|  TPWD News Release 20050912c                                            |
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[ Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
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.
Lake	Nearest Town	Year	Species Stocked	Number Stocked	Size
Abilene	Buffalo Gap	2004	Blue catfish	59,893	Fingerling
2004	Channel catfish	53,981	Fingerling
Clyde	Clyde	2004	Channel catfish	21,957	Fingerling
2004	Florida largemouth bass	45,277	Fingerling
Coleman City	Coleman	2003	Channel catfish	33,584	Fingerling
2004	Hybrid striped bass	9,998	Fingerling
Colorado City	Colorado City	2003	Bluegill	162,739	Fingerling
2003	Channel catfish	79,983	Fingerling
2003	Channel catfish	151	Adult
2003	Red drum	177,093	Fingerling
2004	Bluegill	83,251	Fingerling
2004	Channel catfish	149,628	Fingerling
2004	Florida largemouth bass	143,915	Fingerling
2005	Channel catfish	165,719	Fingerling
2005	Channel catfish	359,729	Fry
2005	Florida largemouth	162,134	Fingerling
E.V. Spence	Robert Lee	2003	Channel catfish	132,861	Fingerling
2003	Florida largemouth bass	148,516	Fingerling
2004	Blue catfish	125,000	Fingerling
2004	Channel catfish	85,471	Fingerling
2004	Florida largemouth bass	124,706	Fingerling
2004 	Striped bass	27,041	Fingerling
2005	Striped bass	37,243	Fingerling
2005	White crappie	146	Adult
2005	Largemouth bass	100,885	Fingerling
2005	Channel catfish	187,342	Fingerling
Fort Phantom Hill	Abilene	2003	Hybrid striped bass	63,209	Fingerling
2004	Hybrid striped bass	64,777	Fingerling
2005	Hybrid striped bass	63,400	Fingerling
Graham	Graham	2004	Hybrid striped bass	16,816	Fingerling
2005	Hybrid striped bass	12,867	Fingerling
Kirby	Abilene	2003	Flathead catfish	44	Adult
2003	Largemouth bass	8,775	Fingerling
2004	Channel catfish	1,621	Fingerling
2004	Largemouth bass	76,790	Fingerling
2004	Saugeye	37,425	Fingerling
Nasworthy	San Angelo	2003	Hybrid striped bass	19,410	Fingerling
2004	Hybrid striped bass	19,386	Fingerling
2005	Hybrid striped bass	6,933	Fingerling
New Ballinger	Ballinger	2005	Gizzard shad	196	Adult
2005	Largemouth bass	68	Adult
2005	White crappie	327	Adult
2005	Bluegill	386	adult
2005	Florida largemouth	31,161	Fingerling
2005	Walleye	15,000	Fingerling
Oak Creek	Blackwell	2003	Blue catfish	77,124	Fingerling
2003	Florida largemouth bass	71,789	Fingerling
2004	Channel catfish	42,399	Fingerling
2004	Florida largemouth bass	62,048	Fingerling
O.C. Fisher	San Angelo	2003	Florida largemouth bass	71,426	Fingerling
2005	Bluegill	35,025	Fingerling
2005	Channel catfish	20,018	Advanced fingerling
2005	Channel catfish	75,072	Fingerling
2005	Florida largemouth bass	239	Adult
2005	Gizzard shad	160	Adult
2005	White crappie	394	Adult
2005	Florida largemouth	75,052	Fingerling
Proctor	Proctor	2004	Hybrid striped bass	67,985	Fingerling
2005	Hybrid striped bass	67,524	Fingerling
Twin Buttes	San Angelo	2004	Channel catfish	41,950	Fingerling
2005	Channel catfish	154,733	Fingerling
2005	Florida largemouth	150,017	Fingerling
2005	Florida largemouth	135	Adult
2005	Largemouth bass	295	Adult
Valley Creek	Ballinger	2005	Bluegill	97	Adult