Written by Conor Harrison
Longtime Possum Kingdom Lake fishing guide Dean Heffner never did understand what all the fuss was about.
A fish kill in 2000 had biologists and other anglers decrying the end of fishing on the lake.
“People started talking like it had died,” Heffner said. “The fish we lost were mainly baitfish, gar and some trash fish. It actually helped the lake. Possum Kingdom is fishing like it was 30 years ago. I’ve been here for 26 years, and it never died down like everyone thought.”
Heffner said you can find sand bass anywhere on the lake, and the striper fishing has never been better.
And a recent survey by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists confirm what Heffner has been saying — the lake is in good shape.
“Our surveys indicate that most fish populations have done relatively well since 2010, and we now have good numbers of older, larger fish available,” said TPWD fisheries biologist Robert Mauk.
Striped bass have done particularly well, and Possum Kingdom now has good numbers of fish up to 30 inches.
“Our surveys have not shown this many larger striped bass since the first fish kill in 2001, and there are also lots of seven-inch to 20-inch fish, which bodes well for the future,” Mauk said. “It takes two to three years to produce legal-length white and striped bass, but it takes much longer to replace the age classes and larger fish.”
Striped bass are stocked with the intention they will be harvested at some point. TPWD sets harvest regulations with this in mind.
“We could put a special regulation on the striped bass population such as lowering the bag limit or limiting the number of large stripers anglers can keep,” Mauk said. “However, Possum Kingdom had major kills in 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2010. There is no guarantee there won’t be another one in the future. It would be a waste to reduce the harvest and then have a kill occur. Lots of fish would die that could have been harvested and consumed. If a few more years go by without a kill occurring, and the data indicate problems with the population, then we might consider a regulation change.”
Catfish numbers remain high in the lake, as well.
“Our nets had five blue cats over 30 inches, which is very good considering the nets are not made to capture fish that big,” Mauk said. “The bigger fish were in excellent shape, with huge bellies. There is plenty of prey the perfect size for them to consume. Most of the fish were caught above Costello Island.”
The catch rate for channel catfish was up slightly from the previous surveys and was above the historical average for the reservoir. Channel catfish ranged in size from seven to 21 inches in length.
“I’ve seen some huge catfish down in some deep holes in this lake,” Heffner said.
Even though the lake remains low, there are four boat ramps available for launching: Scenic Point, Elm Creek, and North and South D&D locations.