The Ralph Hall Reservoir pre-impoundment habitat and angler access initiative will create extensive fish habitat within a new reservoir currently under construction in Texas. The current funding and timeline offer a unique opportunity to construct a substantial number of habitat structures within the footprint of the future reservoir prior to the lake filling, which would otherwise be impossible or extremely difficult on an existing water supply reservoir. While many newly constructed reservoirs possess abundant fish habitat in the form of inundated timber, the future footprint of Ralph Hall Reservoir consists primarily of nondescript grassland and cropland that will provide limited benefit to fish populations. A significant portion of the existing timber within the reservoir’s footprint, particularly in the lower-third of the reservoir, is planned to be cleared to accommodate construction of the dam and minimize safety concerns from recreational boat traffic. The habitat structures proposed by this project will be constructed of long-lasting materials, composed of rock and dense hardwood material that will provide fish habitat for multiple generations of anglers. For example, large brush piles, created during the construction of Ray Roberts Reservoir (impounded in 1987) persist and still provide beneficial habitat and popular fishing locations for anglers more than thirty years post impoundment.
The habitat created will also help mitigate habitat reduction during potential drought periods, which may become more frequent due to climate change. Structures located in deeper portions of the reservoir will provide refuge for reservoir fish species when littoral areas become desiccated during prolonged dry periods.
The large number of fish habitats constructed during implementation of this project will provide popular areas for anglers to target for multiple decades and potentially the life of the reservoir. The habitat created will serve to increase the ultimate carrying capacity of sport fish in the reservoir, as well as angler success rate and overall yield of fish. Maps and the precise coordinates and descriptions of all fish habitats will be published online at Texas Parks and Wildlife’s fish habitat webpages and shared with the angling public through social media, etc.
Objective 1 – Spider Piles will be consolidated in the lower third to lower half of the reservoir focusing on areas that will ultimately fall within 15 to 30 feet of water at the future conservation elevation. Spider piles will be consolidated in multiple large areas, 50 to 150 acres in size, placed 50 to 100 feet apart.
Objective 2 – Bay Ball Reefs will be consolidated linearly around all major lake points in the lower third of the reservoir. Between 100 and 200 reef balls (2’x3’) will be placed into the reservoir. Structures will also be stacked to increase the volume of habitat provided creating diverse habitat structures.
Objective 3 – Spawning beds made of pea gravel will be spread at approximately five locations of 10,000 square feet each in protected littoral areas in the lower portion of the reservoir.
Objective 4 – Native aquatic vegetation will be planted in littoral wetland areas of the reservoir to promote future expansion of the species around the reservoir perimeter. The aquatic plants and trees will provide extensive fish habitat and reduce shoreline erosion over time. Native species introduced will include Button Bush trees, American and Illinois Pondweed, Wild Celery, Water willow, and Giant bulrush.
Objective 5 – A 250’ to 500’ fishing jetty will be constructed adjacent to a boater access site. The jetty will be protected with large riprap and provide a paved surface for shore-based anglers to access, and lighting will be added for night access. Concrete culverts (~18” diameter) will be incorporated into the base of the jetty to provide catfish spawning cavities. Artificial fish habitat structures will also be placed near the jetty to provide fish habitat, consolidate fish, and improve angler success.
Objective 6 – Tree/Brush piles will be consolidated in the lower third to lower half of the reservoir focusing on areas that will ultimately fall within 15 to 30 feet of water at the future conservation elevation. Tree/Brush piles 50 to 100 feet in length and 30 to 50 feet wide will be placed in areas where timber is felled in the lower reservoir reaches.