ARTESIA, N.M. — There may be a pot of gold in Brantley Reservoir, but it isn’t benefiting the fish or the fishing. Golden algae kills fish by depriving them of oxygen. Golden algae blooms in Brantley have severely decimated the game fish populations, but efforts to restore the lake are ongoing. In spite of that, fishing is expected to be slow throughout the summer. “We started to have major die-offs beginning in 2002,” said Shawn Denny, Southeast Area Fisheries Manager for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “I investigated the kills and confirmed they were caused by golden algae,” he said. Surveys conducted this spring with electro-fishing boats found no largemouth bass or sunfish in Brantley’s shallow waters. Although none of these species appeared in the surveys, they more than likely are present in low numbers. Fall netting surveys conducted at Brantley in 2002 and 2003 did find some catfish, walleye and white bass at lower levels in the lake. However, these surviving fish were small and the numbers were low. Stocking Brantley Lake started June 3 with the release of approximately 102,000 1.5-inch Florida strain largemouth bass. Catfish, bluegill and crappie will be added as conditions permit and fish are available. The success of stocking efforts at reservoirs is dependent on zooplankton, a vital food for forage fish and small game fish like walleye. Although no zooplankton was found in Brantley during a March survey, a preliminary survey in late May seemed to show an improved supply of zooplankton and some small baitfish in the lake. It is uncertain if the golden algae blooms, which are most harmful to fish during the winter months, resulted in the damage to the zooplankton, Denny said. Biologists first identified golden algae as the cause of fish die-offs in Texas and New Mexico in the early 1980s. Once it is in an aquatic system it is virtually impossible to eliminate. Large does of ammonia can kill the algae, but that’s not cost effective for an entire reservoir the size of Brantley. The Department of Game and Fish will continue to monitor for golden algae and modify its management strategies to maintain fisheries in Brantley.

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