There are bass tournaments somewhere in Texas on practically any given weekend, and some wildlife biologists worry about what this mass non-stop fishing is doing to the fish populations.  As you might expect, there's disagreement.

Studies of the impact of bass tournaments have found that, despite catch-and-release rules, a lot of fish are still killed needlessly, and this can do major harm to a lake's bass population.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists say tournaments have already reduced the bass population in at least one lake in north Texas -- Amon Carter Lake, an 1,800-acre reservoir east of Wichita Falls.

After complaints from local fishermen, TPWD biologists set out to tag a certain number of fish and wait for reports of those fish being caught by tournament fishermen.

The problem was immediately apparent, when the biologists had a hard time catching 800 fish to tag.  They kept catching fish that had already been tagged.  They say that's a clear sign the lake just doesn't have many big fish because so many tournaments are held there, and because tournament anglers kill three times as many fish as recreational fishermen who keep fish to eat.

TPWD is talking to Amon Carter fishermen about what can be done to improve the lake.  Possible actions range from reducing the bag limit to closing the lake to tournaments.

There is good news in this story.  Similar studies at Lake Sam Rayburn near Lufkin found a fairly high catch to kill ratio during tournaments, but not as high as Amon Carter's.  They say that's probably because Rayburn is ten times larger than Carter.

The state biologist says smaller lakes in East Texas may never experience the problems they're seeing on Amon Carter.  He says East Texas lakes are more fertile than those to the north and west, and there are more of them.