and catfishes.

“Adding diversity to the available fish habitat can allow for more species to use these areas,” said Homer. “The combination of the various Fishiding structures, Mossback Safe Havens and brush piles allows us to create a more diverse three-dimensional environment for fish species.”

One potential concern boaters may have is whether the structures might be navigational hazards if lake levels drop.

“We have taken the necessary steps and worked with the controlling authorities to identify areas in each lake that are not only safe but will also maximize the benefit to the fisheries,” said Homer.

GPS coordinates and maps depicting the locations of the habitat improvement projects are available on the TPWD web site. Anglers can find more information about these habitat projects as well as others that have taken place in reservoirs across the state at www.tpwd.texas.gov/fishattractor.

More information about volunteer efforts through the Friends of Reservoirs is available online at www.waterhabitatlife.org.

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