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TPWD News Release — Sept. 12, 2005

Big Country Gets Big Rains

ATHENS, Texas — Every time there are widespread rains of half an inch or more across West Texas, the San Angelo Standard-Times puts a drawing of a crowing red rooster, General Rainz, on the front page.

Following flooding rains in mid-August, General Rainz is probably hoarse and looking for high ground.

"The rains were good news for fish and wildlife," says Bobby Farquhar of San Angelo, regional director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Inland Fisheries Division. "We got about 10 inches above our average rainfall last year, and so far this year we are running about four inches ahead. This puts us in really good shape for rains we may get this fall, which is normally our rainy season."

After nearly a decade of drought, rain began returning to the Big Country last year. In the fall of 2004 E.V. Spence Reservoir caught about six feet of water, and O.C. Fisher Lake rose 12 feet. The August 2005 rains augmented the levels of those lakes and caused catastrophic flooding around Lake Stamford, which rose 14 feet in less than three days. Up to 10 inches of rain fell from Big Spring to Temple, causing several deaths from highway flooding.

Many lakes within a 100-mile radius of San Angelo caught at least a foot or two of water. Others saw much bigger rises: Champion Creek, 3.5 feet; J.B. Thomas, six feet; E.V. Spence, eight feet; Oak Creek, seven feet; and O.C. Fisher, 12 feet.

"We will put the lakes that caught water on the priority list for stocking," Farquhar says. "Some that caught water last November were stocked this past spring. If a lake has new flooded habitat, we will put it on the list to be stocked again next spring. While those fish won't be catchable size for a year or two, people are already seeing improved fishing in the lakes that caught water last November. We're hearing that anglers on E.V. Spence are catching limits of white bass and lots of small stripers for the first time in four or five years. That's really good news for them."

Farquhar tempers his optimism with a bit of West Texas humor — "Like the old-timers say, the next drought starts the day it stops raining"-but the effects the rains have had on the Big Country are apparent even to the casual observer. Normally dried and brown in August, roadsides and pastures are verdant, and stock ponds are brimming.

Timing of the rains may be particularly important, says Mandy Scott, assistant fisheries biologist. "When we have heavy rains in the winter, we sometimes have an outbreak of golden alga," she says. "The fact these rains came in the summer may mean that won't happen."

Fisheries biologist Craig Bonds says monitoring of fish populations and golden alga status will be stepped up to enable TPWD to make the most of the situation. "We will be doing more than routine monitoring to determine where the greatest need is and use that information to prioritize our stocking requests and to keep anglers informed on where the best fishing is," he says.

Scott added that anglers can help in the rebuilding of the fishery on O.C. Fisher by practicing catch-and-release. "We have stocked 9-inch channel catfish and adult largemouth bass, and we encourage anglers to release them so they can spawn," she says.

Rising water levels have also improved access at O.C. Fisher, where the three-lane boat ramp is now usable, and Oak Creek, where the ramp near the dam again reaches the lake.

Lakes receiving stocked fish in the last three years are shown as follows.

LakeNearest TownYearSpecies StockedNumber StockedSize
AbileneBuffalo Gap2004Blue catfish59,893Fingerling
  2004Channel catfish53,981Fingerling
ClydeClyde2004Channel catfish21,957Fingerling
  2004Florida largemouth bass45,277Fingerling
Coleman CityColeman2003Channel catfish33,584Fingerling
  2004Hybrid striped bass9,998Fingerling
Colorado CityColorado City2003Bluegill162,739Fingerling
  2003Channel catfish79,983Fingerling
  2003Channel catfish151Adult
  2003Red drum177,093Fingerling
  2004Channel catfish149,628Fingerling
  2004Florida largemouth bass143,915Fingerling
  2005Channel catfish165,719Fingerling
  2005Channel catfish359,729Fry
  2005Florida largemouth162,134Fingerling
E.V. SpenceRobert Lee2003Channel catfish132,861Fingerling
  2003Florida largemouth bass148,516Fingerling
  2004Blue catfish125,000Fingerling
  2004Channel catfish85,471Fingerling
  2004Florida largemouth bass124,706Fingerling
  2004 Striped bass27,041Fingerling
  2005Striped bass37,243Fingerling
  2005White crappie146Adult
  2005Largemouth bass100,885Fingerling
  2005Channel catfish187,342Fingerling
Fort Phantom HillAbilene2003Hybrid striped bass63,209Fingerling
  2004Hybrid striped bass64,777Fingerling
  2005Hybrid striped bass63,400Fingerling
GrahamGraham2004Hybrid striped bass16,816Fingerling
  2005Hybrid striped bass12,867Fingerling
KirbyAbilene2003Flathead catfish44Adult
  2003Largemouth bass8,775Fingerling
  2004Channel catfish1,621Fingerling
  2004Largemouth bass76,790Fingerling
NasworthySan Angelo2003Hybrid striped bass19,410Fingerling
  2004Hybrid striped bass19,386Fingerling
  2005Hybrid striped bass6,933Fingerling
New BallingerBallinger2005Gizzard shad196Adult
  2005Largemouth bass68Adult
  2005White crappie327Adult
  2005Florida largemouth31,161Fingerling
Oak CreekBlackwell2003Blue catfish77,124Fingerling
  2003Florida largemouth bass71,789Fingerling
  2004Channel catfish42,399Fingerling
  2004Florida largemouth bass62,048Fingerling
O.C. FisherSan Angelo2003Florida largemouth bass71,426Fingerling
  2005Channel catfish20,018Advanced fingerling
  2005Channel catfish75,072Fingerling
  2005Florida largemouth bass239Adult
  2005Gizzard shad160Adult
  2005White crappie394Adult
  2005Florida largemouth75,052Fingerling
ProctorProctor2004Hybrid striped bass67,985Fingerling
  2005Hybrid striped bass67,524Fingerling
Twin ButtesSan Angelo2004Channel catfish41,950Fingerling
  2005Channel catfish154,733Fingerling
  2005Florida largemouth150,017Fingerling
  2005Florida largemouth135Adult
  2005Largemouth bass295Adult
Valley CreekBallinger2005Bluegill97Adult