Lake Conroe Restores Aquatic Habitat

The Lake Conroe Restocking Association, the Lake Conroe Marina Association, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department are continuing their efforts to improve fisheries habitat at Lake Conroe. Working together, these organizations hope to once again make Lake Conroe one of the best fishing lakes in the country. In the early 1980’s, hydrilla (an exotic aquatic plant originally from South America) covered a large part of Lake Conroe restricting access for anglers and other boaters. Under the direction of the Texas Legislature, Texas A&M University stocked grass carp to eradicate the hydrilla. Although the loss of vegetation certainly increased access, it also greatly decreased fish production by eliminating the main source of food and shelter for juvenile largemouth bass and sunfish. (Aquatic insects feed on vegetation. Small sunfish and bass eat the insects and use the vegetation for shelter from predators.) As the grass carp have gradually died out, vegetation has begun to return. To help prevent a re-infestation of the uncontrollable hydrilla, and to increase the coverage of certain types of native vegetation (those species that grow only in shallow water) the Lake Conroe Re-vegetation Project was begun. In spring of 1995 over 75 test plots were planted at 15 sites around the upper end of the lake. Species planted included musk grass, water star grass, American pond weed, wild celery, American lotus, arrowhead, and spikerush. These test plots were planted in either black silt fence cages (in very shallow areas) or orange construction fence. The purpose of the fencing was to protect the vegetation from the remaining grass carp as well as turtles and other herbivores. On March 19th and 20th of this year, fences were placed across the mouths of six of the coves containing last years plots. Additional plants were added within the fenced areas, the goal being to keep predators out of the coves until the plants are well established and can expand even with some predation. Even if the vegetation cannot expand beyond the fenced coves, the areas behind the fences are large enough to allow some juvenile fish habitat. Additional plantings will be added to Lake Conroe as money permits with at least 4 more fenced coves planned for this year. This project is only possible through the financial and physical support of the Lake Conroe Restocking Association, Texas Black Bass Unlimited and the Lake Conroe Marina Association. The majority of the financial support (over $40,000 so far) has come from the fund raising efforts of the KILT tournament. For more information on the project contact Everett Massey of the Lake Conroe Restocking Association at (409) 856-4222 or Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries at (409) 822-5067.

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