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Texas Parks and Wildlife Launches Big Blue Catfish Study
ATHENS, Texas — At a time when many anglers have put away their fishing gear in favor of picking up a .30-06 and heading to the deer lease, a few avid anglers know the cold weather can provide a great opportunity to catch big blue catfish. Although it is not entirely necessary to endure 31-degree temperatures in order to catch big blue catfish, it may help. Those were the conditions when Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries staff arrived at Richland-Chambers Reservoir in mid-December as part of a special study on the fish.
The trip was the first of a series of winter-time research trips to help biologists better understand what it takes to produce big blue catfish at Richland-Chambers and two other Texas reservoirs. The research is designed to evaluate an experimental 30- to 45-inch slot length regulation geared towards enhancing the trophy catfish potential of Lakes Waco, Lewisville, and Richland-Chambers.
The regulation went into effect in September 2009 for the three lakes and allows anglers a total daily bag of 25 fish per day. Harvested fish may be any size below 30 inches, but only one fish over 45 inches is allowed as part of the daily bag.
The research is being directed by fisheries biologist John Tibbs of TPWD’s Inland Fisheries office in Waco and is being conducted by staff from fisheries offices in Tyler, Fort Worth, and Waco.
During the study period, biologists are conducting simulated angler jugline sets to evaluate catch rates and size distributions of blue catfish. Length, weight and growth data are being collected from the fish to determine just how long it takes blue catfish to grow to 30 inches and beyond in these reservoirs. Preliminary results indicate that it may take 10 years or more for a blue catfish to reach 30 inches.
Muscle tissue samples are being collected from fish below 30 inches in length, those 30-45 inches in length and over 45 inches in length to evaluate the potential for bioaccumulation of toxicants as the fish age.
Angler support for the regulation is also being evaluated as part of the study. Angler interest in fishing for large blue catfish has increased in recent years, and TPWD hopes to increase the opportunities anglers have to catch a trophy. The three reservoirs were selected for the experimental regulation due to their ability to support a large population of blue catfish and the fact they have all produced fish in excess of 45 inches.
Research will be ongoing through 2016, and results will be used to evaluate whether the regulation is achieving the goal of increasing the number of large blue catfish in the reservoirs. If the lakes begin to produce larger fish, variations of the special regulation may be considered for other Texas reservoirs.
Juglines may be constructed and fished differently by each angler, although most utilize a surface float with a vertical line attached to a small weight on the bottom. Up to five hooks are spaced out evenly at various depths along the line and commonly baited with cut shad or sunfish. Floats are often designed to move or "flag" to alert the angler from a distance when a fish is hooked. Jugline floats are required to be white and must also have a valid (dated) gear tag while being fished in Texas. Consult the Outdoor Annual or the TPWD web site for specific regulations regarding juglines before fishing.
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