Bass Fishing, Peacock Bass Fishing, Saltwater Fishing and Hunting SportsGuideBass Fishing, Peacock Bass Fishing, Saltwater Fishing and Hunting SportsGuide



Sam Rayburn – Ridden too Hard or What


The following is an open letter concerning the condition of Sam Rayburn.

Many Bass caught in Rayburn are covered with dangerous looking lesionsSince the July 1998 fish die-off there has been much discussion , rumor circulation and dispute over Sam Rayburn’s state as a fishery. My purpose is to achieve acknowledgement that there is a problem on Sam Rayburn and establish some facts which include recognition that there may be reasons for the problem that have not been considered. I also want to appeal to the bass fishing community at large for assistance in identifying possible reasons for the problem. Finally, I will make some recommendations for an approach to resolving the problem.

Some simple facts can be easily substantiated and I will try to identify only those that are readily verified. When I express an opinion in the following it will be identified as such.

First; any unbiased objective comparison of recent tournament weigh in results to previous years results supports the conclusion that there has been a significant reduction in productivity of the Rayburn fishery from 1998 to 1999. Consider the following.




May 98
(three days)

March 99
Rayburn Outdoor Adventure
(three days)

March 99
Texas Bass Championship
(two days)

April 99
(three days)
































In addition it must be concluded that Sam Rayburn is currently less productive than Lake Conroe and Lake Fork. The Texas Bass Championship tournament (*) was a two day tournament held on Lake Conroe. Conroe is approximately one-third the size of Sam Rayburn yet it produced better quality fish in a two day tourney than Rayburn has produced in two 1999 three day events. Further, Rayburn has not provided a single fish to TPW for their "share a lunker" big bass reproduction program this year. I believe there were five produced by Rayburn last year. This year Lake Fork, a small lake in comparison to Rayburn, provided ten and Lake Conroe two

My opinion is that Rayburn should be more productive than Lake Conroe and that it should match up with Lake Fork even though Lake Fork water is said to more fertile.

The accuracy of the above can be verified by reading the Lake Caster, on internet web sites reporting tournament results, and the Texas Parks and Wild life (TPW) web site.

Second; the reasons for the July 1998 fish die-off and decline in productivity have not been identified. Some of the proffered explanations for the die-off defy logic. One popular explanation has been the unusually hot temperature and warm water that summer. Bass populations in Fayette and other power company lakes built for power plant condenser cooling purposes suffered no ill effects even though their water temperature was undoubtedly higher than Rayburns.

Many Crappie caught from Sam Rayburn are covered with lesionsThird; the Jasper Chamber of Commerce will not support any changes in Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) regulations which might cause a reduction in tournament participation. The Chamber of Commerce, motels, restaurants and many business’s in the Jasper community and surrounding communities are dependent upon the bass fisherman for their income and will not support any changes in TPW regulations, as reported in the Lufkin Daily News coverage of the recent TPW Jasper meeting. In short, the Jasper community and surrounding communities economies are largely dependent upon the people who fish Sam Rayburn.

Fourth; at least one photo of a large bass which was caught in 1998 has been published in the Lakecaster and represented as being caught in 1999. Further, some recent internet postings have reported Rayburn catches which far exceed any tournament weight reported this year and they are not credible. To my knowledge the best day five fish weight total caught on Rayburn this year was Kevin Vandam’s 21lb weight caught on the first day of the BASS tourney. My opinion is that these reports are being posted to mislead the public and foster the illusion that fishing on Rayburn is as good as ever. It is good for business.

Fifth; If an assessment of the lake condition is made by conversing with people who depend upon the lake for income you will get a much different evaluation than you will from people who value the lake for recreational purposes only. Commonly heard comments from the latter group... Worst spring I have ever experienced on Rayburn…I’m catching lots of fish with sores all over their bodies…The grass beds I fished a month ago (early April) were green and healthy - now they are dead…. My family has wade fished Rayburn every spring for years - We didn’t see a dozen fish on beds this spring . Decide for your self which group is more objective in their assessments. These comments are recent as of May 1999 and they do not indicate that things are getting better.

