Toledo Bend – A Jewel In The Piney Woods
It was an exciting evening on August 13th, 2015, as an over-flow crowd attended the Toledo Bend Lake Celebration event at Cypress Bend Resort. Linda Curtis-Sparks, Director, Sabine Parish Tourist Commission, coordinated the event and she and her staff did an outstanding job!
The event began with food and drinks and then those attending viewed a very informative slideshow that gave a detailed history of how Toledo Bend Lake was created and the efforts of many people through the years that have worked so hard to make this lake what it is today.
By now most of you probably know that Toledo Bend Reservoir recently went into elite status when “Bassmaster” Magazine announced that of the 230 potential fisheries to be named the best-of-the-best — Toledo Bend was selected as the # 1 Bass Fishing Lake in the Country. In this case — The South truly did rise again
James Hall, Editor of Bassmaster Magazine was in attendance and presented this prestigious #1 Rated Fishing Lake award and complimented all of the groups involved for the great job they have done to achieve this goal.
So how did Bassmaster come up with this ranking? Well many B.A.S.S. Nation Leadership, 630,000 B.A.S.S. Facebook followers, 3,500 member B.A.S.S. Council & State Wildlife Departments were asked for input. Next, all of this information was then compared to results from various bass tournaments. And finally a 15-person panel finalized the results. And the final result was “The Bend” is the lake of choice for anglers throughout the country. Second place in this years ballot went to Sturgeon Bay (Lake Michigan), Wisconsin, 3rd place – Lake St. Clair, Michigan, 4th place – California Delta, California and 5th place – Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas.
This announcement will no doubt offer a huge economic boost for our area. Expect anglers to come from all parts of the world to test these fertile waters. But it will certainly add additional fishing pressure to the lake. I believe that Toledo Bend is big enough to stand this pressure and well managed enough by our Texas Parks & Wildlife and Louisiana Game & Fish Departments to just get better and better.
Bass tournaments held on Toledo Bend Lake are a huge economical benefit to our area, especially quality events such as the Bassmaster series. I wrote an article a few years ago and at that time a Texas A&M study revealed that bass anglers fishing Lake Amistad fueled a $32 million economic boom for the Del Rio area alone. Angler expenditures for things such as lodging, fuel, food and tackle can generate substantial revenue for communities located near these popular fishing locations and help support angler-related business and jobs.
Getting closer to home lets take a look at the economic value of tournament angling at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. From November 2007 to October 2008 a study was funded by the Jasper County Development District #1 and conducted by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department with the following results:
• The total economic value of the fishery was estimated at $47.1 million
• Angling expenditures total $32.3 million for tournament and non-tournament anglers
• Angling expenditures for only tournament anglers totaled $23.7 million which comprised 73% of all angler expenditures.
• The total economic value of tournament angling was $31.0 million
• Angling expenditures by tournament anglers resulted in $39 million in output to the State of Texas from direct, indirect and induced effects. These incomes include $12.8 million in labor income, $23.6 million of value added and 486 full or part-time jobs
• Angling expenditures for non-tournament anglers totaled $8.6 million. The total economic value of non-tournament angling was $16.1 million
• Angling expenditures by non-tournament anglers resulted in $13 million in output to the State of Texas from direct, indirect and induced effects. These incomes include $4 million in labor income, $8 million of value added and 159 full or part-time jobs
• A total of 405 tournament events were held with 25, 396 total participants (bass clubs and major tournaments)
• Tournament anglers spent $5.8 million for tournament entry fees, $5.2 million for automobile operation, and $3.9 million for boat operation
• Of all tournaments, The Sealy Outdoors McDonald’s Big Bass Splash 3-day event had the most participants at 3,892 and accounted for the largest angling expenditure for a single event at $6.3 million. Total economic value of the event was estimated at $8.0 million.
These bass tournaments can be big bucks !!!!!
(James Hall announced at the end of the event that the Bassmaster tournament would return to Toledo Bend on May 12-15th, 2016).
All of us are truly blessed. .. That is for sure. Those people living in the big cities sit in those stuffy offices and dream about returning to the beauty and richness of our area, and Toledo Bend Lake in particular. When our children grow up, they aren’t going to remember who the best rap star was, what generation of IPod they were using or how many likes (or dislikes) they got on their Facebook or Twitter account. But they will remember their family trips to Toledo Bend and the first fish they caught.
Visitors at Toledo Bend can enjoy the many beautiful coves surrounded by timbered shorelines and I think all of you would agree that the wildflowers in this area are truly Mother Nature’s masterpiece. Bass boats, ski boats, kayaks, pontoon boats, jet skis and sailboats – they all have a home on the beautiful waters of Toledo Bend. We also have an abundance of wildlife in the area with many species of birds (both
resident and migrating species), white tail deer, fox, raccoons and definitely a wild hog or two. The Toledo Bend Lake area is certainly a unique and beautiful place to visit … and a special place to live. We need to spread that word to others throughout our state … and country.
Spreading the word should actually be a relatively easy task since the lake is truly a jewel in the piney woods with a length from the dam to Logansport, LA of about 65 miles. Add to this 185,000 surface acres and a shoreline of approximately 1,200 miles and it makes Toledo Bend the largest man-made body of water in the south – fifth largest in surface acres in the USA. And isn’t it wonderful to see the lake this full after witnessing the historic low water level in 2011 of 159.6 feet MSL – which was 12.4 feet low. Those were tough times for everyone, and all I can say is – Keep the water level up SRA! And believe me; we all understand that you never know the worth of water till the well runs dry.
