By Carl Vignali, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Last November, I wrote an article titled: “New Plans for Lake Raven”, where I talked about a study we were going to do to see if the addition of spawning structures would boost natural recruitment of channel catfish in Lake Raven. It has been hypothesized that the lack of natural spawning structures may be the cause for traditionally low recruitment of catfish in this lake. The first leg of the study has been completed so far. In early March of this year, seventy eight spawning barrels were placed along the shoreline just north of the dam at a depth of 4 to 6 feet. The structures have numbered floats attached for easy location and identification during inspections. Fliers were posted at the park to notify the public of the study and ask that the structures not be disturbed. Two weeks after placing the spawning structures, we started checking them for activity. Using a waterproof camera attached to a pole, we would peek into each barrel to see if they were occupied. On our first check which was on March 16th, we realized that the signal from a GoPro camera to our phone was lost when the camera was submerged past 6 inches of water. So the first check was performed by lifting each spawning barrel up by the float rope and looking in. Lesson learned. Luckily another camera and monitor was loaned to us from the Tyler Management Office and we were back in business. The barrels were checked every week for activity. In March and April, no activity was noted in the structures. This was not completely unexpected. The water temperature was 65.5? F on the first check in March and had risen to 72.3? F at the last check in April. Channel Catfish typically spawn when water temperatures are 70 – 85? F with optimal temps in the 78 – 80 degree range. The first activity was observed on May 9th (water temperature at 77.9? F). Spawning activity was observed during the next five weekly checks with the last check occurring on June 16th. Catfish fry were seen on the last check. In all, activity was seen in 13 of the 78 structures (16.7%) during this first go-around. While this is hopeful, it does not mean success yet. This fall we will sample the lake for catfish fingerlings which would have been produced this year. The study will continue for at least one more year, so if you head out to Lake Raven, no – those aren’t jug lines or trot lines (which are not legal on the lake), it’s the catfish study that TPWD’s Management Crew is conducting. I will be sure to give you an update after we sample this fall. Happy fishing.