You know you have a problem when every fishing tournament since July of 98 has had a significant reduction in catch. You know you have a problem when all the old tournament hands stand around the way-in, scratchin’ their heads and saying things like “where have all the fish gone?” You know you have a problem when all the grass begins to die. You know you have a problem when fish begin to die and float to the surface in thousands. Think of the hundreds of thousands you never see that die and don’t float up. You know you have a problem when many of the fish you catch are weak and put up no fight. You know you have a problem when many of the fish you catch are covered with sores. This isn’t rocket science folks….good ole common sense comes into play here somewhere. The official word from Austin was that the fish were stressed from being caught and released. Their conclusions were based on analysis from scientists at Texas A & M. That ought to be your first clue. The same scientists that told us 20 years ago that the White Amur they released in Conroe would only live ten years. In case you’ve been in outer space the last few years let me tell you the 20 year old carp are alive and well on Conroe!!! They’re so old and feeble in their old age that they knock holes in the chain link fence we put up to protect the new aquatic vegetation we’re planting on the lake. Wouldn’t surprise me to hear these mutants were dragging golfers off the greens at the water edge. Anyhow back to these genius A&M scientists that told us the Rayburn bass were dying from angler stress….yea right…was the common reply when anglers heard it. Everybody but the beaurocrats and bio-crats new we had a problem on Big Sam and some cared enough to start checking into it. Some anglers thought it was the “Black Helicopters.” Some thought it was disease. Some probably thought it was a Communistic plot. The real geniuses live in Zavalla, Texas. A tournament angler got to looking around. He looked at the water and found it looked funny, in parts of the lake even smelled funny. He looked in the public record and found that the Texas natural Resource Commission had reported pollution problems going back years where fecal coliform and Ammonia were at unacceptable levels. For any of you that might be reading this to the bio-crats at A&M fecal coliform is SEWAGE. Ammonia is not good because it robs the water of oxygen. The T.N.R.C. report also noted reduced levels of oxygen in the lake. The bio-crats must have slept through the class that explained that bass and grass need oxygen to survive. Maybe that has something to do with the dead fish and lack of aquatic weeds…..duhhh!!! The genius from Zavalla called T.B.B.U. president Ed Parten and told Ed he had found something else and wanted Ed to meet him in Lufkin. Ed invited me along and told me to bring my camera. We met the genius at Vernon’s Tackle Shop in Lufkin and drove a short distance outside of town. We drove down this winding two lane blacktop road with the trees overhanging the road in place making it seem like we were driving in a tunnel. The genius parked a 100 feet or so from a small wooden bridge. Where are we I asked. The genius replied, Paper Mill Creek. I got this real eerie feeling as we walked toward the bridge. You could smell the stench from the creek as soon as we got out of the car. When I looked over the edge of the bridge at the creek the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was scary. The water reeked of toxicity. It was almost black with what looked like a toxic goo. It was about 30 or 40 feet across and maybe a couple feet deep and flowing real hard. There were garbage bags in it, a junk refrigerator and all sorts of other debris. I got the sense that if I fell into it the flesh would be eaten from my bones before I could get out of it. The photo on the cover just doesn’t come close to giving you the picture. You have to go see it for yourself. Well I’m certainly no rocket scientist but I know angler stress when I see it and thousands of gallons of it was flowing into Big Sam as we stood on that bridge that afternoon. Net time a chunk of Crappie slide of a fork into your mouth think about Paper Mill Creek and who knows how many other toxic creeks in East Texas. Most lakes in East Texas were listed on the T.N.R.C. reports as containing contaminants. And they’ll continue to be polluted unless you get out there and do something about it, like the genius from Zavalla did. We’ll continue to publish more information about the condition of Big Sam in our next issues.
– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide