The Toyota ShareLunker Program has wrapped up for 2019, and I had an opportunity to speak with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist Nike Harbison and technician Carl Vignali at the Snook TPWD office about the health of our lake.
They are some of the outdoor professionals that help take care of Lake Conroe, Livingston, Bastrop and other waters in this part of Texas.
I will start with the condition of plants and animals in Lake Conroe as I understand it from information I received from the professionals.
In my discussions with the TPWD folks, I found out that one of my favorite biologists and one of the nicest and most knowledgeable people I have worked with concerning the waterways in the state of Texas, Mark Webb, has retired recently. No one had been appointed to fill his position when I spoke with them, but they will have some big shoes to fill, and I wish them the very best.
When it comes to TPWD fish stocking, I was told they have ordered 200,000 hybrids to be stocked in Lake Conroe this year. We are currently fifth on the list of priorities for hybrid stocking. They told me we were on the priority list last year, but there was a shortage of female stripers caught at Livingston, so the spawning numbers were down. The hatcheries will not know how many hybrids they will have available to stock until around March.
The Snook office ordered 105,000 Florida bass to be stocked in Lake Conroe last year, and we received 105,000 fingerling bass. They have ordered 109,000 Florida bass this year, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that they’re available.
In the latest electroshock surveys that the TPWD have done on Lake Conroe, a lot of small bass and shad are in our lake. I personally don’t know where all of the gizzard Shad and catfish come from on lake Conroe, but I will sure not look a gift horse in the mouth. Along with the Stow-A-Way Marina and RV Park crappie restocking program adding another positive influence on our fish population, we are looking good as a fishing lake.
With the lake level being three feet below pool, some of the aquatic vegetation is left high and dry, some will come back, and some will not. This is definitely not a positive result of the lower water level. Some other positives could happen that will hopefully help offset the negative influence on the aquatic plants — brush, weeds, grasses and other vegetation are starting to grow on the ground that is left high and dry. We will see what happens.
My biggest concern is if the Good Lord decides to dump a bunch of rain on us, or those controlling our lake change the water level between March and May when most of the fish on the lake will be spawning. Such actions could have a detrimental impact on the spawn and on future fish populations.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program in 2019 had anglers enter 327 lunker bass over eight pounds from 88 lakes across the state. In addition to helping produce bigger, better bass for Texas lakes, anglers who enter their big bass catches in the program receive special recognition and prizes, including an entry into a year-end drawing to win a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree and an annual fishing license.
Anglers entered five Legacy Class bass over 13 pounds last year and loaned them to TPWD for the selective breeding and stocking program during the spawning window from Jan. 1 through March 31. Additionally, anglers entered four Legend Class bass over 13 pounds that were caught outside the spawning window or not loaned for spawning, 76 Elite Class bass weighing 10 to 12.99 pounds, and 242 lunker class bass weighing between eight and 9.99 pounds or at least 24 inches.
Lakes producing 13-pound or larger Legacy Class bass entries last year included Lake Leon with 13-pound ShareLunker 581, caught March 29; Lake Conroe with 13.36-pound ShareLunker 580, caught March 9; Lake Fork with 13.73-pound ShareLunker 579, caught March 8; a private research lake with 13.79-pound ShareLunker 578, caught Feb. 8; and Marine Creek Lake with 14.57-pound ShareLunker 577, caught Jan. 26.
Three of the Legacy Class fish spawned successfully at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, producing 55,000 offspring that were stocked in Texas public lakes. Another 30,000 pure Florida largemouth bass offspring were retained as hatchery broodstock so TPWD can stock these big bass by the millions statewide in coming years.
In return for loaning their Legacy Class fish to TPWD for selective breeding and stocking, anglers receive a catch kit, a Thirteen Pound Plus Legacy decal, VIP access to awards programming at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest and a replica of their fish. Additionally, these anglers receive entries into both the year-end drawing to win a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree and an annual fishing license, and a special Legacy Class drawing to win a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree, won by angler Barry Prince of Lindale last year.
Anglers who catch a 13-pound or larger “Legacy Class” bass through March 31 can enter by calling the program directly, any time of day, at 903-681-0550.