Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologists will be conducting a creel survey on Lake Bridgeport beginning this September, gathering information that will be used to guide decisions on what kind and how many fish to stock in the reservoir.
Creel surveys are conducted by contacting anglers in person while they are on the lake fishing or at a boat ramp. The survey, which will wrap up next May, will determine harvest of all fish from the lake, especially largemouth bass and Palmetto bass, during the period.
As part of an every-other-year stocking plan, 59,756 Palmetto bass fingerlings were stocked in Lake Bridgeport in May 2013.
Other information such as monetary value of the fishery, sizes of fish harvested and angler residence will also be determined. After all the data are compiled and analyzed, a management report will summarize the results and recommend strategies to improve or maintain the fishery. The report will be available next summer.
Samplers will make use of several different types of boats and nets on Lake Bridgeport during the next few months.
Starting in early November, an electrofishing boat (also known as a shocking boat) will be used. Through electrofishing, which 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.
The fish are collected using long dip nets on the bow of the lighted boat. All bass are weighed and measured, and a small sample of largemouth bass will be checked for the presence of Florida largemouth bass genes. The fish are measured and released, and records are kept.
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, after which the crappie are weighed, measured and released.
Next 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. The gill nets are set in the afternoon and taken out the next morning, and again the target fish will be weighed, measured and released if possible.
Anglers are encouraged to cooperate with fisheries biologists if asked to participate in a survey.
The goal of all this activity, TPWD said, is to make sound management decisions based on the best data available in an effort to make fishing better.
Often if anglers wonder why a certain kind of fish isn’t stocked in a lake, the answer may be that the reservoir does not contain habitat suitable for that species – or it may be that survey data show that fish of that species already in the reservoir are growing at less than a desirable rate, indicating there is not enough forage there to support more.
On the other hand, a survey may show that a reservoir has a forage base capable of supporting a different predator sportfish, in which case biologists may recommend stocking that species.
Stocking requests from biologists across the state are compiled and ranked, and TPWD’s fish hatcheries are then requested to produce fish to fulfill as many of the requests as possible.
Those with questions about fisheries management on Lake Bridgeport are encouraged to contact Bruce Hysmith, district supervisor in Pottsboro, at 903-786-2389 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The last time fish populations in Lake Bridgeport were surveyed was in 2009/2010 – and catfish and temperate bass could not be surveyed because the lake was closed due to high water.