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Fishing Great in Central Texas Reservoirs Despite Drought
ATHENS—Low water levels at some Central Texas reservoirs have seemed to improve anglers’ chances of catching fish.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) inland fisheries biologists conducting fish population surveys at Lakes Pat Cleburne and Mexia report particularly high numbers of quality channel catfish.
Lake Pat Cleburne is a 1,568-acre reservoir located approximately four miles southwest of the town of Cleburne. The sportfish assemblage at Pat Cleburne consists of largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie and three species of catfishes (channels, blues and flatheads).
Lake Mexia is a 1,009-acre reservoir located approximately six miles west of the town of Mexia. Mexia contains largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie and channel, blue and flathead catfish.
Like many larger reservoirs in the area, both these smaller reservoirs have been plagued with drought conditions for several years, and much of the reservoirs’ natural fish habitat, such as shoreline structure, aquatic vegetation, coves and points, has been dry for some time. This can frustrate some anglers as their “go-to” sites are unrecognizable or worse, no longer wet!
Monitoring fish populations over time can be similarly frustrating for TPWD, as some standardized gears and techniques are also less efficient than they would be during periods of normal water levels.
Despite tough conditions, TPWD observed some unusually high catches of popular sportfish during recent surveys. At Pat Cleburne, the 2012 channel catfish catch rate was the second highest on record for the reservoir, second only to the 1997 survey. In addition to large numbers of channels, individual condition, or plumpness, was good and improved with increasing length.
Most of the channel catfish observed during this survey were perfect eating size, two to four pounds. Populations of blues and flathead catfish can also be found in the reservoir, but are in much lower densities. There are currently no water body records for any of the catfishes in Pat Cleburne, because anglers have never brought these species in for certification.
Largemouth bass anglers should also be happy to learn the fall 2011 survey of Pat Cleburne observed the second highest catch rate of this species in nearly 20 years. Although the catch was dominated by 10-inch fish at the time, these fish are a harvestable size now and should offer black-bass anglers some good sport for the foreseeable future. The current water body record for largemouth bass in Pat Cleburne is 11 pounds.
Survey results for Lake Mexia were even more promising. The 2012 channel catfish catch rate was the highest on record for the reservoir. Large numbers of fish in excellent body condition were collected. Most of the channel catfish observed during this survey were in the two- to four-pound range. The current water body record for channel catfish in Lake Mexia is 7.4 pounds. Blues and flatheads can also be found in the reservoir, but in much lower densities. The water body record for blue catfish is over 25 pounds, while no record exists for flathead catfish.
So the next time you’re wondering where to fish, consider Lakes Pat Cleburne and Mexia. For more information on water body records, visit tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/. If you think you have a record fish, please contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries Management office in Waco at (254) 666-5190.
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