Striped bass and white bass in Lake Texoma are rebounding well from flooding events in 2015 that saw the lake go over the spillway twice.
Fisheries management crews from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) recently completed their annual gillnet assessment of fish populations in Lake Texoma. Winter gillnetting is used to monitor fish population trends from year to year.
The striped bass population in Lake Texoma is currently dominated by quality fish more than 20 inches long, with the majority of fish ranging from 18 inches to 25 inches. The mild winter of 2015-16 and lack of competition from smaller striped bass resulted in an abundant shad population and above-average fish weights. Striped bass longer than 20 inches weighed an average of 17 percent more than fish of that length typically weigh. While this suggests that these fish have plenty of forage and growth rates are good, it may also indicate why fishing has been tough—the fish are full.
Angler catch rates of striped bass have been low since flooding occurred in 2015. TPWD and ODWC gillnet catch rates in early 2016 reflected the reduced population density. Depressed catch rates of striped bass in the lake were also observed following floods in 1990 and 2007.
In addition to some loss of striped bass by downstream migration through the dam, age analysis of striped bass collected in gillnets demonstrated poor spawning success during the drought in 2014. Results of the gillnetting showed that striped bass successfully spawned in 2015, and the abundant shad population should allow the 2015 fish to grow quickly and reach harvestable size by late summer or fall. Biologists anticipate 2016 will also produce a very strong year-class.
Successful spawning of striped bass is dependent on spring inflows which allow the fish to migrate long distances up the Red and Washita Rivers to lay eggs. Adequate flow is needed in the rivers to allow the semi-buoyant eggs to remain suspended as they travel downstream for several days before hatching. Water-level data indicate there were insufficient flows in the rivers to support successful spawns in spring of 2014. This year-class of striped bass was largely absent from gillnet samples, as evidenced by the lack of fish collected between 12 and 16 inches.
White bass and catfish were not adversely impacted by the drought and following floods. White bass are currently more abundant than they have been in the last 20 years. Approximately 80 percent of the white bass population collected in sampling were 10 inches or longer. The white bass population is in excellent condition with fish 12 inches or longer weighing an average of 11 percent more than they normally weigh. Channel and blue catfish populations were also in good shape, and their populations were dominated by harvestable-sized fish.