We are proud of Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn but we are equally proud of the quality of anglers such as Tommy Martin, Todd Faircloth, Harold Allen, and many others that have built their reputations on these fertile waters. These legends have been great ambassadors for telling others what quality fisheries we have here in the Tex/La area.
Toledo Bend Lake is alive and well as evidenced by the 2013 Fisheries Management Survey Report put together by Texas Parks & Wildlife Inland Fisheries Division Biologists Todd Driscoll and Dan Ashe. This was data taken from fish populations surveyed in 2013-2014 using electro-fishing and gill netting – and anglers surveyed during that same timeframe.
Typically, 65 to 80% of annual angling effort is directed toward the black bass and about 36% was tournament-related. Approximately 15 to 20% of anglers target crappie with an annual harvest of > 200,000 fish. Texas and Louisiana combined have stocked a total of 28,347,020 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings. Obviously there are quite a few other species roaming these waters to attract visiting anglers such as blue, channel and flathead catfish, stripers, bluegill, yellow bass and white bass.
If you are a bass fisherman and have a great desire to catch one of those really big Toledo Bend bass then you need to take note of the Toledo Bend Lake Association. This is a non-profit group dedicated to maintaining and improving the quality of Toledo Bend Lake so it will continue for many years as a world class fishery and recreational resource. This organization makes a tremendous impact in a positive way … and one of those ways is the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program. The goal of this program is to encourage the return of trophy fish (10 pounds or better) to the lake by rewarding anglers a replica of the lunker caught. Hopefully the bass will once again spawn and produce more potential lunkers – and continue to grow and be caught again by another angler.
Does the program work? WOW!!! Does it!!!! There were 58 lunkers in 2013, 61 lunkers in 2014, and 81 lunker bass replicas this year. Among the 81 entries – 47 were in the 10 pound class, 28 in 11 pound range, six 12-pounders, with the and largest being 12.81 pounds. Eight of these massive fish qualified for the Top 100 ever caught on TB.
And Toledo Bend isn’t just about LA and TX anglers. Lunker entries presented to official weigh-in stations this year were also from Illinois, Iowa, and Tenn. All 81 of these huge bass were tagged and returned to spawn and fight again another day. Five of the bass had been caught before. From 1992 through the 2013-2014 seasons, more than 590 Lunkers have been caught and released through the program and 421 lunker replicas have been created since the program started ten years ago. That’s Impressive! And in case you are wondering – The lake record bass for Toledo Bend was caught by Eric Weems on 7/30/2000 and weighed a hefty 15.33 pounds.
Let me also mention Bob Sealy’s McDonalds Big Bass Tournament this year on Toledo Bend – Winning bass was a hefty 11.48 pounds – with 2nd place being 11.45 pounds and the 3rd place bass weighed 10.37 pounds. Those are Big Bass for any lake. But most anglers think that there are many even bigger bass swimming in these waters.
Another organization that should get your attention is the Great East Texas Outdoor Fest. The long-range goal of this group is to eventually build a first-class pavilion, park and boat ramp area on the Texas side of Toledo Bend Lake. Building these facilities will play a big part in our economical growth and can be the catalyst for bringing more and more businesses and major bass events to our area.
So what challenges do we face? An adequate water supply for our lake and a robust economy are certainly key factors, but in my opinion one of Toledo Bends greatest challenges in the upcoming years will not be normal day-to-day business needs but government regulations. We see this in many other areas so make sure that you are aware of pending regulations that may affect activities on and around our lake. We need to keep control of items such as Regulations, Conservation, Recreation Use, Fisheries Management, etc. at a State Level – with those folks that know our needs and concerns best.
One of the high-lights of the evening was when Jim Pratt, Director, Sabine River Authority of Louisiana, presented Patty Lenderman, Editor of The Lakecaster publication, an award to celebrate the 25 years that this fine publication has served our area businesses and fishermen.
The Lakecaster prints more than 17,000 copies each month with distribution throughout a wide area in Texas and Louisiana. Congratulations to The Lakecaster!
Our area leaders expressed to the BASS organization that we are very aware of the expectations when our lake was selected as #1 in the country. Texas and Louisiana want to provide the very best venue for attracting quality bass tournaments and we are certainly aware of the economic benefits that these major events can provide.
There are many fine marinas and lodging facilities on both the Texas and Louisiana side of Toledo Bend Lake; however, in my opinion Cypress Bend is certainly one of the finest in the country. As I mentioned previously, The Great East Texas Outdoor Fest organization has a goal of building a first class pavilion, park and boat ramp that can address the many needs of families and future bass tournaments. A model to work toward would certainly be that of the Cypress Bend Resort/Marina.
My thanks to Linda Curtis Sparks and her fine staff for giving us such a wonderful model to work toward, and thanks also for taking us down memory lane and showing how Toledo Bend was created and has blossomed into the premier fishing lake in the country.
Congratulations to all of you that have worked so hard to achieve this!
**Thanks to Patty Lenderman and the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission for supplying some of the photos used in this article – JB