Palo Pinto Reservoir - 2003 Survey Report
Prepared by Mark Howell and Robert Mauk
Inland Fisheries Division
District 2-E, Wichita Falls, 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.
Palo Pinto Reservoir was surveyed in 2003-04 using gill netting, electrofishing, and trap netting. This was the third time that these surveys were conducted using randomly selected sites. The catches per unit effort (CPUE) comparisons made in this summary are contrasted with catch rates observed during Palo Pinto surveys from 1996-2002. This report summarizes these survey results and contains a fisheries management plan based on their findings.
Palo Pinto is located 79 miles southwest of Ft. Worth, Texas. The 2,399-acre impoundment was constructed in 1964 in Palo Pinto County provides municipal water for Mineral Wells, Texas and cooling water for the Brazos Electric power plant. The lake has a shoreline length of 18 miles and a mean depth of 16.5 feet. Boat access is adequate at three improved public boat ramp sites. Periodic turbidity, fluctuating water levels, and a rocky shoreline inhibit the growth of aquatic vegetation. The heated effluent from the power plant may cause water temperatures too hot for optimum fish habitat during summer months (Hysmith 1982).
- Prey species: The 2003 electrofishing catch rates for gizzard shad, threadfin shad, and bluegill were 247.0/hr, 34.0/hr, and 77.0/hr, respectively. These rates are above historical CPUE rates for Palo Pinto and each species catch rate is higher than the previous survey in 1999. Present prey species populations appear to be providing an adequate forage base for existing sport fish populations including newly introduced palmetto bass (hybrid striped bass). Gizzard shad index of vulnerability (IOV; DiCenzo et al. 1996) has been above 93 for the last three electrofishing surveys.
- Catfishes: The 2004 gill net catch rate for channel catfish decreased to 0.4/net night. This is the lowest catch rate observed from the last five gill net surveys. However, the historical average was only 1.1/ net night from the previous four surveys. There is minimal evidence that a channel catfish fingerling stocking in 1997 paid dividends by the 1999 gill net survey. This strategy will not be considered in 2004 or 2005. No flathead catfish were sampled in 2003-04. Flathead catfish are present, but at much lower levels than channel catfish. A certified lake record for flathead catfish was established in November 1997 when an 83.0 pound fish was caught. Blue catfish have not been documented in Palo Pinto Reservoir.
- Temperate basses: The 2004 gill net catch rate for white bass increased to 2.2/net night. This catch rate is the highest for this species over the last five surveys and represents a continued upward trend over the last four. While the catch rate is still below half of the district average it is an encouraging trend at a reservoir where poor reproduction of white bass has been an historical problem (Hysmith 1982). Palmetto bass were stocked for the first time in 2002, then again in 2004 at the rate of 5/acre. This was done to provide an additional open water sport fish in a reservoir where white bass and channel catfish production has been historically poor. One individual from the 2002 stocking was sampled in 2004 and it had grown to just over 14 inches.
- Largemouth bass: The 2003 electrofishing catch rate of 93.0/hr, exceeded the 1999 catch rate of 70.0/hr and tripled the 1996 catch rate of 31.3 hour. Good spawning conditions in 2002 and 2003 brought on by increased lake elevations were indicated by strong year class representations in 2003. While the vast majority of the bass sampled in 2003 were below legal size, these strong year classes should help improve largemouth bass fishing in the future. The Florida bass genetic influence was also improved with a 39.5% influence being shown with nearly 10% being pure Florida bass. Supplemental stocking of Florida bass in 1997 might be having an influence as that year class is now of fully reproductive age compared to the last survey in 1997. The reservoir had an 11.12 lb. largemouth bass certified as the lake record in 1992.
- White crappie: There is a continuing downward trend in relative abundance over the last four surveys. The 2003 catch rate of 13.0/net night is below the 1999 catch rate of 15.5/net, 17.2/net night in 1996 and 24.6/net night in 1994. However it remains near the historical average of 15.2/net night. The 2003 survey showed a relatively strong 2003 year class with the highest number of fish in the seven inch group. This will hopefully pay benefits to Palo Pinto crappie anglers in the future. Relative weights and growth rates both remain good and are near the ecological region average.
Turbidity and a lack of aquatic vegetation serve to inhibit sport fish populations at Palo Pinto. Considering these factors, more stringent regulations would probably accomplish little to improve present sport fish populations. Continuing an every other year supplemental stocking for palmetto bass at the rate of 5/acre is recommended. Supplemental sampling of the forage base in 2000 and 2003 showed more than adequate forage to support this conservative stocking plan. Considering that stocking supplemental channel catfish had little effect, consideration should be given to initiating a population of blue catfish. Blue catfish have never been documented at the reservoir, but have done well when stocked at other district lakes. There is an identified need for additional sport fish and stocking blue catfish fingerlings at Palo Pinto would meet the current stocking criteria. It is therefore recommended that Palo Pinto be stocked with 50 blue catfish fingerlings per acre both in 2005 and 2006.
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