Lakecaster Online

Editors Notepad

BASS NíGAL Founder & womenís professional fishing pioneer, Sugar Ferris, has become an ìiconî in the Whoís Who of professional tournament organizations. Sugar was the founder,organizer, and ìmothering henî for the nurturing interests of the professional womenís bass fishing tour which promoted national exposure for the expertise of the woman angler in competitive bass fishing.

Founded in 1976, the Bass NíGal organization launched its format across the nation for 22 years before it folded into history in 1998. Sugarís organization provided a ìcitadelî for the women anglerís who found safe harbors and competitive learning tools within her organization. Sugar Ferris, or ìShugî as she is fondly referenced as among her ìthousandsî of fishing friends, also became the first woman outdoor writer to become the President of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association.

Sugar Ferris, Bass Angler, Outdoor Writer, Founder of Bass NíGals & Leader of womanís rights in National Bass Fishing Tournaments, Wife, Mother,îProudî Grandmother, and now ìIconî, was inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame during a special ceremony which was held at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens TX, on May 26, 1999.

Task Force Created To Assess Sam Rayburn Fishery
AUSTIN, Texas--Sam Rayburn reservoirís bass fishery has garnered a national reputation among anglers. At 114,500 surface acres, this Pineywoods giant is also a high priority among state fisheries managers. And in light of threats to this important resource, including recent incidents of lesions found on some of the fish, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) is forming an internal task force to assess the status of the fishery.

Our top priority is to ensure the overall health of this aquatic resource. Biologists have been carefully monitoring the reservoir since an unusual fish kill last July which seemed to affect only larger bass,stated Dr. Larry McKinney, senior director of aquatic resources for TPW. A combination of stress and heat last season caused the deaths of an estimated 1,800 adult largemouth bass on Sam Rayburn, according to TPW findings. The recent reports by fishermen of a high incidence of lesions on black bass has kicked that effort into high gear, he added.
Following the recent observations of unusual growths on bass reported by anglers at Sam Rayburn, TPW sent fish samples to the Texas A & M University Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory for analysis. Preliminary reports received last week revealed an infestation of Epistylus, a protozoan.

This is a common microbe, found in most waters and its presence on fish is not a human health concern, said McKinney. Epistylus is most often associated with conditions of poor water quality. We will be conducting additional viral assessments, but they can take some time to complete.

Epistylus is a parasite that feeds on bacteria and attaches itself to sportfish. Occurrences are more common during the spring and fall and usually thrive during periods of high temperatures when fish become more stressed and prone to infection. Despite the red sore-like lesions that accompany the parasite, it carries no human health risks.

The objective of the task force will be to vigorously and thoroughly investigate all potential contributors to the apparent increase of Epistylus infected fish, noted McKinney. We have diverted a number of our top biologists to the effort, and I am confident that if there is a specific cause to be found, they will find it. But, in order for this initiative to be effective, the task force will be relying heavily on assistance from anglers and other concerned constituencies.

The TPW team, led by David Terre, regional fisheries director in East Texas and Dan Jones, resource protection biologist for East Texas, will have several immediate tasks, including formation of a quick reaction team similar to those in place to respond to oil spills and coastal red tide events.

By having this team in place, should another fish kill occur like the one last summer, a preset response plan will be initiated to ensure that as much useful information is collected as quickly as possible, said McKinney.

In addition, the task force will initiate a comprehensive assessment of potential water quality impairment at Sam Rayburn. TPW will work closely with the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission and the Lower Neches River Authority on this aspect of the investigation. In addition to reviewing all potential sources of pollution, a water-sampling program likely will be undertaken to further focus on sources of potential water quality problems.

The task force will also seek the direct assistance of fishermen to enhance the effectiveness of TPW efforts, McKinney noted. It has been their observations and reports that first alerted TPW to the concern. Because they are concerned about the fishery and they are on the lake every day, they are a valuable resource.

We want the fishermen to be our eyes and ears, stated Terre. With a little training they can greatly expand the effectiveness of our team. Many have already offered their help and we intend to take them up on it.

The task force is already at work and regular progress reports will be made available to all interested parties. Much of the effort will be concluded this summer.

