Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

April 8, 2014

Clubs building better local fish habitats with grant dollars


Mineral Wells Index

— By TODD GLASSCOCK



With the help of multiple new habitats – and maybe more than a little rain – at Possum Kingdom Lake, area fishers may soon reel in their share of bass or even catfish.

A $12,000 Texas Parks and Wildlife Kills and Spills grant and an $8,000 matching grant from the  nonprofit foundation Friends of Reservoirs have provided funding for a fisheries habitat enhancement project, said Tom Lang, Wichita Falls District Office Fisheries Supervisor for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

His office has partnered with the Mineral Wells and Hell's Gate Bass Clubs and the Friends of Reservoirs on the project as a way to revitalize the lake's fish species, especially those such as bass and catfish which are popular with fishermen.

“We competed nationally and won the grant from the Friends of Reservoirs,” Lang said. Friends of Reservoirs is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and restoring fisheries habitats in the nation's reservoirs.

The clubs entered the Friends competition last fall so new projects could start this year, he said.

Several projects were completed last year using monies from the Kills and Spills grant in Cedar Creek, one of the lake's most popular fishing spots, he said. With current funding the groups will be able to expand the projects.

The clubs have raised funds for the matching grant to install brush piles in the water, where smaller fish can hide to survive predators, he said.

Recent projects include the installation of 35 caged structures with native vegetation, Lang said. The native vegetation has multiple roles, including serving as an oxygen and food source for the fish. Native plants also edge out such detrimental vegetation as golden algae, which can release toxins that cause massive fish and bivalve kills.

“We continue to get plants every year,” he said.

Funds have also been used to stock the lake with young fish, primarily those preferred by fishers such as large mouth and striped bass and catfish, he said.

Restoring these habitats is important to maintaining the lake's ecology and is economically significant too, because more fish brings more fishers and events like fishing tournaments, Lang said.

To keep the project moving forward, the Mineral Wells Bass Club holds ongoing fundraisers, said Randy Formby, the club's president. Currently the club is holding a raffle as a fundraiser.

Although he knows it will take time to see results, he also knows it will benefit the lake, as well as fishers.

“It's really a good program,” he said. Texas Parks and Wildlife was instrumental in getting the club involved.

As reservoirs age, they begin to need replenishing, he said, and this will create a better habitat and more fish.

And, as the club's website says, “Good habitat equals good fishing!”