Temporal Patterns of Angler Use and Abundance of Stocked 229-mm Channel Catfish in Twenty Small Texas Impoundments

Sub-adult channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are stocked into community fishing lakes in Texas to provide anglers with the opportunity to catch fish close to home. Survival of these stocked fish is unknown, and this study was initiated to provide some information and guidance for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department channel catfish stocking program. This study was conducted on 20 lakes in Texas between 0.4 and 4.0 ha with 10 located in urban environments and the other 10 in rural locations. Lakes were stocked one time with adipose fin-clipped channel catfish and surveyed monthly with baited hoop nets for 6 months. Angler effort was estimated using game cameras. Urban angling effort was significantly higher than rural angling effort. Winter had the lowest angling effort in rural and urban lakes, and angling effort declined significantly two weeks following stocking in both types of lakes. Hoop-net catch rate was similar between urban and rural lakes. Hoop-net sampling in five of the lakes yielded no recaptures of stocked channel catfish and stocked fish essentially disappeared within four months of stocking in five other lakes. Angling effort was lowest on lakes where stocked fish survived all six months (survival lakes); fishing effort was highest on lakes where stocked fish disappeared within the 6-mo target period (partial-survival lakes) indicating anglers may be removing these fish from the population. Angling effort on lakes where no channel catfish survived was intermediate and similar to effort in the survival and partial-survival lakes. The 229-mm channel catfish stocking program provided angler opportunity for at least six months in 50% of the stocked lakes in Texas and for less than six months in another 25%. Based on the results of this study, all lakes in the channel catfish stocking program are now evaluated for stocking success and those characterized by consistently high stocking mortality will be removed from the program.

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