LeBlanc: Various factors impact Crappie population in Lake Conroe

On this lovely day, I will address panfish. For the folks who are new to this part of the country or new to fishing, two of the most popular panfish in the country are crappie and bream. There are many varieties of panfish that fall under the bream umbrella, but they are all kin and look similar like goggle-eye, bluegill, sun pearch just to mention a few. Crappie, though a panfish, get larger than the varieties of bream.

The official Lake Conroe record for White Crappie is 2.77 pounds and 16.13 inches long. The record for Bluegill is .71 pounds and 10.25 inches long.

There are a whole lot of people who really like eating crappie. The only folks I know who do not like crappie, just plain do not like fish or have not had an opportunity to try it. But if you are a connoisseur of fine dining it is hard not to like the mild, flaky white meat of the fresh water crappie.

I think I have to place flounder and crappie as my two first choices when it comes to fish for the table. Being I live on a lake now and not so close to the Gulf of Mexico I have more opportunity to get into crappie than flounder. Store bought fish is okay but I would rather catch fresh fish for the table. To have crappie on the table requires you go out and catch them for I have never seen crappie in a store.

I do not want to downplay bream for the table. On Lake Conroe, we have a lake full of large bream. They are not as large as a big crappie but a hand sized bream are thick and can be filleted just like a crappie and are delicious. Smaller ones are good gutted, scaled and with the head cut off fry up crisp.

Crappie are so sought after on Lake Conroe that their population goes up and down like a yo-yo at times.

Right now the crappie population is fair and you can go out and catch from 8 to 10 keepers on a trip of three or four hours and you may have to move from structure to structure a number of times to do that.

I can remember a few years back though, that fishing guide Butch Terpe called me one day and said the crappie were biting good and would I like to go catch some as he did not have a party scheduled for the next day. I met him at Stow-A-Way Marina the next morning at around 9 a.m. and by 11:30 a.m., was back at home cleaning a limit of nice size crappie. It doesn't get much better than that!

The reason the crappie population goes up and down like a yo-yo is due to a few important factors: habitat, fishing pressure and success of the spawn.

The fishing pressure is like anywhere else, when the fish are biting people come from all over to catch them, so the population declines and there is less breeding stock at spawning time, so the hatch is smaller and it takes a number of years to build back up the population again.

One of the items that has effected habitat on out lake is destruction of native vegetation while overly attacking foreign invaders from the aquarium industry that are dumped into our lake by the ignorant.

Anything that interferes with the natural spawn has a negative impact on the crappie numbers for a number of years down the line. Loss of spawning areas, level of the lake, food and water temperature can all effect the spawn.

Some positive actions over the years by many anglers and some businesses and organizations have made an effort to assist Mother Nature.

The Seven Coves Bass Club has been involved for years in natural vegetation restoration. Together with the San Jacinto River Authority and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department they have been growing and planting native vegetation in the lake.

Back in 2006, I had the pleasure of going out with Wayne Whitehead and Lee Over from April Plaza Marina and helped with the stocking of 13,000, black crappie from two to four inches long into our lake. That was done for many years also.

Now I would bring forth an event that took place December 15, 2021 when the folks at Stow-A-Way Marina stocked another 4,000 black crappie 3-5 inches long in Lake Conroe.

This makes the seventh year that Stow-A-Way has had a donation jar on the counter so anglers and customers, who patronize the marina and care about the crappie population of our lake, can donate their dollars and change to help purchase as many as possible. Angler and customer donations, along with sizable donations by LaMarr Anderson and Stow-A-Way helps to rebuild the numbers in the crappie population.

Those who participated in what turned out to be a beautiful and fair weather project of putting the crappie into the lake were Richard Tatsch, LaMarr Anderson, Mike Schneider, James Tucker, Mark Meeker, Johnny Heneke, Vince Anderson and Butch Terpe.

We appreciate all of the folks in the TPWD 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.

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