Lakecaster Online

Tagged bass on Sam Rayburn
By Ray Lenderman

If you happened to have fished on Sam Rayburn this past month, it is very likely that you may have caught some bass with colored tags on them. These tags are located below the left dorsal fin of the fish. They are only on largemouth bass, and each tag has an identification number and a Texas Parks and Wildlife telephone number and also a "DO NOT REMOVE" on them. No, you did not win a new boat or fishing equipment. This is each angler's opportunity to help Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries department in a year long study on Sam Rayburn bass.

Todd Driscoll, the district supervisor of the TP&W's Jasper office explained the goals and intentions of the study. "This study is the product of an earlier study conducted by the TP&W and Texas A&M University. The original study explored opinions of anglers that fish at Sam Rayburn," Driscoll said. "Through these studies the TP&W learned approximately half of the anglers surveyed wanted a more restrictive length limit imposed. The study is an exploitation survey - this means the actual proportion of the entire largemouth bass removed by anglers. The information gained from this type of study will help the TP&W formulate the most appropriate regulations for the lake. The study is only for bass and will be ongoing for approximately one year. The thinking was that an increase in the minimum length limit would increase bass fishing quality. The current level of exploitation may or may not be limiting the quality of the fishery. This question as well as others relating to fishery can be answered with the exploitation survey."

The TP&W crews tagged nearly 6,000 bass the week of October 13. They had originally hoped to tag 4,000 but the electro fishing boats used were effective enough for the additional fish. Fish ranged in size from 12 ½ inches to over 11 pounds. All areas of the lake were used during the tagging process and the fish were released within one half mile of their capture area. The first tagged bass report came within hours of the release by the TP&W staff, which negates the myth that shocked fish will not bite for a certain length of time.

The data collected during this year long survey through voluntary angler call ins and creel surveys is vital to the data necessary for TP&W to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to the regulations. Part of the information gathered during creel surveys is to find out what anglers want out of the fishery itself. Are they catching fish? What is more important to the anglers, size or numbers of fish? When an angler reports catching a tagged bass, one of the questions that will be asked where it was caught. This will help verify fish movement. It is the goal of Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries to manage the fisheries in such a way that the angler has optimum enjoyment and satisfaction on a given fishing trip.

The TP&W is particularly interested in how a 16-inch minimum length limit and a five-fish bag limit would affect the bass population and fishery. "At this point we feel that a 16-inch length limit would best balance the desires of both tournament and non tournament anglers, but other possibilities might exist as well," Driscoll said. "If our studies indicate no benefit of a regulation change, then we will stop the process at that point. However, if the studies indicate that regulation changes would increase the number of larger bass, the next step would be to present the information at town hall meetings and let the bass anglers at Sam Rayburn decide how we proceed." Driscoll also pointed out, "The bottom line is that, although our management decisions are based on biological data, social and economic considerations expressed by anglers and business owners are equally important. We would only alter largemouth bass regulations if it is biologically effective and the majority of the bass anglers are in favor."

If you have questions concerning the study, stop by the Inland Fisheries office at the Jasper State Fish Hatchery or call 409-384-9572.

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