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Entries in Texas (53)

Wednesday
Sep102014

Can Nutritional Boost Help Big Bass Grow Even Bigger?

TPWD photo

The majority of bass produced by the Toyota ShareLunker program goes to stocking Texas public reservoirs for anglers to catch. Since the program began in 1986, that translates into more than one million fingerlings spawned in hatcheries from bass weighing 13 pounds or more and distributed into 62 reservoirs, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW).

Since 2001, though, some have gone into both public and private waters solely to evaluate the benefits of crossing pure Florida ShareLunkers with male bass descended from previous ShareLunkers.

The most recent private stocking in Operation World Record (OWR) occurred this summer on a Webb County ranch owned by Gary Schwarz, best known for growing big whitetail deer. TPW provided 7,404 ShareLunker offspring for the recently renovated 60-acre lake to see if he can attain similarly impressive results with largemouth bass.

To provide the bass with optimum forage, Schwarz is not content with having just bluegill, minnows, and shad. He also will flush prawns, shrimp-like crustaceans, into the lake from surrounding brood ponds. The shellfish can grow as large as 12 inches and should provide a nutritional boost for the fast-growing future ShareLunkers.

Owners of these private “contract” lakes agree not to fish for the bass for a stipulated period, and TPW may remove them as needed.

The Webb County stocking was facilitated by 2008 Bassmaster Classic winner Alton Jones, who knows Schwarz, according to Allen Forshage, director of the Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

These likely will be the last OWR offspring stocked in a private lake, as previous research indicates that these fish do grow faster and bigger than normal Florida-strain bass. Four years after they were stocked in other waters, they had an average weight of about 7 ounces more than resident bass of equivalent age, according to biologist Michael Baird.

“Additionally, the largest bass collected were almost always Lunker offspring, while the smallest were resident offspring,” he said.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Wednesday
Aug272014

Future Bright for Trophy Bass in Florida, Texas

The best is yet to come for anglers who pursue big bass in Florida and Texas. Even though they have decidedly different approaches, each sponsors a program that optimizes opportunities provided by the Florida strain of largemouth.

Of course, it’s only logical that the two have differing strategies, since one manages for non-native fish in manmade impoundments, while the other focuses on native fish in natural lakes. As a consequence, Texas constantly researches methods for growing more and ever larger bass, while Florida has set up a system that both helps anglers find the state’s biggest fish and encourages catch-and-release.

Implemented just two years ago, the Sunshine State’s TrophyCatch still is in its “infancy stages,” according to Bill Pouder, a freshwater fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). It was borne out of the state’s Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan, with the intent of ensuring “Florida is the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world.”

Word of mouth, Pouder added, has helped considerably in motivating fishermen to report catches of 8 pounds and larger. “If I’m an angler who catches an 8-pound bass and all I have to do is provide a photo and measurements in exchange for $100 in gift cards and prizes, then I’d be very encouraged to do it,” he said.

Statistics certainly bear out that assessment, too. From Oct. 1, 2012, through September 2013, fishermen entered 206 fish in TrophyCatch. But 679 bass were logged in during the eight months that followed. Of those 885 fish, 244 weighed between 10 and 12.99 pounds and 5 weighed 13 pounds or more.

As possibly the biggest surprise of the program thus far, three of those latter fish, including the largest at 14-9, came from Kingsley Lake, a semi-private fishery in Clay County. That discovery goes to the heart of how TrophyCatch will enhance opportunities for Florida anglers to catch lunkers: It tells them where they are.

Not so surprising is that Lake Istokpoga tops the list of public waters, followed by Okeechobee, Toho, Kissimmee, and St. Johns River. But 235, or more than 25 percent, of those fish have been caught in small, unnamed waters, including private ponds, golf course ponds, retention ponds, and undisclosed public lakes.

“Those types of waters aren’t typically managed,” Pouder said. “But that suggests we might look into that for the future.”

Also worthy of note is that TrophyCatch has given lie to the notion that anglers must use shiners to catch big bass in Florida. More 60 percent of entries were caught on artificials.

More of that kind of helpful information will be available to anglers soon, as FWC develops a more in-depth website for TrophyCatch, which will allow each entrant to have his or her own page.

In Texas, meanwhile, managers continue to look for new ways to improve the state’s trophy bass fisheries through ShareLunker, a program built around stocking Florida strain largemouths. Before the Lonestar State introduced the larger variety of black bass, its state record of 13.5 remained unchallenged for 37 years. Since stocking began in the 1970s, the record has been broken six times, and three since ShareLunker began in 1986.

Current Texas record is 18.2, larger even than the biggest bass documented in Florida at 17.27.

Courtesy of ShareLunker, Florida bass now swim in 62 Texas impoundments. They are spawned in hatcheries from the ShareLunker entries of 13 pounds or more that Texas fishermen donate to the program.Incredibly, 51 percent of ShareLunker entries are pure Florida bass, with the rest being hybrids. Yet sampling reveals that Florida bass typically make up only about 7 percent of a fishery’s bass population.

