A joint project of the Brazos River Authority and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department aimed at improving fishing opportunities and upgrading the environment for fish at area reservoirs continues, with efforts recently completed at BRA System reservoirs, Lake Aquilla, Lake Georgetown and Lake Granger.
Work on the fish habitats included adding artificial structures and transplanting native plants, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The additions were installed to replace areas where habitat had decreased, and to supplement other areas in the reservoirs.
“The goal of the artificial habitats is to enhance fishery resilience during times of disturbance, like drought,” said Tiffany Morgan, environmental and compliance manager for the BRA. The enhanced habitats provide fish areas to spawn, feed, breed and grow to maturity when water levels are low. First priority was given to reservoirs where water levels are more susceptible to dry conditions, but the goal is for the program to reach all BRA System reservoirs, Morgan said.
Enhancing fish habitat is important because it diminishes naturally over time, said Brian Van Zee, Inland Fisheries director for TPWD.
“All of the reservoirs in Texas are aging, and as a result their habitat is degrading over time,” he said. “These habitat projects not only serve to provide habitat for fish but they also help improve fishing opportunities in these reservoirs.”
At Lake Aquilla, 240 native water willow plants were transplanted, and four artificial reefs were created by sinking 160 structures which are easily accessible for fishers.
This work should boost fishing opportunities at Lake Aquilla, said John Tibbs, TPWD Inland Fisheries District Supervisor for Waco.
“Aquilla Lake is unique among area reservoirs in that it provides a quality crappie population that is more popular with anglers than black bass,” he said. “But because heavy sedimentation in the lake negatively impacts habitat availability, anglers often have a hard time finding the best places to fish. These new structures will help improve catch rates and provide habitat for many species in the lake.”
Volunteers from Sun City Hunting and Fishing Club joined with TPWD fisheries biologists to restore 30 brush pile habitat sites at Lake Georgetown. Also at the lake, 120 Mossback artificial structures were sunk, which included 60 Trophy Tree units and 60 Root Wad units. The locations are expected to improve fishing opportunities for largemouth bass, which the TPWD notes are the most popular fish sought at the lake.
Brush piles offer excellent habitat for largemouth bass in Lake Georgetown, but their longevity is limited to a few years before they decompose and lose their effectiveness,” said Marcos De Jesus, the TPWD Inland Fisheries district supervisor for the San Marcos-Austin area.
Adding artificial structures to the brush pile habitats offers a more long-term solution for habitat needs for the bass and also lead to a superior fishing experience, De Jesus said.
Work at Granger Lake was done by fisheries biologists and volunteers, which included members of the Boy Scouts of America. Improvements included 168 structures to enhance habitat for crappie.
“Granger Lake has become a staple destination for crappie fishing in Central Texas, but for much of the year they tend to school in open water,” De Jesus said. “Crappie are drawn to vertical cover, so this network of habitat structures and attractors should greatly improve the catch success for anglers in the reservoir.”
Habitat improvements were made at Lake Granbury, Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Proctor in 2016.
Other improvements will be made at Lake Whitney, Lake Limestone, Lake Belton, Stillhouse Hollow Lake and Lake Somerville. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also assisting with the improvements.
The BRA contributed $75,000 in funding for the multi-year habitat improvement project, which will continue to take place at all 11 BRA System reservoirs through 2020.
More information about the habitat improvement projects go here. For GPS locations and maps, go here.