An assessment of largemouth bass and panfish population dynamics in West Texas ponds
Shavlik, Calub E.
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Ponds have been an important aquatic resource in the USA since the eariy 1900's. Ponds can be constructed by creafing dams, digging depressions to hold water, or modifying natural wetlands (Dendy 1963; Bolen et al. 1989). A majority of ponds constructed in the eariy 1900's were built for livestock and domesfic use (e.g., irrigation, fishing, ice skafing, swimming, fire protection; Lopinot 1978), but management of ponds for recreational fishing has become more common in the late 1900's (Bennet 1971). Today, recreational fishing accounts for a substanfial amount of the daily usage of ponds (Flickinger et al. 1999). Numerous publicafions (e.g., Dillard and Novinger 1975; Gabelhouse et al. 1982; Willis etal. 1990; Baker et al. 1993; Lock 1993; Anonymous 1997) have been produced that discuss proper management of ponds for recreational fishing in several U.S. regions (i.e., midwest and southeast USA). Successful recreational fishing can be achieved with proper implementafion of a welldesigned management program by the landowner. In Texas, over 800,000 ponds have been constructed. More than 35% of the recreafional fishing days in Texas are spent on ponds (Flickinger and Bulow 1993), and recreafional fishing has become an important reason for construcfing ponds in Texas. To have successful recreational fishing in ponds, proper management (i.e., correct species selecfion, correct stocking rates, and correct harvest rates) is needed. Several publications (e.g.. Anonymous 1985; Anonymous 1986; Lock 1993) have been produced that provide management recommendafions for Texas ponds. However, some biologists have suggested that general pond management principles do not work in west Texas because of large fluctuafions in water level and increased salinity. The main goal of this research project was to survey fish communities in ponds located in the Southern High Plains region of Texas. Like anywhere else in the country (i.e., southeastern, midwestern, and western USA), no two ponds are alike in Texas (i.e., ponds vary chemically, biologically, and physically). I sampled two broad categories (urban and rural) of ponds in west Texas. Overall, the scientific hypotheses that I tested were (1) ponds could be grouped based on similar physicochemical characteristics within the two broad categories, (2) fish populafion dynamics in west Texas ponds are similar to dynamics in ponds from other U.S. regions, and (3) desired fisheries would likely be found in ponds containing simple fish communities (i.e., only two fish species).