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Texas Sportsman
Lone Star Crappie Forecast

What Terre refers to is the dynamic impact on the ecology of a given impoundment -- especially one that has receded and gotten notably and even direly low -- when rains refill it. Physically, such an impoundment’s in the same location, but it’s not the same lake that it was in recent prior years. “The vegetation provides so much new cover,” Terre said, “and the fish really take advantage of it.”

No species is more suited to making the most of it than crappie. They are prolific. They grow fast in Texas waters -- if they can survive the first weeks after they hatch -- because they’ll get plenty to eat. These elements are why things have set up to provide Texas crappie fans with eight-or-better angling prospects for the next few years.

Make no mistake -- the impact of lake levels returning to normal touches every element of a given lake’s ecosystem. The new water floods vegetation that has been growing, high and dry, for a year or two, or even longer. The new vegetation attracts microscopic organisms, and those little critters attract baitfish that feed on them.

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Crappie, bass, other panfish, catfish -- practically every species -- feeds on the baitfish. It’s like magic. Texas lakes you’ve been fishing for years suddenly take on a whole new face, and the fishing starts improving. Then, it keeps getting better over the next few years.

It’s tough to argue that many of the Lone State State’s “usual suspects” when it comes to great crappie fishing have continued to provide consistent action even as lack of rain has challenged them. The aforementioned Lake Fork, Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend and others have remained more stable than not as crappie fisheries. But even they are fixin’ to get better than you’ve seen them in a while.

One reason for that stability lies in the way in which crappie react in general to receding lake levels. Unlike other species that will move out of an area, crappie seem to focus on staying as close to home as possible. They’ll move up and down in the water column as lake levels fluctuate, but it will take a significant drop to force them all the way out of areas they’ve been using.

So, throughout Central and East Texas -- where water levels have dropped anywhere from a few to several feet, but nothing like anglers have seen at Falcon and other West Texas impoundments -- crappie haven’t had to move terribly far. They have just dropped down to areas that provide them the right mix of temperature/oxygen in the water and cover to use.

Now that lake levels have come back up, what anglers likely will notice more than anything else in these reasons is an impact on the quantity of keeper-sized crappie they’ll be catching. “We should have a tremendous year-class this year, and likely for the next couple of years,” Terre noted.

“We biologists talk about recruitment in a given fishery,” he continued. “What we are describing is the number of fish that survive long enough to grow to a size where they can avoid predation and actually contribute to the fishery.

“Anglers know that we have a 10-inch minimum size on crappie,” Terre said. “Crappie in Texas can grow to the size in a year and a half. Now, when you talk about all the new cover and the way it’s going to enhance our year-class, it’s easy to see how it also will have a very positive impact on our recruitment.”

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