My friend Bob lives on the north end of Lake Conroe. He and I go fishing occasionally in that lake and I have never seen such a lake full of fish in all my life. Lake Conroe was designed by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TP&W) to be a major fishery, one that could sustain the impending pressure of Houston fishermen, as well as all the bubbas out here in the woods and all the new home buyers, since the shores of the lake are being developed at a blinding pace.
They did a tremendous job on this lake!
Starting with the stocking of gizzard shad, they established a food base for the game fish, and when they then went in and stocked it with channel and blue catfish, Florida largemouth bass, and crappie, this lake took off, and it is unbelievable today. Lake Conroe has to be the greatest fishery, and the greatest example of dedicated management, in the history of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Only a couple of weeks ago, there was a large bass tournament held on that lake. Two bass over 15 lbs. and one bass over 13 lbs. were weighed in. Any questions?
My buddy Bob has landed a 33-lb. blue cat, and he broke off an even bigger one, on 50-lb. test line! Conroe is full of monsters. I landed a 17-pound blue cat out of there, and hoisting that beast from the water was one of the highlights of my fishing career. Of course, we let the bigger ones go back, because how are you going to clean that bad boy? With a machete? We like the 2-4 pounders; they fillet nicely, and just fit in the pan. Mmmm...tasty!
Lake Conroe has not been without its problems. It was overrun with hydrilla back in the mid 80's. Hydrilla is a nasty water grass that clogs boat props and causes major headaches for boaters. TP&W introduced the Asian grass carp into Lake Conroe to eat the hydrilla. Unfortunately, the Asian grass carp also has an affinity for the fry of gamefish, particularly bass. It got to the point that if you were in possession of an Asian grass carp, it had to be gutted and gilled. Otherwise, you would be fined heavily. They came up with some type of poison that they still use to this day, upon occasion, on Lake Conroe. It is sprayed upon the surface of the water, and unfortunately, it kills not only grass carp, but also our native golden carp and buffalo. After a spray, you can see all kinds of carp floating around in the lake, but it does not seem to have any effect on the gamefish, I guess, because they don't eat grass.
Anyway, Lake Conroe is just a super fishery. You can hardly cast a line into that lake without catching something, and it just might be a little more than you were prepared for. Now, Bob and I encounter the occasional gator on the lake, but they are usually small, and just a slap of the paddle (we go in a canoe) will usually send them scampering. But, you know what? I don't like gators at all, and if I was to ever come across something like the 23 foot behemoth captured there, I'm sure that I would lose my enthusiasm for fishing Lake Conroe.
One of the largest gators I ever witnessed was at Choke Canyon Reservoir. He was a little over 10 ft in length, and TP&W finally got him out of there and sent him to some preserve in Arkansas, supposedly.
When I was fishing tournaments, I fished Lake Texana down in Edna one weekend, and that was a hellishly frightening experience. Wanna talk about gators? That lake was full of five and six footers! Launch time was 5:00 am, and it was pitch black, you could not see anything out there.
I had been out the day before for the practice run, and I saw all those beasts swimming around. Now, I found myself in the pitch black darkness of early morning, trying to navigate through the stumps and trees along a creek channel. Every stump that I bumped into, every little thing that disturbed my boatie, I thought "Oh, son! You’re going to need a bigger boat!” Visions of "Jaws" kept popping into my head.
Finally the sun came up, and I could get my bearings. I was in the creek channel, for sure, but I wasn't far from the flats, and there were roseate spoonbills, flamingos, herons, and every kind of beautiful waterfowl you can imagine just munching away. It was a bird party, and an awesome spectacle to behold. But, had it not been for my depthfinder, I surely would have grounded out in the darkness of the early morning. It was a scary trip, but one that I would never trade for the comfort of companionship.
When you are out there in the swamps and waters, by yourself, knowing that you are in gator country, knowing that if anything goes wrong you probably aren't going to like the results, you feel big, you feel large - like nothing can get to you, because you are the baddest mofo in the swamp!
Now, that was Lake Texana. Let me tell you, I rented a small boat when I was working in Waycross, Georgia, and I went out on the Okefenokee Swamp. When I turned the little motor off on that boat, all I could hear were frogs croaking and gators burping, and I was getting freaked out. I had seen "Oscar" the day before, the 15- foot gator who rules that northern swamp area. Again, visions of "Jaws". I was in a little 12-ft. aluminum skiff with a 6-hoss motor; I wasn't going anywhere quickly.
The dude had told me at the rental center not to get away from the pylons, the channel markers. Well, I nervously made a few casts with my line and then I decided to head back towards the rental center. For reasons that you can easily guess, I suddenly wanted to be near humans again. Ha! I had only gone barely beyond the 3rd mile marker and that was far enough, into that swamp. The water was as black as cola, and that freaked me out in itself.
I got back up near to the rental center, and I discovered a little "point" coming off from the bank. I began casting my line, hoping to hook up with a largemouth, but I began to catch chain pickerel, and almost on every cast, I would catch one of those nasty fish. They are like northern pike, only smaller, and their nasty bodies were all brown and gold colored, and their mouths were full of teeth! These fish have rows and rows of teeth, and I bloodied my fingers getting the hook out of their mouths. Then I decided that I had had about enough of all the fishing fun I wanted for one day, so I put back in at the rental center. I chartered a six-hour cruise. I was out for about 4 hours.
I am glad to have that experience, it is something I will probably never do again, but I was there, I did it! It just wasn't a very enjoyable experience for me, that's all. If I ever do it again, I will have a companion. I am not going back into the Okefenokee by myself. Forget about it!
When you get out into the Okefenokee swamp, you are alone with God! It is cool, but frightening. I'm glad I had the experience because it is something a lot of folks will never know, but I could have piddled my panties at any point out there in that swamp!
I don't want to relive that fear. Awesome!