The mortality rate for catch and release is commonly stated as 25% by persons who are motivated to justify use of public resources for personal gain. The specific study or studies which establish 25% mortality rates are not referenced. To cite a 25% mortality rate, applicable in all seasons in all types of tournaments, is absurd. My opinion is that the mortality rate is much greater than 25% on average. This is an opinion based on my 55 years of bass fishing experience. Any one who can keep five quality fish alive in a live well during July and August in Texas should be considered a miracle worker. If you want conclusions gained from studies of reference material to have credibility you should identify your references. Intelligent people will not accept every written word as fact. Any one who cites a 25% mortality rate should be challenged to identify and quote their references.

A popular theory has been that some agency has used chemical agents to eradicate aquatic weeds (hydrilla). Perhaps we should realize that people and bureaucracies are reluctant to admit fault. The Corps of Engineers, Texas Parks and Wild life and others have been accused but none have admitted performing any weed killing operation. This tree has been barked at for months. Opinion - nothing has fallen out of the tree yet and probably won’t. Perhaps we should stop barking and become vigilant in monitoring and reporting to TPW, Texas Black Bass Unlimited (TBBU), Texas Association of Bass Clubs (TABC), and SMART any suspicious spraying activity onto or in the vicinity of the lake.

To illustrate that we have not done a good job of identifying the possible reasons for the problem and of running the possibilities to ground consider the following facts.

The Donohue paper mill in Lufkin produces effluent. The effluent runs into Paper Mill Creek which terminates in the Angelina river. The creek has a large flow rate. The mill was previously owned by Champion and was sold to Donohue in June, 1998. A major fish kill occurred in July 1998.

Young pine seedlings planted in reforested areas are vulnerable to two kinds of weevils. I am talking about weevils – not pine bark beetles. The most economical way of controlling them is with insectisides according to an article in the September 1997 Issue of the Texas Forestry publication. Orthene, Durspan, Asana XL, Furadan are listed in this article as useful for treatment of weevil infestation after seedlings have been planted. There are many areas immediately adjacent to Sam Rayburn lake which have been clear cut and replanted. Industries will use the most economical means of resolving a problem.

My opinion is that the water color on Rayburn is abnormal and different than it has ever been. I have always described the normal water color on Rayburn as Trilene Green. The normal green color is associated with the plankton dispersed in the water. This year the mid-lake color is not green. It does not have a significant silt content but is a weak tea color usually caused by tannin. To my knowledge no one has performed a recent plankton survey on Rayburn and made comparisons to preceding data bases defining plankton density.

I am sure that the community at large can identify many more facts and possible reasons for the relatively poor production of Rayburn this year. I urge the community to do just that and make the information public.

I urge the Texas Parks and Wild life (TPW), Texas Association of Bass Clubs (TABC), Texas Black Bass Unlimited (TBBU), Honey Hole Representatives and other pro bass fishing organizations to get together and establish a team with the purpose of identifying possible causes for the fish kill and the decline in productivity of Sam Rayburn. A well educated experienced Marine Biologist can eliminate much of the prevalent speculation and rumor and one should be assigned to the lead role in solving the problem. Other roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and assigned. TBBU, TABC and other organizations promoting bass fishing can be very effective by keeping their membership informed with specific accurate information describing what has and has not been done, and by soliciting information knowledge and help from their membership. There is a powerful interested resource out here and it should be utilized to help resolve the problem.

Finally, I want to appeal to the Jasper community, to all communities adjacent to Sam Rayburn and to the Bass fishing community at large. Please do not ride good old horse Sam Rayburn until it is dead. God help us some of us really do care!


Walter West


Peacock Bass Fishing in the Amazon




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