Record number of observers for spring sportfish survey
More anglers showed up this spring to watch TVA biologists conduct sportfish surveys than at any time since the sampling program began back in 1995. More than 175 citizens from around the Valley came out to observe the annual event, which was conducted on a total of 31 TVA-managed reservoirs between March and early June of this year.
That’s a good thing for a couple of reasons, according to TVA fisheries biologist Kurt Lakin: “It gives us a chance to interact with folks who are really interested in the future of the fishery. We get to hear their concerns and find out what they’re thinking. By the same token, they get to learn more about how and why we do this work. For the most part, the people who participate are fairly knowledgeable about fish and fishing — but I think even experienced anglers would say that they come away with a greater understanding and appreciation of the science involved.”
TVA conducts the survey every spring to help determine the number, age, and general health of black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted) and crappie (black and white) populations. The survey results are used by state agencies to protect and improve sport fisheries.
Twelve 30-minute electrofishing runs are conducted at each reservoir sampling site in order to collect data from a variety of habitat types. The fish are temporarily stunned, after which they float to the surface and are collected by TVA crews. The fish are then weighed, measured, marked, and released unharmed.
Lakin shares a few observations about the 2006 survey results: “While catch rates on the main-stem reservoirs stayed about the same as in past years or declined slightly, we saw the highest scores we’ve recorded on the tributary reservoirs since we switched to a habitat-based method of sampling.
“Another very encouraging development is that we are continuing to see a steady and significant increase in average weight for fish over 10 inches. It appears that the fishery is rebounding from a virus that threatened to affect largemouth bass. We were extremely encouraged to find an abundance of forage fish such as shad and shiners. A robust population of bait fish is a good health indicator, which bodes well for the future of the fishery.”
Read more about this year’s survey, including reservoir-specific results.