Nolan County lakes still suffering from droughts

Despite heavy rainfall in the area during the late spring and early summer months, lake levels in Nolan County still remain critically low.The last of the water in Lake Trammell, located about 10 miles south of Sweetwater, dried up in November of 2012, leaving the future of the reservoir — which was built in 1920 as a solution to the city's water woes — uncertain.At the time the last pools of water were swallowed by the lake bed, former Mayor Greg Wortham stated that the city would not pump water from Oak Creek Lake — now the city's main source of water — until watersheds in the area were replenished.Lake Sweetwater remains approximately 26 feet below desired levels.Watersheds and creeks originating in Maryneal and Nolan must receive significant precipitation in order to feed Lake Trammell and Lake Sweetwater, respectively."We've had some rainfall, but it hasn't been falling in the right spots," said Jake Simmering, Nolan County's game warden.The low levels have already put a damper on local and out-of-town visitors to the lakes, which until recently provided recreational fishing and boating. In turn, local tourism related to aquatic activities has dipped."At Lake Sweetwater, all the boat ramps are out of the water," Simmering said. "If you can't launch a boat, the lake is pretty much useless."In addition to the drought conditions, Lake Sweetwater was invaded by golden algae early in the year, adding to the hostile fishing conditions.Simmering said that although bass and crappie populations have dwindled, catfish and carp can still be found at the lake's bottom. Anglers, he said, have been spotted on the banks of the lake searching for the bottom feeders which can still thrive in low waters.Simmering added that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries Management biologists indicated that the lakes would be restocked with the lost fish species should depths return to an acceptable level.