TPWD News Release — June 27, 2005
ATHENS, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has just completed a successful striped bass spawning and stocking season.
TPWD Inland Fisheries Division personnel produced and stocked 4.6 million striped bass and hybrid striped bass fingerlings into 42 lakes. An additional 2.6 million striped bass and hybrid striped bass fry were stocked into three lakes.
“This number of fish is smack dab in the middle of average production levels prior to the onset of golden alga,” said Gerald Kurten, hatchery program director for catfishes and striped bass. “We are proud to be back where we should be in spite of the fact that golden alga continues to be problematic for both the Dundee and Possum Kingdom hatcheries. This year’s stockings represent about 80 percent of the requests from TPWD Inland Fisheries managers. We stocked all the lakes for which the managers requested fish, but a few of the larger requests were not completely met.”
“Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is keenly aware of the importance of the striped bass and hybrid striped bass fisheries to local economies,” said Gary Saul, TPWD hatcheries chief. “Our staff works around the clock for weeks to produce and stock these fish in order to sustain this valuable fishery.”
The fingerlings were produced at the A.E. Wood Hatchery at San Marcos, the Possum Kingdom Hatchery near Graford and the Dundee Hatchery near Electra.
The process began with the collection of striped bass males and egg-laden females from the Trinity River at the foot of Livingston Dam in mid-April. The fish were transported in tank trailers to the hatcheries, where TPWD fisheries biologists and technicians continuously monitored the females to determine when the eggs they carried were mature and ready to be spawned.
Technicians then stripped the eggs from each female into a container while milt from one or more males was added. The eggs and milt were mixed using a turkey feather, and the fertilized eggs were then placed into hatching jars. Large striped bass females are capable of producing as many as a million eggs.
After the fry hatched, most were reared in outdoor ponds to fingerling size, about 1.5 inches long, before being stocked into lakes.
Complicating the process was the fact that the water supply at the Possum Kingdom and Dundee hatcheries contained high levels of golden alga, a microscopic organism that can produce toxins capable of killing fish of any size. Hatchery personnel monitored the level of golden alga toxins continuously during the spawning and grow-out periods and took measures to ensure the fish survived.
Successful management of fingerlings ponds requires constant attention to water quality parameters such as temperature, pH and ammonia concentrations. High pH and ammonia concentrations are the key to keeping golden alga at bay in hatchery ponds, but they are also potentially lethal to young striped bass, so hatchery staff must perform a balancing act to maintain the appropriate conditions in the ponds. Fluctuations in temperature and cloud cover also have an impact, and the staff has to consider how future weather will affect the ponds. When golden alga is present, the fish can be lost at any time during pond production, so constant vigilance on the part of the hatchery staff and predictable weather are the keys to success.
Striped bass are anadromous like salmon in that they spawn in fresh water and then migrate out to salt water. Striped bass were first introduced into Texas in 1967, when they were stocked into lakes Navarro Mills and Bardwell. They can survive in fresh water, and except in Lake Texoma, they normally do not produce enough offspring naturally to maintain their population. TPWD stocks fish to supplement the natural production and provide additional fishing opportunity.
“The way our hatcheries do the spawning absolutely makes them the leaders in this field,” says Roger McCabe, who retired in June 2005 after heading the Texas striped bass program for a quarter of a century. “As far as stocking for maintaining fisheries is concerned, we have the largest striped bass and hybrid striped bass stocking program in the country.”