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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Living off the Land

Tuesday, July 27, 1999

Fish kill fails to eliminate sheepshead minnow

Staff Writer

They're back! The dreaded sheepshead minnow that was "supposedly" killed off last year at the Balmorhea Lake has made a reappearance.

"At this point there's nothing really that we can do," said Fisheries Research Biologist Dr. Gary P. Garrett.

In August of last year, the lake was drained and a fish kill held by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.

The action was designed to protect the endangered Comanche Springs Pupfish, which had been threatened by the introduction of the sheepshead minnow to the lake over the past several years. The sheepshead minnow is an aggressive fish that has been breeding with a variety of pupfish in West Texas lakes and rivers in recent years.

Rotenone, a chemical designed to eliminate all fish in the lake's remaining waters, including the sheepshead minnow, was used to kill off the lake's eight million fish, most of which were sheepshead minnows.

Rotenone is the most commonly used compound for treating lakes. Many steps were taken to isolate the treated water and minimize the risk of potential impacts to other waters and wildlife.

Rotenone does not "suffocate" the fish as was long believed. Instead it inhabits a biochemical process at the cellular level making it impossible for fish to use oxygen in the release of energy needed for body processes.

After the minnows had been killed off, the pupfish was returned to Balmorhea Lake. At least officials thought all of the troublesome minnows had been eliminated until a recent check revealed the fish had somehow returned to the lake.

"We don't know exactly what happened, why they're back," said Garrett. "There's no explanation for why the sheepshead minnow has returned, but we'll keep on re-stocking the lake for the next three years as planned."

Garrett said the lake had been stocked this spring and will continue to be re-stocked with bass and catfish. "This will do a lot of good and help get rid of those fish," he said.

Boll weevil foundation concludes initial phase

Extensive employee training continues in all new boll weevil eradication zones. Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation employees are already taking their previous and newly acquired knowledge to the fields. The on-going training provides growers who fund their boll weevil eradication program with knowledgeable and qualified program personnel.

"The training process helps all employees develop and sharpen skills and competencies in a number of different arenas," said Program Director Osama El-Lissy. "These areas include training in entomology, agronomy, treatment protocol, safety, management and computer skills," added El-Lissy. "In addition, specialized training is provided to those employees who have job functions that require particular knowledge, such as in the areas of environmental monitoring, airport recording, trapping or ground spraying," El-Lissy added.

Field Unit Supervisors (FUS) manage up to 40,000 acre units. Their jobs include the day-to-day implementation of program operations. Each FUS undergoes more than 110 hours of specialized training.

"The Foundation utilizes technology and methods that weren't available until recently, and as a result, we provide training not only to all new employees, but even those who have been with the Foundation from day one," stated El-Lissy. "We are always on the lookout for ways to improve the program, making it as cost effective as possible for our producers." said El-Lissy.

Program personnel have recently been active placing boll weevil traps around cotton fields in the new eradication zones. The bright green traps provide important information that determines relative boll weevil population densities in each field. The actual spraying process will commence during the diapause phase in mid-August when aerial applicators will begin treating cotton fields.

In 1995, SRP program personnel trapped 846,080 weevils the last week in June. This year during the same time period the number was 157 weevils, a 99.98 percent reduction. In addition to the reduction of boll weevils, there has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of pesticides used in the zone. Early eradication results impressive

Cotton growers in Texas are celebrating July with more than fireworks because the pesky boll weevil is being efficiently eliminated from many cotton growing counties in Texas.

Growers in the Southern Rolling Plains Eradication Zone were the first to become involved in boll weevil eradication in 1994. Since the inception of their program, weevil populations have been virtually eliminated in the nine-county region surrounding San Angelo.

"I've farmed cotton in this area for 21 years and we're definitely happy to be seeing cotton yields like this," said Eola producer Kenneth Gully. "We're pleased with the investment we've made in our program and very proud because it's already paying real dividends, and allowing us to compete in the cotton marketplace," added Gully. "I would urge all growers who don't have an eradication program in their area to examine the evidence and I'm sure they'll find that this is the only affordable way to grow cotton. Growers in weevil-infested areas will continue spraying, decade after decade on their own, unless they choose eradication that provides an organized and uniform method of control. That's the only way to permanently end the weevil problem," Gully advised.

Outdoors In The Desert

By Jim Allen
Game Warden

I have been asked to write a column for the paper each month discussing hunting/fishing conditions, hunting/fishing problems, and hunting/fishing laws. I hope it will prove to be helpful as you're enjoying the outdoors.

My past couple of trips to Red Bluff Lake have been interesting. With all of the rain in the Orla area, it seems to be a totally different lake. The pastures look healthy and the lake has had a definite rise.

Many of my contacts at the north end of the lake have been lucky in their catches of channel catfish. I've received a few reports of some white bass catches.

There are still many recreational boaters on the lake. Please keep in mind the water safety laws. If the boat is being pulled out of storage for the first time this summer, be sure to inspect the equipment. Personal Flotation Devices and fire extinguishers are two items that can deteriorate while in storage.

Balmorhea Lake has also benefited from recent rains. In the past couple of weeks, I have observed good catches of channel catfish. Some stringers with 20 to 25 fish have been spotted. I have also observed a nice stringer of channel catfish and inquired about the bait used. The boys responsible for the stringer said that the ham sandwiches packed for lunch were better for bait instead of consumption. The ham was removed from the bread and used as a very productive bait. I've heard of some very strange baits, but this was a new one to me.

As a game warden, there is nothing more rewarding than showing a child how to fish. Seeing the many children on the lakes this summer has been very enjoyable. With the summer coming to a quick close, try to get a child out on the lake to fish. Children are our future, and teaching them how to respect nature and its inhabitants will be our greatest resource for a clean and better environment.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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