Biologist Mauck to end 38-year career
By Ed Godfrey
Sun December 16, 2007
The fisheries biologist responsible for managing what is arguably Oklahoma's most important lake is retiring this month after 38 years with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Paul Mauck, 62, of Calera spent most of those 38 years as the south-central fisheries chief, a region which includes Lake Texoma.
Folks on Grand Lake or Lake Eufaula might disagree that Texoma is more important, but there is no other lake in the United States that has striped bass fishing quite like Texoma.
"From a catch rate, Texoma is the top striped bass lake in the country,” said Jeff Boxrucker, assistant fisheries chief for the state Wildlife Department. "There are lakes with bigger stripers, but as far as a family-friendly fishery, it's unmatched.”
Mauck is one of two men — along with former fisheries biologist Jack Harper — who were instrumental in developing the striped bass fishery at Lake Texoma, an economic engine that drives five southern Oklahoma counties.
"It's big-time important,” Greg Duffy, director of the state Wildlife Department said of Lake Texoma. "We got to see that this summer when you couldn't get on the lake.”
Over the years, the state Wildlife Department has introduced non-native species to the states.
Pheasants have taken hold in northwest Oklahoma. Walleye are thriving in places like Canton and Kerr. But striped bass are Oklahoma's biggest success story.
Stripers are a saltwater fish who spend most of the adult lives in the ocean, but spawn in fresh water.
On the Atlantic coast, they range from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to Florida's St. John's River, although they are most prevalent from Maine to North Carolina. When water temperature begins to rise in the spring, the fish will leave the ocean and start their spawning runs in freshwater rivers and streams.
Stripers were being introduced in Oklahoma waters in the late ‘60s and early 70s. Among Mauck's first duties with the state Wildlife Department was to travel to South Carolina's Santee Cooper Reservoir and New York's Hudson River and bring striper fry (very young stripers) back to Oklahoma.
In the beginning, stripers were not put into Oklahoma lakes with the intent to be another sport fish for anglers, but to be a management tool.
Fishery biologists wanted the striped bass as a predator to thin out big gizzard shad and improve the forage base for species that anglers liked to pursue, such as bass and crappie.
But the stripers took off in Texoma and began naturally reproducing in 1974, only one of a few inland reservoirs in the country where that occurs.
Stripers thrived in Texoma because of the lake's higher salt content and its massive open water. And most importantly, because of the uninhibited river systems on both sides of the lake, a necessity for the long spawning runs of stripers.
State wildlife officials have documented striper spawning sites on the Red River as far as 75 miles from the lake.
"We've never had a year since 1974 that we haven't had reproductive success,” Mauck said. "It just got better and better all through the ‘70s. It ballooned into the tremendous fishery that it is today.”
At least 200 striper guides operate on Lake Texoma. In 1990, an Oklahoma State University study determined that striper fishing on Lake Texoma was a $25 million a year industry.
No telling what it is worth 17 years later.
However, many anglers initially feared that stripers in Texoma would wipe out other sport fish, Mauck said.
"They are still fighting those issues between bass fishermen and striper fishermen on other lakes,” he said. "We had that issue at first, but after awhile people found out it wasn't a big issue.
"Our bass fishery got better and better, even with all the striped bass. The bass fishery at Texoma is the best its been in 30 years right now.”
The person who replaces Mauck will face challenges such as municipalites clamoring for Texoma water and farmers lobbying to remove salt from the Red River so the water can be used for irrigation or drinking.
"If you desalinate the Red River to the point where everybody who's got a straw can take water out of it, it can seriously impact Texoma in the future,” Mauck said.
For more than three decades, Mauck has been responsible for managing the Texoma fishery.
During that time, Texoma has produced state fishing records including 106-pound flathead catfish; and 118 ½ pound blue catfish; a 14-pound, 10-ounce largemouth bass; an 8-pound smallmouth bass; a 184-pound alligator gar and an 8-pound hybrid black bass.
"Texoma is so unique,” Mauck said. "It's not just a single species fishery. It's a world class blue catfish lake. There are better bass lakes, but it is a good bass lake, too.
"Oklahoma has a Grand Lake, but Texoma truly is a grand lake.”
And, according to his colleagues, much of the credit goes to Mauck.