.The LFSA A Brief History
Lake Fork, located in east Texas, has proven itself to be a bass fishery of legendary proportions, attracting anglers from across the country and around the world. As a result, Lake Fork is a vital economic engine for this region, creating a tremendous amount of local interest in the quality of the fishery. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been managing the bass fishery using a slot length limit to promote the development of a trophy fishery. This management plan came under fire in 1999 when a substantial fish kill caused by largemouth bass virus occurred. Reports spread quickly of fish dying off in large numbers and fishing pressure declined precipitously. The impact on the local economy was dramatic and many businesses were suddenly facing very real financial jeopardy. Merchants organized in an effort to find ways to help promote more fishing-related tourism and called upon TPWD as well as politicians for economic help. The quick and easy solution put forth was to remove the slot limit, thereby attracting additional fishing tournaments. Major tournaments tend to avoid lakes with slot length limits because it reduces the number and size of fish that can be weighed-in at large media events. The merchants organized and quickly began asserting political pressure on TPWD to remove the slot limit. .
The Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association (LFSA) was formed to provide an organized front to counter the call for the slot limit removal. LFSA met with TPWD staff to discuss the merits of the slot regulation. The debate centered on what the impact would be to slot fish during the weigh-in process. There were no scientific data available to settle this issue. A summertime angling mortality study was conducted which indicated higher mortality rates than expected. Armed with the scientific data, TPWD had the needed information to withstand the political pressure and retain the slot limit, thereby preserving the quality of the fishery. The LFSA now had the support to move onto other projects to positively influence the Lake Fork fishery.
The Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association’s most visible presence on the lake is a 24-foot Live-Release Boat (LRB). Purchased in 2000, the LRB is equipped with three 100-gallon aerated tanks. The water is medicated to help reduce stress on the fish during the release process. Survival using the LRB has been estimated at 99%. The LRB is provided to tournaments at no charge. LFSA members participate in training sessions, explaining the proper operation of the LRB. Experienced members explain the aeration system and monitoring equipment, along with proper fizzing techniques. This training markedly improves tournament handling survival.
In 2010, through the support of the Sabine River Authority, a fund was established to provide the financial resources necessary to spray water hyacinths. The water hyacinth problem had been building for the past several years. Mild winters permitted the plants to remain active, resulting in dense hyacinth stands. The SRA and TPWD provided $50,000 and $25,000, respectively to contract with professional sprayers. Recognizing the need for on-going spraying, the LFSA made a donation of $10,000 for the purchase of chemicals.
TPWD and the LFSA have partnered on habitat restoration projects. In 2011 we jointly planted 1,000 button bush seedlings in various undeveloped areas around the lake. The objective of the project is to improve cover for bass fingerlings. Because of the severe drought, survival of these seedlings was compromised. TPWD found a supplier who could provide mature, potted button bush plants. TPWD again approached the LFSA and asked that we partner in another planting. LFSA members approved the purchase of 400 of these plants and planting took place in November, 2011. Since planting, several trips to observe these plants show that most are thriving. Plans are being formulated to continue the habitat restoration project with additional plantings in known spawning areas.
The Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association has grown to be an influential and respected service organization throughout the Lake Fork area. We plan to continue to look for opportunities to further the reputation of this great fishery. We will support our communities in endeavors that will provide for the economic and social well-being of our citizens. The future of our great outdoors lies in the hands of our young people. At every opportunity we will strive to provide guidance and support that encourages our young people to be responsible stewards of our outdoor resources. We will do this through the many outreach activities that have become a part of our association.
The LFSA was born out of adversity, but survives today as an organization of dedicated sportsmen whose goal is to promote this great fishery, and stand ready to protect it if the need arises. The Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have forged a strong partnership and are working together on projects for the betterment of Lake Fork.