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Texas biologist work to improve fishing
ATHENS -- Texans normally associate fall with the start of hunting season, but it is also a busy time for fisheries biologists.
When you are on your favorite lake during the next few months, you may encounter a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries crew conducting one of several kinds of surveys. Information from these surveys is used to guide management decisions for the reservoir, such as what kind and how many fish to stock.
Take Lake Bridgeport as an example. TPWD biologists will be conducting a creel survey on Lake Bridgeport beginning this September and wrapping up in May of 2014. Creel surveys are conducted by contacting anglers in person while they are on the lake fishing or when they are at a boat ramp.
The creel survey will determine harvest of all fishes from the lake, especially largemouth bass and Palmetto bass, during the period. Other information such as monetary value of the fishery, sizes of fish harvested and caught, and angler residence will also be determined. After all the data are compiled and analyzed, a management report will be written which summarizes the results and recommends strategies to improve or maintain the fishery. The report will be available late summer of 2014.
An electrofishing boat (also known as a shocking boat) will be used to sample the fish in Lake Bridgeport in early November. Electrofishing works best at night in 6 feet of water or less. Biologists expect to collect a wide range of sizes of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass from Lake Bridgeport. The fish are collected using long dip nets on the bow of the lighted electrofishing boat during the sampling. All bass are weighed and measured. A small sample of largemouth bass will be checked for the presence of Florida largemouth bass genes. All forage species are measured and released. Records are kept of all fish collected. Comparing numbers and sizes of fish collected over a period of years shows population trends and growth rates.
Bridgeport’s crappie population will be sampled in December with a piece of gear called a trap net. It works like a minnow trap and funnels the crappie into the net, where they cannot escape. The net is set in the afternoon and taken out the next morning. The crappie are weighed, measured and released.
Finally, in March or April, channel catfish, Palmetto bass, and white bass will be sampled with gill nets. Gill nets are 125 feet long by 8 feet deep and entangle fish with varying mesh sizes. Gill nets are set in the afternoon and taken out the next morning. Once again the target fish will be weighed, measured and released, if possible.
Not all lakes are surveyed every year, but chances are good that TPWD boat you see on the lake this fall and winter will not carry a game warden but a fisheries biologist working to make fishing better. Your cooperation will be appreciated.
For more information, contact TPWD fisheries biologists at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/about/divisions/inland_fisheries/offices/index.phtml#biologist.
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