“A real value of the program has been that it has convinced anglers that they do not have to kill their catch to get a trophy,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

In exchange for donating their fish, anglers are given replica mounts.

Right now, focus is on DNA and how tracking it might help produce a fish that could rival the world record of 22-4. While breeding ShareLunker entries to male ShareLunker offspring, biologists have developed a technique to identify both parents in future trophy bass.

Tagging already has revealed that sometimes entries are caught more than once. In fact, one was caught three times.

“I was a pessimist when we first started this program,” Forshage said. “We had no idea that one day we’d have 62 lakes producing these lunker fish.”

(This column appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
May162014

Texas Angler Catches Record-Size Guadalupe Bass

 Marcos de Jesus, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

A Guadalupe bass with broad shoulders “appears to qualify as a new state record and world record in several categories,” according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

While floating the Colorado River below Austin on Feb. 1, Bryan Townsend caught the 3.71-pound fish on a crawfish-pattern fly and a 7-weight fly rod. That should supplant the 3.69 caught in 1983 at Lake Travis.

Generally, 2 pounds is considered large for a Guadalupe, a river species unique to the clear, fast-flowing rivers of central Texas. Townsend’s fish, though, was a chunk, with a girth almost equal to its length (17.25 inches), but DNA testing confirmed that it was a pure Guadalupe.

Because that section of the river has yielded quite a few large Guadalupe-like fish in recent years, TPWD’s Marcos DeJesus decided to do a little research.

“So far as we can conclude, they seem to be pure Guadalupes,” he said.

“The Colorado River below Austin, from Longhorn Dam to La Grange, has been a special bass fishery for many years,” DeJesus continued. “Productive waters and excellent habitat have helped support a healthy black bass population composed of largemouth bass and Guadalupe bass.

“Recently, with reduced pulses due to drought, aquatic vegetation exploded all over this river segment. Flood events in October flushed a lot of it downstream, making it easier to fish.”

Townsend caught the big Guadalupe while fishing with guide Shea McClanahan, who immediately recognized its world-record potential. He phoned a friend who helped coordinate a meeting on the river with DeJesus, who brought an ice chest and an aerator.

“Our clients are 99.9 percent catch-and-release,” McClanahan said. “I don’t even have a stringer. We don’t kill fish.”

The biologist measured and weighed the fish, as well as took photos and a fin clip for genetic testing. They then took the bass to Cabela’s in Buda, the closest place with a certified scale.

Afterward, Townsend donated the fish to TPWD for live display at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, where it can be seen in the theater’s dive tank.

“It was just an awesome day on the water, and getting the record was a true group effort,” Townsend said. “Guadalupe bass are such an incredible fish, and I’ve just fallen in love with that river. It’s all worked out wonderfully.”

According to TPWD, the angler will submit applications based on the fish’s weight for water body, state, and world records. He also will apply for records based on length and tackle used for state catch-and-release, fly-fishing; and world record catch-and-release, fly-fishing.

Designated the official state fish of Texas in 1989, the Guadalupe is found only in the Lone Star State, with its range including the San Antonio River, the Guadalupe River above Gonzales, the Colorado, and portions of the Brazos River drainage. Generally green in color, it doesn’t have the vertical bars typical to smallmouth bass and its jaw doesn’t extend beyond the eyes, as in largemouths. Also, its color reaches much lower on its body than in spotted bass.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

 

Thursday
Apr172014

The Anglers Lodge Seeks Business Partner(s)

Lake Amistad largemouth.

If you’ve ever dreamed about owning a home or --- even better --- a fishing lodge near one of the world’s best bass lakes, Carl Wengenroth has an offer for you.

Carl owns The Anglers Lodge on Lake Amistad, near Del Rio, Texas, and he’s looking for an investment partner or partners. “I want to get the bank out of the picture,” he said.

To do that, he needs $730,000 within three weeks, and he will negotiate regarding specific terms, such as partnership percentages. For sure, though, the investor would enjoy free fishing, meals, and accommodations as often as he’d like. And Carl added that he can arrange for free hunting as well.

The Anglers Lodge sits on just under 10 acres, with 23 rooms, a café, and tackle store. It’s a 2- to 3-minute drive from four launch sites at Amistad, which is surrounded by federal land. Long-range plans call for acquisition and expansion onto an additional five acres.

With Carl, an investor would be partners with one of the real champions for bass conservation. He teaches fish care to bass clubs across Texas. And he recycles used baits into new ones. Success with that prompted him to create River Slung Custom Baits.

Lake Amistad is a 65,000-acre impoundment on the Rio Grande at its confluence with the Devils River. Here is what Bassmaster.com has to say about the scenic fishery on the Mexican border.

If you are interested in learning more, you can call Carl at 830 719-9907 or send him an email at anglerslodge1@yahoo.com.