While we are all concerned about anything that even potentially threatens Sam Rayburn, noted Phil Durocher, TPW director of inland fisheries, I do want to make sure everyone knows that Sam Rayburn remains a top quality bass fishery, and there is no reason to think otherwise. Given what occurred at Sam Rayburn during last year, we are just taking those steps necessary to assure it remains so in the future.

TPW Takes Action To Eradicate Exotic Weed at Toledo Bend AUSTIN, Texas--Seizing a window of opportunity to eradicate a serious threat to Texas waterways, a team of Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) fisheries biologists is targeting a federally-prohibited exotic aquatic plant discovered on Toledo Bend Reservoir.

Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta), an attractive South American water fern that has found its way into the aquatic plant industry for use in aquariums and water gardens, has created environmental and economic havoc in major waterways on at least four continents.

The plantís rapid growth--capable of doubling in size every 3 to 5 days--enable it to spread quickly and potentially choke off water bodies regardless of size. On Africaís mammoth Kariba Lake, a 5,000 square kilometer reservoir in Zimbabwe, intrusion of giant salvinia (now commonly calledKariba weed) eventually covered nearly half the lakeís surface or roughly a half-million acres!
Last year, the plant was spotted on Toledo Bend, Texasí largest impoundment at 185,000 acres, as well as on Cow Bayou in Orange County and in parts of Harris County near Houston. On May 12, three TPW crews began applying an environmentally approved herbicide, Reward, directly to Giant salvinia plants along a 12-mile stretch of shoreline on Toledo Bend near State Highway 21 east of Milam. The effort is expected to continue for about a week, according to Dr. Larry McKinney, senior director for aquatic resources with TPW, or until officials believe they have treated all occurrences of the noxious plant. Crews from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will conduct similar chemical treatments on the Louisiana side of Toledo Bend.

We do not often have the opportunity to stop something in its tracks like we do here, said McKinney. ìIf what occurred in those other countries happened in Texas, it would be devastating. We knew we had a problem last winter and have been working toward this first strike. Our aquatic resources are too valuable to risk widespread outbreak.

McKinney noted that the outbreak of salvinia in Texas drew national attention almost immediately. ìA federal-state task force was created to deal with this problem and we were looking at potential federal appropriations of several million dollars to fund a widespread eradication effort. We believed we could head this off by actively treating the problem at a cost of $10,000 now, which makes both fiscal and ecological sense.

While the immediate danger on Toledo Bend is being addressed, there is still potential for additional outbreaks of Giant salvinia elsewhere in Texas. Now that the plant is known to be growing in several bodies of water, experts said, it is likely to spread on boats and other water equipment as well as by floating through creeks and streams.

Giant Salvinia grows rapidly to cover the surface of lakes and streams, spreading aggressively by buds that break off when disturbed. It forms floating mats that shade and crowd out important native plants. Thick mats reduce oxygen content and degrade water quality. Mats snag boats and clog water intakes for electrical generation and irrigation.

In the months leading up to the decision to use chemicals to treat the invasion, state and federal officials exchanged information and ideas with interested constituents, including those groups that oppose use of chemicals to treat noxious aquatic vegetation. After weighing the options, including use of biological and mechanical eradication methods that could prove ineffective and costly, a general consensus was reached on the current plan.

ìRealistically, when you look at a 185,000-acre lake and a plant that floats and moves with the wind, I think weíll only be able to maintain it at the lowest feasible level,î said Rhandy Helton, a TPW biologist working on a federal-state special task force created to eradicate Giant salvinia from Texas.

The task force asks that anyone who thinks the weed is in waterways to contact state or federal officials. Possession, purchase or sale of prohibited exotic aquatic plants constitutes a Class B misdemeanor under Parks and Wildlife Code and carries a fine of between $200 and $2,000, confinement in jail for up to 180 days, or both. Proper disposal for salvinia in water gardens or aquariums would be to place the plant in an area void of water, allowing them to dry completely, or treat with a plant killer. Under no circumstances is it permissible to release these plants into any Texas waters.

ìMost people donít realize that this plant, although attractive in a water garden or a fish tank, is a noxious, federally prohibited weed,î said McKinney. ìWeíve found aquatic plant nurseries in Texas that are selling this stuff and had no idea it was illegal to possess, grow or sell. We donít want to arrest people, but we do want to make sure this stuff doesnít get dumped in our lakes and rivers. Weíre trying to educate folks.

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