WICHITA FALLS – Biologists from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries office in Wichita Falls recently completed fall electrofishing and spring gillnet surveys on Possum Kingdom Reservoir, finding striped bass populations to be at their highest in 14 years.
Biologists found the abundance of striped bass in the lake this year to be the highest they’ve observed since the golden alga fish kills of 2001 and 2003, with one year-class found to have naturally reproduced in the reservoir.
“We did not stock striped bass in 2016, so it was somewhat of a surprise to find quite a few striped bass belonging to that year-class in our survey work,” said fisheries biologist Robert Mauk. “We’ve seen evidence of natural reproduction in the past – not to the extent we’ve seen it in 2016 – but conditions were right for spawning to occur with a high, unimpeded flowing Brazos River.”
Among the striped bass caught in the sampling, biologists found the fish to be in good body condition with lengths ranging from 8 to 30 inches and many of legal length 18-inches and above.
The largemouth bass abundance was also up compared to both 2012 and 2014 survey results, and biologists found the body condition to be good for those legal-length 16-inch and greater sized bass.
“There are plenty of bass just under the legal length that will grow into keepers in the near future, so things are looking up,” Mauk said.
The blue catfish catch rate was the second highest observed in the reservoir since sampling began, with many over the 12-inch minimum length. Biologists didn’t find any blue catfish over 30-inches as they have in years past, but Mauk said the high numbers of those caught under the legal length is a good indicator of future fishing success.
Several other species of sportfish were found to be at their average historical populations and good body weight, including bluegill, white bass and channel catfish. The channel catfish caught ranged from 6 to 23 inches, with those over 20 inches found to be “quite chunky,” Mauk said.
Populations of prey fish gizzard shad were found to be near historical averages, with threadfin shad also found in “decent numbers,” according to Mauk. But the gizzard shad overall sizes were smaller than in the past, which should result in bigger predator fish like bass and catfish in coming years since higher numbers of shad are vulnerable to them in the reservoir.
In addition to a strong population of prey fish, popular sport fish like bass are also benefiting from habitat enhancement projects that have added structure into the reservoir. With the financial help of the Hells Gate Bass Club, Mineral Wells Bass Club, the Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership, and the Brazos River Authority, inland fisheries staff and volunteers have placed more than 390 artificial structures into the reservoir, most recently near Hog Bend in Caddo Bay.
For more information about fishing Possum Kingdom Reservoir or to find GPS coordinates for artificial structures, visit http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/recreational/lakes/possum_kingdom/.