After long dry spell, Ray Roberts to be stocked with Florida bass fingerlings

By Darlene McCormick Sanchez

Lone Star Outdoor News

Photo from Dan Bennet

After a long wait, Lake Ray Roberts is scheduled to get a booster shot for big bass this spring much to the delight of the reservoir’s fishing clientele.

Dan Bennett, TPWD Inland Fisheries Denison district supervisor, said the lake is scheduled to receive 230,000 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings in May. It will be the first time since 2013, when the lake received more than 500,000 bass fingerlings, that it has been stocked.

“That’s good news. It’s been too long,” said guide Jim Walling.

Walling, who runs Ucatchem Guide Service, has guiding on the lake for 27 years. While the lake suffered a few years back during the drought, he has seen it bounce back thanks to abundant rainfall. An infusion of Florida bass that have genetics to produce bass weighing double digits will only make the recovery all the sweeter.

“The lake’s full now. We’re actually getting more fish in there,” Walling said.

Everett Reynolds, another longtime guide who runs Reynolds Guide Service, said it was high time Ray Roberts got some attention.

“They’ve never supplied Ray Roberts like the others,” Reynolds said.

He chalks the lack of stockings up to politics or not enough push from local towns. Reynolds said the lake could be a fisherman’s dream with some help.

However, Bennett said the lake isn’t taking a back seat in his district, and he put in a request last year for the reservoir to be stocked this spring.

“Ray Roberts is one of the better bass lakes and has been heavily managed, Bennett said. “I put it as a No. 1 priority.”

The state produces a limited number of fingerlings in its hatcheries, so it must prioritize where the fish go, Bennett said. Conditions must be conducive for their survival at targeted lakes. It also helps that Ray Roberts has shown a history of producing six ShareLunkers. Its proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth area makes it an important resource for anglers as well.

Because stocking is done to enhance the genetic potential, reservoirs with the proven ability to produce trophy fish receive priority for available fingerlings, according to Bennett.

Ray Robert’s rebound from the drought also makes it a good candidate for stocking. When Ray Roberts was at its lowest in late 2014, the aquatic vegetation suffered which reduced the cover and nutrients for fish. The catch rate decreased for bass during that time. But thanks to the rise rainfall, the vegetation that grew up around the banks of Ray Roberts while it was low now provides aquatic cover for fish. That kind of habitat makes the lake a good candidate for stocking, Bennett said.

“Although about 70 percent of the bass in Ray Roberts possess Florida genetics, I do believe we can improve upon that and the proportion of Florida alleles in individual fish through strategic stocking,” Bennett said.

This year state hatcheries will begin working to develop broodstock directly from Sharelunkers, so that all Florida bass fingerlings stocked around the state will be direct descendants of a 13-pound or larger fish, he said.