Channel Catfish Retire from Texas Parks and Wildlife Hatcheries to Huntsville State Park

Alice Best, College Station – Houston Management District, Inland Fisheries Division, TPWD

Mid-May an email appeared in fisheries biologists’ inboxes across the state: “Our Channel Catfish broodfish need a new home.” Two hundred large Channel Catfish needed to find a retirement home. Texas Parks and Wildlife regularly retires hatchery brood-stock from the breeding program so that the fish we produce and stock into Texas lakes are genetically diverse. Fisheries districts across the state are asked to submit proposals for the perfect stocking location for the retiring fish.

Our office, which oversees the College Station – Houston Inland Fisheries District, choose to proposed Lake Raven in idyllic Huntsville State Park. This 200-acre lake provides excellent fishing opportunities for guests but is large enough that stocked fish may go years before taking an angler’s hook, growing larger in the meantime. Lake Raven has excellent feeding habitat for adult Channel Catfish that help catfish grow to large sizes.

However, while Lake Raven has excellent feeding habitat, it has little spawning habitat. Catfish need cavities (caves, undercut banks, holes under logs, etc.) to nest and reproduce in. Lake Raven has none of these: it is an old lake dating to the 1960s and what spawning habitat was originally there has been covered by stilt as the lake naturally ages. We have not documented any successful Channel Catfish recruitment in Lake Raven. (All of the Catfish you see there now were stock by TPW). We are hoping to change that. As part of a study to determine why Channel Catfish do not reproduce in Lake Raven, we installed artificial spawning habitat in 2018. Since then we have found several to be occupied by adult fish (who guard their nests and young), catfish egg masses, and even baby catfish! The addition of large and experienced Channel Catfish to Lake Raven will help the existing population produce even more catfish in the future.

In June, the retiring fish found their homes at 5 lakes across the state, with 40 fish going to each lake. In addition to Lake Raven, retiring Channel Catfish brood-stock were stocked at Ascarate Lake in El Paso, Plum Lake Wichita Falls, White Rock Lake in Dallas, and Cleburne State Park near Cleburne.

The Channel Catfish each weighed 10-15 pounds and were 5-6 years old. They will be excellent fish to catch in, as are the hundreds of catfish already in Lake Raven. In the meantime, the retired fish will be enjoying their new retirement home and hopefully helping to produce the next generate of Channel Catfish at Lake Raven.

What to see these and other fish yourself? Lake Raven is a great place for new and experienced anglers to go fishing. The park offers canoe and paddle boat rentals, miles of shoreline to fish from, and two fishing piers. Large boats are allowed on Lake Raven and easy to launch from the maintained boat ramp, but the entire lake is a no wake zone. To learn more about Huntsville State Park visit: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/huntsville.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 979-272-1430 or by email at alice.best@tpwd.texas.gov or mark.webb@tpwd.texas.gov. Also, please come visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TPWInlandFisheriesCollegeStationHouston.

Retired TPW Channel Catfish brood-stock a weighed 10 to 15 pounds and were 5 to 6 years old.

 

 

 

 

Channel Catfish brood-stock from A. E. Wood Fish Hatchery were stocked into Lake Raven at Huntsville State Park in June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas parks and Wildlife, Inland Fisheries staff Carl Vignali, checks a spawning barrel on Lake Raven. Spawning barrels were placed in Lake Raven to create spawning habitat for catfish.

 

 

 

 

An adult catfish using a spawning barrel in Lake Raven.

 

 

 

At 200 acres, Lake Raven in Huntsville State Park is a beautiful place to get away for the day or weekend. The Lake has miles of shoreline, 2 fishing piers, a boat ramp, hiking trails, and camping. Canoe rentals are available and power boats are welcome as long as they maintain idle speed.