Updated: Feb 18
Ron is a professional fisherman, a Committee Member of the Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee, for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Assistant State Conservation Director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, Conservation Director SE Region Texas B.A.S.S. Nation and is Project Coordinator for the Lake Conroe Native Aquatic Plant Restoration Project.
This week our blog discusses the possible effects that the lake lowering has on the Fishery in Lake Conroe.
Fish in Lake Conroe go through a spawning ritual each spring and this is when species renews themselves. Once the eggs hatch, the new fry swim out of their nests and immediately look for places to hide; otherwise, they will be eaten by more mature fish. On Lake Conroe, this cover is provided in the form of shoreline vegetation.
In 2015 the Lake Conroe had 1,215 acres of shoreline vegetation. It is astounding that after only 2 years of lake lowering, a 2019 TPWD survey determined that there were only 433 acres of shoreline vegetation left for the fish to use as shelter.
See table below:
Without adequate shoreline vegetation for cover, it is possible that 2-3 years’ worth of bass recruitment are potentially affected by the lake lowering policy.
(New data 2-17-2020 from tpwd)
From the new data (and we have no reason to question it), it looks like the bass fishery has held its own since the downtrend in 2013. 2013 was three years after the hydrilla was removed from Lake Conroe. During the process of removing that hydrilla, nearly all vegetation was removed along with it. We very possibly lost a couple of years of bass recruitment, which may have been reflected in the lower bass survey numbers.Although the bass fishery currently seems to be stable, the real question is whether we see a similar downtrend reflection in bass numbers in another 2-3 years due to the lowering of the lake...and lower vegetation surveys. According to the TPWD surveys, we do have lower vegetation numbers, and any reflection on the bass fishery may not show up for several years. Using history as an example (with the hydrilla removal) it is a possibility.
It is my opinion, that losing shoreline vegetation cover is having a direct impact on the bass population in Lake Conroe.
If Lake Conroe’s excellent bass fishing reputation is negatively affected, many who are associated with that reputation will also be affected as well. People are not coming to Lake Conroe when the lake levels are seasonally lowered. Tournaments that raise money to support many charities are being poorly attended or canceled. The economic effects on the fishing industry are significant including hotel stays, food, lodging and all the other associated businesses such as sporting good stores, marinas, fishing guides, boat rentals and boat sales.
All flood mitigation projects must have phases, and the environmental and economic study is Phase I. All studies have been forfeited in this seasonal lake lowering decision. A full environmental and economic assessment of how the seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe is affecting the environment and economics of the lake are imperative.