With a sly grin, Kevin VanDam, arguably the best all-time professional bass fisherman, said, “Why did you stock white bass in this lake?”
Dave Terre, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Chief of Management and Research, knew VanDam was jerking his chain, but still stammered for an answer.
It was a question that has been asked of department staff in one form or another way too frequently recently.
White bass were as scarce as ShareLunker bass when VanDam and the other pros last visited Lake Fork in 2008 for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. Sure there was some being caught here and there, but for the most part they were still an oddity.
Fast-forward six years and to some largemouth bass fishermen they have become a plague. Their numbers have exploded and depending on where you are fishing on Fork you could easily catch more sandies than black bass.
And no, TPWD didn’t stock them.
There are rumors, and like at Lake Palestine, it is pretty clear the fish were hauled in from Lake Tawakoni by local fishermen who like fishing for them, but didn’t want to make the drive.
That part is proven by a hybrid striped bass record on Lake Fork since 2009. Apparently one got mixed in with a load of white bass.
Whatever the case, after a few years of just rocking along white bass have become so prevalent on Fork that fishermen have almost forgotten about the pesky yellow bass.
“What every boat needs,” joked Kelly Jordon, another pro and former Lake Fork resident, “is a Chumantor. A friend of mine on the coast had one. You would take bait fish and drop it down a pipe. There was a blade in there that would chop it and chum the water. We could do that with white bass.”
Technically, no you can’t because being a game fish that would be illegal. But you get the point of frustration being felt by bass fishermen.
There are a couple of ways to look at this situation.
To begin with it is surprising that white bass weren’t in Lake Fork from the beginning. Situated where it is they could have or should have been in the water shed. They are in both the Sabine and the Sulphur rivers.
More importantly it is too late to shut the gate now, they are already loose.
“There really is not anything that can be done. It is not something we would have planned, but it is an additional fisheries resource that people can enjoy,” said TPWD Fisheries biologist Kevin Storey.
Storey said the department started to get complaints from fishermen about the white bass about 2010. They were upset that they were catching them in deep-water summer holes and are concerned that the fish could impact largemouth bass quality.
If the Toyota Texas Bass Classic didn’t dispel that last concern, nothing will.
“I don’t think anything is going to impact the shad population in that lake,” Storey said.
He added if nothing else young white bass have become another forage species like yellow bass and bream.
There have been drastic calls to treat white bass like yellow bass and remove all limits, but that hasn’t done anything to reduce yellow bass numbers. Biologists say there could never be enough harvest to offset production, even though white bass don’t have strong production ever year on Fork.
“They are not a problem. They are not really a nuisance. They don’t bother me at all,” said guide Brian Duplechain.
While being on the lake almost daily, Duplechain said he has not caught the first one this year, but expects to as the weather warms and the white bass and black bass move into deep holes.
Duplechain said he has heard the concerns about white bass decimating the lake’s shad population, but like Storey doesn’t see that ever happening. He agrees they are just that much more forage.
As evidence of the lack of impact from the white bass, Duplechain recalled a trip in the early 1990s in which two clients’ best five fish daily over three days weighed 47 pounds, 39 pounds and 42 pounds, or just a tad better than Keith Combs’ TTBC winning three-day total of 110 pounds.
“It doesn’t hurt to catch a white bass when you are fishing for black bass,” Duplechain said.
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