Lake Nacogdoches, Texas: A Case History of Largemouth Bass Overharvest and Recovery Utilizing Harvest Regulations

Lake Nacogdoches was opened to fishing in 1978 with 254-mm minimum size and 10-fish daily bag limits for black basses (Micropterus spp.). Heavy fishing pressure likely resulted in initial overharvest of largemouth bass during the first 3 weeks after opening. To restore the population, 406-mm minimum length and 3-fish daily bag limits were imposed in 1979. Under these regulations, the bass densities increased, but stockpiling just below the minimum length occurred within 5 years. An experimental 381-533 mm slot length limit was implemented in 1985 and then adjusted in 1988 to the statewide, 356-533 mm slot length limit to allow harvest of the stockpiled bass and increase the number of quality-sized bass in the population. The population structure exhibited a decrease in the number of bass below the slot limit and an increase in the number of bass in the protected slot within 2 years and has remained stable since that time. Both length limit regulations accomplished their desired objectives for management of the largemouth bass population and fishery in the reservoir. The 406-mm minimum length limit protected the largemouth bass population and permitted it to rebuild to high densities. The slot length limit allowed anglers to harvest some of the stockpiled fish, increased the number of bass within the protected slot, and provided excellent catch-and-release angling for quality-sized fish. However, none of the regulations appeared to increase the densities or catch of largemouth bass over 533 mm.

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