Monday
Apr142014

Strategies Improve for Controlling Hydrilla; Giant Salvinia Grows as Threat to Fisheries

Hydrilla has joined Eurasian milfoil as an invasive exotic plant that threatens northern fisheries. It now has been found in Kansas and Missouri, and the Nature Conservancy is reporting “a number of populations on the doorstep of the Great Lakes.”

Giant salvinia, meanwhile, has emerged as a significant danger to some southern waters, especially in eastern Texas and Louisiana.

Yet much of the news these days is good for anglers in regard to troublesome aquatic plants, particularly hydrilla. Resource managers assert that they have learned from past mistakes and now strive to control this fish-attracting invasive, rather than obliterate it.

“We’re not trying to wipe it (hydrilla) out anymore,” said Howard Elder, aquatic plant biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. “We’re trying to find a happy median.”

Bill Caton, leader of the Invasive Plant Management Section at Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing that “spot treatment” is preferred.

“It’s like treating weeds in a flower bed,” he said. “It’s much better if you don’t let it get out of control. If you do, then it costs you more, you have to use more herbicides, and you have more dead vegetation to deal with.”

Caton acknowledged that sometimes the aftermath of a herbicide treatment for hydrilla and other invasives still “can look bad” to anglers.

“But the public is just looking at the immediate impact of the treatment and not thinking about the results,” he said. “Treatments are like prescribed fires. They can look bad, but they’re often the only alternative that we have for providing good fish and wildlife habitat and preserving places for people to fish.”

Mechanical harvesting, he added, “is too expensive and destroys everything,” including fish and invertebrates trapped in the plants.

Grass carp, meanwhile, are an option in some states, including Texas and South Carolina.

“We knock the hydrilla back with herbicides and then use grass carp for control,” Elder said.

For the massive Santee Cooper system, the exotic grass-eaters are the preferred primary tool, and Chris Page, manager for the aquatic plant program at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, believes  balance has been achieved with this method as well.

“We do maintenance stocking of one fish per eight acres,” Page said. “That’s about 20,000 fish. And we’re going to put in another 10,000 to manage an additional 400 acres of (hydrilla) coverage.”

Such a formula is a far cry from the 700,000 fish stocked in the 160,000-acre system from 1989 to 1996, he explained.

“I understand the problem that the public had with that. There were too many carp for several years.”

But as they better manage hydrilla, state agencies also are challenged with new threats to fisheries, including crested floating heart (see below) and giant salvinia.

Unlike hydrilla, giant salvinia has no redeeming value as fish habitat, and it can double in area in 10 days or less. It destroys primary productivity in a fishery and acidifies water until only a desert remains under its canopy.

In Texas, giant salvinia is established in 12 lakes. It also has spread to Louisiana, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as other states.

“Hydrilla is a greater threat overall because it is so popular and so widespread,” Elder said. “Giant salvinia is not as easily distributed and it prefers acidic waters, which is why it is a threat in east Texas.”

This latest invader also is more difficult to control with herbicides than hydrilla, and carp won’t eat it. That’s why both Texas and Louisiana are raising weevils that will feed on the exotic plant.

New Invader

There’s a new bad kid on the block: crested floating heart. It’s been in Florida for awhile, and now is causing problems in South Carolina.

Chances are good that this native of Asia also is established in other states, but hasn’t yet been identified. With flat, floating leaves and white flowers, it resembles the native banana lily, according to the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (CAIP) at the University of Florida.

“I think that this could be a bad one,” said Mike Netherland, an aquatic plants expert for the Army Corps of Engineers.

As with so many other exotic plants now degrading our waterways, it likely “escaped from a water garden somewhere,” according to Chris Page, program manager for aquatic plant management in the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Within four to five years, crested floating heart spread from 10 to 15 acres to 2,000 in the 160,000-acre Santee Cooper system, he added.

“We’ve done some (herbicide) treatment in coves, where there’s no water movement,” said Page, adding that effective application is difficult in open water.

“It’s the most aggressive floating-leave plant that we’ve encountered on the lakes,” said Larry McCord, supervisor of analytical and biological services for the Santee Cooper power and water utility. “It is rooting in high-energy areas along the main shoreline and can grow quite successfully in 10 to 12 feet of water.”

In Santee Cooper’s lakes Moultrie and Marion, this invasive exotic has the potential to spread over 40 percent of the acreage, McCord explained. Plus, reports from Asia suggest that grass carp won’t eat the plant, not good news for a waterway where they are used to control hydrilla.

Once established, cresting floating heart blankets the surface, blocking light penetration to beneficial submersed plants.

In Florida, according to CAIP, the invader is considered a Category II ecological threat. That means it has increased in abundance, but has not yet altered Florida plant communities to the extent shown by Category I species (hydrilla).

(A variation of this article was published in B.A.S.S. Times a few years ago.)