Officials support native plant restocking in Lake Conroe
By Brad Meyer
LAKE CONROE – The stocking of nearly 100,000 white Amur in the last year has virtually eliminated the hydrilla problem on Lake Conroe. Now the specialty grass-eating
carp are decimating native plants beneficial to the lake.
According to a survey conducted in May by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials, the hydrilla infestation on Lake Conroe has dropped to only 2.5
acres from a January high of 2,033 acres. In the last year, however, beneficial native plant coverage has declined from 1,077 acres to 151 acres. Click Here For White Amur Update In A Sunday,
July 20TH Article In the Conroe Courier.
Officials with TPWD, San Jacinto River Authority,
Seven Coves Bass Club and Lake Conroe Association
met Monday to review the latest survey results and discuss the future of the lake.
“The white Amur were brought in to consume hydrilla,” said Ron Gunter, vice president of the Seven Coves Bass Club and conservation director of the
Southeast Texas BASS Federation . “The hydrilla is gone, but they’re still hungry and now they’re eating plants beneficial to the lake.”
Native plants are beneficial and a biological necessity for a viable ecosystem on Lake Conroe,
according to Gunter. