PWF Featured in Benzinga

Private Water Fishing Emphasizes Proper Management of Private Lakes, Enabling Sustainable Recreational Fishing

Recreational fishing's huge popularity among Americans has raised concerns about the activity's sustainability and the impact it has on the bodies of water and the wider ecosystem. Many landowners with lakes on their properties are worried about overfishing and poaching, so they restrict access to these lakes. However, controlled fishing also brings benefits to lakes and ecosystems, as part of proper lake management.

As around 96% of land in Texas is privately owned, the responsibility of managing most of the lakes in the state falls on the landowners' shoulders. Lake management involves optimizing the body of water's resources and environment, maximizing its capabilities and potential to support life, in this case, game fish such as bass. To ensure success, owners must take into account the needs of the local environment, fish and wildlife resources, recreational users, and other stakeholders.

According to Private Water Fishing (PWF), a member-based bass fishing club that partners with landowners to facilitate private fishing experiences, proper management of a recreational fishing lake revolves around five pillars. These pillars are:

- Water – PWF studies the lake's water to determine if the water quality can support big bass and other fish species. Surprisingly to most land owners, clear water is sterile water, and sterile water does not always grow bigger and healthier fish.

- Habitat – Fish need vegetation, rocks, and various structures in the lake to feed, breed, and hide from predators. PWF determines the availability of these and, if lacking, helps create ideal habitats for fish.

- Forage – Bass are carnivorous and eat smaller fish, such as minnows, bluegill, and threadfin shad, known as forage. PWF knows the right type, density, and size of forage base to stock, feeding the bass at the right time of the year.

- Harvest – By allowing guests to take smaller bass, it reduces competition for food, allowing the bigger bass to grow even bigger.

- Genetics – PWF introduces the right genetics of bass into the fishery at regular intervals, creating a stronger gene pool of fish and limiting inbreeding.

PWF President and Owner Steve Alexander says that providing great memories and a steady stream of income is only part of the reason why landowners lease their lakes. Soon after it commenced operations in 1997, PWF discovered that many of the landowners it worked with were looking for advice on how to manage their lake. PWF's team of seasoned recreational fishers and environmental experts provide advice on the five aforementioned key pillars, and they spend a lot of time on site in a survey boat, delivering fish from its hauling truck and trailer, or discussing lake management strategies with landowners.


"First and foremost, we are a catch and release, bass fishing club," says Alexander. "Trophy bass are always returned to the lake, but in cases where fish need to be removed our members will harvest smaller bass, and competitor fish, such as crappie, and catfish."

By allowing its members to fish in private lakes in a controlled manner, PWF creates a win-win situation, with anglers getting a good eating fish while helping manage fish populations. In order for bass to grow large enough to reach competition-winning trophy sizes, they need enough food. However, bass are fast reproduces and the lack of natural predators in man-made lakes and ponds often create a high density of bass, hindering their growth because the body of water's carrying capacity is exceeded. Removing competition for food contributes to faster growth due to more food availability and healthier fish.

"When it comes to bass, fewer fish means bigger fish," Alexander says. "When we first partner with a landowner, we often find that the bass in their lake are too skinny. We help them stock their lakes with enough forage species and create adequate habitats and hiding places for the bass. Instead of leaving the entire responsibility of harvesting smaller bass to the owner, we allow our members to come and fish in a controlled manner. We work with property owners to control who and when people can fish on their property, and we make sure to properly space guests to allow the lake and fish to rest. Because our members respect the rules, there is next to no risk of abuse or poaching, ensuring that the lake and its fish remain healthy and sustainable for future generations."