Lake Monticello - 2003 Survey Report
Prepared by Michael J. Ryan and Michael W. Brice
Inland Fisheries Division
District 3-A, Marshall, Texas
This is the authors' summary from a 25-page report. For a copy of the complete report, use the download link in the sidebar.
Lake Monticello was surveyed in 2003-2004 using gill nets, trap nets, and electrofishing to survey the fish community. A creel survey was conducted December through February 2002 to determine angler utilization and harvest. Aquatic vegetation and access facilities also were surveyed. This report summarizes the results of the surveys and contains a management plan for the reservoir based on those findings.
Lake Monticello is located on Blundell and Smith creeks in the Cypress River Basin and is used as a cooling reservoir for lignite-fueled power generation and public recreation. Water levels are stable, maintained by surface run-off and a supplemental water supply from Bob Sandlin Reservoir. Angler and boat access is adequate; however, there are no ADA-specific facilities. Structural habitat is comprised of inundated timber, brush, and creek channels (Ryan and Brice 2000). Aquatic macrophytes occupy <5 % of the basin with American lotus being the dominant species. Heated effluent associated with power production limits available fish habitat during summer months. Water temperatures approach and sometimes exceed 95°F in the epilimnion during July through September severely reducing preferred habitat for fish, contributing to occasional fish kills (Ryan et al. 1986).
- Prey species: Gizzard shad, threadfin shad, and bluegill catch rates (fish/hour) during 2003 fall electrofishing were 12.0, 855.0, and 364.0, respectively. The catch rate of threadfin shad increased from 370.0 fish/hour (1999) to 855.0 fish/hour. Although the catch rate of bluegill declined from 874.0 fish/hour (1999) to 364.0 fish/hour, condition factors (Wr) exceeded 100 for most inch groups of stock-size (>8.0 inches) largemouth bass indicating adequate prey was available.
- Catfishes: The catch rate (fish/net night) of channel catfish in 2004 spring gill netting was 54.2 and represents a 3 to 4 fold increase in the catch rate observed in 1999 (13.8). Most of the increase can be attributed to strong year classes produced in 2002 and 2003. The catch rate of legal-size (>12 inches) channel catfish was 29.8 fish/net night indicating high numbers of fish were available for harvest. Estimation of age and growth of channel catfish was attempted using otoliths, but they proved to be unreadable. Based on estimates from pectoral spines taken in previous years, growth of channel catfish is good as fish reach legal-size during their third growing season (Ryan and Brice 2000). Directed angling pressure (winter) for channel catfish was 0.74 hours/acre in 2002; underutilized compared to other district water bodies with quality fisheries. Angler catch and harvest rates (number/hour) for channel catfish was 2.02 and 1.38, respectively in 2002; higher compared to other district water bodies with quality fisheries.
- Black bass: Electrofishing catch rates (fish/hour) of largemouth bass have generally increased since 1997. Most of this increase can be attributed to largemouth bass <10 inches indicating production of strong year classes in recent years. Strong year classes were especially evident in 2002 and 2003. Assuming angler harvest of largemouth bass remains low, these year classes should recruit into the slot-length range (14 to 24 inches), thus increasing numbers of fish >14.0 inches available for catch and release. The electrofishing catch rate of largemouth bass >14.0 inches was 32.0 fish/hour in 2003; slightly less than the mean catch rate of 43.1 fish/hour (1991 to 2003). The angler catch rate (fish/hour) for largemouth bass was 0.35 in 2002; similar to that found in 1999 (0.39) and 2000 (0.23). Angler directed effort (hours/acre) for largemouth bass was 8.00 in 2002 indicating the fishery receives relatively high seasonal utilization. Harvest (fish/hour) of largemouth bass was almost non-existent (0.01  and 0.00 ). Harvest regulations and catch and release fishing by anglers are factors that have helped sustain densities of largemouth bass >14 inches. It is unclear as to whether expanding the slot limit from 14-21 to 14-24 inches has contributed to an increase in >21-inch largemouth bass; however, anglers appear to be satisfied with the revised regulation. Growth of largemouth bass < age 5 remains consistently high compared to other district water bodies. Largemouth bass reach 14.0 inches by their third growing season. Electrophoretic analysis of young-of-year largemouth bass collected in 2003 yielded 50.0 % pure Florida largemouth bass; considerably higher than other area reservoirs.
- Crappie: A stocking program was implemented in 1986 in an effort to develop a crappie fishery at Lake Monticello. Although a few crappie have been observed in fish community samples and during creel surveys, no viable fishery was established. The stocking program was discontinued in 1997.
The fishery needs to be managed under existing harvest regulations. High water temperatures (>95°F) during summer months continue to be a management concern as occasional fish kills occur during worst-case conditions. Thermal stressors may also be repressing recruitment and reducing longevity of certain species. The fish community and angler usage should continue to be monitored. Construction of a fishing pier (meeting ADA specifications) would improve fishing access to non-boating anglers. Installation of a weatherproof bulletin board at the Titus County Park headquarters would provide anglers with a variety of fishing information. We will continue to keep anglers informed about fishing opportunities at Lake Monticello through local press releases and public presentations.
Performance Report as required by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act Texas Federal Aid Project F-30-R-29 Statewide Freshwater Fisheries Monitoring and Management Program