We are halfway through the first month of 2021 and are still being plagued by COVID-19, but I have some good news concerning our beloved Lake Conroe.
Fish are being stocked that we have sorely needed. There are a number of factors governing the aquatic health of the lake and the fish population.
There has been more fishing pressure on Lake Conroe this year than normal because a lot people are working from home or part-time or not working at all, and are on the lake fishing. The minnow and other bait sales reported by the marinas was up two or three fold in 2020 from previous years. I am grateful that we have the lake to help people get out and away from the dread and depression of cabin fever.
Add to that the increased pressure caused by the advanced electronic fish finders that takes away much of the skill and experience previously necessary to locate fish. Besides that, in some cases, individuals have exhibited behavior and sportsmanship parallel to those who would use a half-stick of dynamite to harvest fish.
I will also point out a breed of fish destroyers that all anglers know and detest — those who use cast nets, seines, gill nets or simply keep everything they catch, regardless of method, size or legal limit.
Now, some positive news from 2020.
Let’s start with an event that took place in early December, when the folks at Stow-A-Way Marina and RV Park stocked another 8,000 black crappie in Lake Conroe.
This was the sixth year that Stow-A-Way has had a donation jar on the counter. Anglers and customers who patronize the marina and care about the crappie population can donate to help purchase as many as possible. Those donations, along with sizable contributions from LaMarr Anderson and Fred Adams, help to rebuild the crappie population.
Richard Tatsch, LaMarr Anderson, Mike Schneider, James Tucker, Mark Meeker, Johnny Heneke and Vince Anderson all participated in putting crappie into the lake.
We appreciate all of the folks at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the job they do for us. But there is nothing like local folks and business owners helping to take care of this important outdoor resource that provides recreation and income for so many of our residents.
The TPWD raises and have stocked our lake with Florida largemouth bass and hybrids (palmetto or sunshine bass), but no crappie have been stocked since 2000, except by private organizations and businesses.
I recently visited with TPWD fisheries biologist Alice Best, who is the College Station-Houston Fisheries District Supervisor. She graciously brought me up to date on their fish stockings of Lake Conroe.
For those who do not know, hybrid striper, sunshine bass, palmetto bass or whatever else you might want to call them, cannot naturally reproduce. They are a hybrid created by crossing white bass and striped bass at the hatcheries. Therefore, to keep those fish in the lake, they must be produced and stocked by the TPWD.
This production is not a sure-fire procedure. It depends on a lot of variables that must come together at the right time. We were once again the recipients of the fruit of the TPWD hatcheries and received an allocation 133,142 hybrid striped bass fry and 185,634 fingerling hybrid striped bass in March.
We also received more Florida largemouth bass last year, even though they can reproduce. The TWPD stocked 56,199 fingerling Florida largemouth bass in Lake Conroe in June.
There were 501 permit or private adult triploid grass carp put into the lake on Dec. 3, which, according to Best, is estimated to be the annual die-off rate of these fish.
They were also allowed because a new small patch of hydrilla was found in the lake, and I guess the Chicken Little line of thinking once more kicked in for some homeowners.
So folks, let’s be thankful for the fish we have in Lake Conroe and follow the size and quantity limits on our fish. Remember, too, that if you are not sure if you have caught a white bass or a hybrid, throw it back into the lake.