State of the lake: Now full, Buchanan sees fish and habitat changes

DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR

The annual stocking of Lake Buchanan with hybrid striped bass fry was carried out March 21 by the Lake Buchanan Conservation Corp. Shown introducing the fish into the lake is LBCC member and fishing guide, Max Milam, of Ken Milam Fishing Guide Service. This year’s stocking consisted of 1 million of the fry and brings the total number stocked into the lake by the LBCC over the past 10 years to more than 9 million. Visiting anglers are harvesting large numbers of keeper-size hybrids with new lake records being established and re-established within short periods of time. Courtesy photos

The annual stocking of Lake Buchanan with hybrid striped bass fry was carried out March 21 by the Lake Buchanan Conservation Corp. Shown introducing the fish into the lake is LBCC member and fishing guide, Max Milam, of Ken Milam Fishing Guide Service. This year’s stocking consisted of 1 million of the fry and brings the total number stocked into the lake by the LBCC over the past 10 years to more than 9 million. Visiting anglers are harvesting large numbers of keeper-size hybrids with new lake records being established and re-established within short periods of time. Courtesy photos

UPDATE: The State of the Lake program scheduled for May 17 has been postponed due to possible severe weather. It has been rescheduled for June 21. Go to www.lakebuchanancc.org for more information.

 

BUCHANAN DAM — A little wind made the difference in whether Lake Buchanan’s white bass population survived the prolonged drought. Now, with lake levels close to full, the largest reservoir of the Highland Lakes looks like its old self again, albeit with a few differences.

On May 17, folks can learn about the state of Lake Buchanan during a Lake Buchanan Conservation Corp. program. And things are looking better compared to how they could have turned out.

“Last year, we were really concerned with our white bass population,” said Annette Gardener of the Lake Buchanan Conservation Corp. and Buchanan Dam/Inks Lake Chamber of Commerce. “White bass have a three-year life expectancy, so if they weren’t able to get up the river to spawn, we thought last year could have been the last for the white bass on Lake Buchanan.”

With lake levels at dramatic lows, the white bass couldn’t migrate up the Colorado River north of Lake Buchanan in the late winter and early spring to spawn. Fortunately, Gardner said, the winds came across the lake in such a manner that allowed the white bass to spawn in the main body of the lake.

Lake Buchanan is the spot for some great fishing. On April 15, Sally Nicholas (right) of Pflugerville landed the new lake record hybrid striped bass while fishing with Max Milam of Ken Milam Fishing Guide Service. The fish weighed in at 7 pounds and 9 ounces, beating the previous record by two ounces. The previous record was held by Jason Ott, who caught a 7-pound 7-ounce hybrid striped bass in 2009. After several years of low water because of a prolonged drought, Lake Buchanan has rebounded.

Lake Buchanan is the spot for some great fishing. On April 15, Sally Nicholas (right) of Pflugerville landed the new lake record hybrid striped bass while fishing with Max Milam of Ken Milam Fishing Guide Service. The fish weighed in at 7 pounds and 9 ounces, beating the previous record by two ounces. The previous record was held by Jason Ott, who caught a 7-pound 7-ounce hybrid striped bass in 2009. After several years of low water because of a prolonged drought, Lake Buchanan has rebounded.

“As anglers, we knew there were white bass there because we were still catching them, but we did have concerns,” she said.

The conservation group is hosting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s state of the lake address 7 p.m. May 17 at Hill Country Hall, 15675 Texas 29. The free event is open to the public.

Marcos de Jesus, the department’s District 2C fisheries biologist, will share how Lake Buchanan is doing since waters have filled the reservoir. De Jesus heads the team that monitors fish populations, habitat, environmental factors and lake conditions of Lake Buchanan as well as the majority of the Highland Lakes.

“Marcos is the guy who really studies what’s going on with the fish and the habitat,” Gardner said.

Part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s monitoring is a series of gill net catches with park officials and biologists noting the species and sizes of the fish they haul in. This gives them a basic snapshot of how the fish and other underwater species are doing.

During the program, de Jesus will share what he learned from those gill net operations.

While the lake suffered under the prolonged drought, Gardner said what she’s seen on her fishing outings and heard from other anglers is Lake Buchanan is returning strong. But, she pointed out, the drought did change the lake, especially in areas where trees, shrubbery and bushes grew and now are underwater. This is evident on the northern reaches of the lake and the Colorado River portion.

The trees and brush have added underwater habitats to the lake, which is good for the fish.

But it can make it more challenging for anglers, who now have a wider swath of potential fishing sites.

“But, compared to before, things are really looking better this year,” Gardner said.

Go to www.lakebuchanancc.org or call Gardner at (325) 423-9339 for more information about the upcoming program or Lake Buchanan in general.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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