Water-wise, the Lake Tylers are in the best shape they have been in since 2011.
Down as much as eight feet over the last three years, the lakes are once again full, and that should mean good fishing this year and years down the road following what should be an excellent spawn.
Oh yeah, and then there are the 143 male brood bass Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently added to the lakes. They may be a few fish in a big pond, but they could add to the genetics, especially the last batch that weighed up to 6 pounds.
“They wound up with way more males for the (Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center) than the number of females,” said Richard Ott, TPWD Fisheries district biologist. “Initially they wanted to put them in Lake Athens, but when Lake Tyler came up four and a half feet and flooded all that terrestrial vegetation, the habitat is awesome and I said let’s release them here.”
The biologist said the bass were all released at the Highway 64 ramp on the east lake because of the amount of cover in the area and adjacent spawning flats. He added that all of the bass were large enough to be involved in this year’s spawn.
“The timing should be just about perfect to catch the other spawning activity. Our hope is that they will contribute to the genetic potential of the population,” Ott said.
All of the bass are pure Florida strain fish, and the last 26 were from the select ShareLunker program that produces fish for TPWD’s Operation World Record program.
Although the East lake may be missing the hydrilla that bass fishermen want, the weeds that have grown up along the dry shore line almost guarantee a good spawn this year.
“The thing that is good for us is getting that new lake effect from all terrestrial vegetation that is flooded. It is good for spawning right now and producing zooplankton, the food that fingerlings need to have,” Ott said.
He explained that bass fry initially need the invertebrates to eat during their first days. Without an abundance of zooplankton they will be lost to starvation.
Biologists don’t have any clue about how many fingerlings survive to become adults or are needed to become a good year class because there are so many variables and trying to get a count would be akin to herding cats.
Ott said a good rule of thumb would be about 10 percent of fry in a single year growing to adult size would be considered a good year class, especially considering there are millions of fry produced each year on a lake like Tyler. Conversely, too many fry surviving can be just as detrimental as too few, producing a situation where there is more fish than food to produce quality bass as they get older.
“What the biologists at Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center have discovered is that pulse recruitment produces better fisheries than even recruitment,” Ott said. That means one or two exceptional years of production and recruitment followed by a year or two of average results.
A full Lake Tyler with a lot of shoreline vegetation should also be good for fishermen. Lake Athens, which has been down as much as five feet in the last three years, is experiencing an exceptional spring that has included two ShareLunkers and possibly a third 13-pounder that was caught late at night and released instead of donated.
“All of those fish that have been in deep water unavailable to fishermen for the last several years or may have not going through the motion of spawning and were inaccessible are going to be accessible now. The guys that like to fish shallow water or sight fish are going to do good,” Ott said of Lake Tyler conditions.
When the brooders were released last week the lake temperature at the ramp was 62 degrees, which Ott said put conditions right in the middle of ideal spawning conditions.
Along with this year’s excess brood males, the two lakes through 2013 had been stocked with Florida bass fingerlings five of the last six years. That also bodes well to some quality fish being found in the lake.
“I think Tyler has the potential to (produce like Athens),” Ott noted. “The thing about Tyler is that there are people who fish Tyler who wouldn’t turn in a ShareLunker because they don’t want the additional attention.”
Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.