Bow and rod-and-reel anglers will remove excess carp to aid native aquatic vegetation restoration
ATHENS—Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries staff has partnered with the Texas Bowfishing Association (TBA) and the Texas BASS Federation Nation (TBFN) to conduct a grass carp removal tournament on Lake Conroe Saturday and Sunday July 9 and 10.
The TBFN will be hosting a rod-and-reel grass carp tournament from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday, July 9, and be headquartered at Stow-A-Way Marina. They will be fishing from boats and limited shoreline areas lake-wide during tournament hours.
The TBA bowfishers will be fishing from 8:00 p.m. Saturday, July 9, until 8:00 a.m. Sunday, July 10. They will be launching and weighing in at Scott’s Ridge boat ramp. The bowfishers will be restricted to fishing only above (north of) the F.M. 1097 bridge. For bowfishers, several no-fishing zones will be in place adjacent to developed shoreline, and an idle-only area will be in place adjacent to Cagle Campground to reduce noise for overnight campers.
TPWD Inland Fisheries staff will be on site at both weigh-ins and during the event to count grass carp harvested. Both tournament organizers have been provided a temporary exemption to the prohibition against grass carp possession. This event has also been coordinated with San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and the U.S. Forest Service rangers.
Triploid grass carp were introduced to Lake Conroe as part of an integrated pest management approach to control the invasive exotic aquatic plant hydrilla. Hydrilla has been successfully controlled. Now, many fewer grass carp are needed to keep re-sprouting hydrilla at bay. Over-abundant grass carp have damaged important native vegetation and become a hindrance to fish habitat improvement efforts.
“This event is an attempt to reduce the total number of grass carp in Lake Conroe to a number capable of preventing re-sprouting of hydrilla but which will allow us and our partners to better enhance important native aquatic vegetation for fish habitat and water quality improvement,” said Craig Bonds, TPWD’s Inland Fisheries regional director for East Texas.
“We have come to realize that grass carp are an integral tool in hydrilla management, yet too many grass carp can be detrimental to future recruitment of desirable fish species such as largemouth bass,” said Ron Gunter, assistant state conservation director for TBFN. “Native plants provide habitat and cover for newly hatched fish fry, and grass carp are programmed to consume aquatic plants.”
TPWD fisheries biologists estimate approximately 32,600 grass carp remained in Lake Conroe as of May 31, 2011. This estimate is based on applying a scientifically-accepted annual mortality rate of 32 percent to total numbers stocked.
“The goal of this carp tournament is to help TPWD better determine the ’magic number’ of grass carp needed on Lake Conroe to keep hydrilla at bay while allowing native aquatic plants to flourish,” Gunter said. “This tournament will be a challenge, as grass carp are not targeted on a regular basis, yet the event will be a shining example of how concerned anglers can work together with TPWD to bring environmental balance to a reservoir such as Lake Conroe.”
“The Texas Bowfishing Association is proud to be a partner in this joint effort to remove excess grass carp from Lake Conroe. Bowfishermen have been an effective tool in removing fish of undesirable species from Texas waters for many years and are happy to assist in this effort also,” said Walter Blackburn, president of TBA.
Fish habitat enhancement projects in Lake Conroe have been financially supported by grants from the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.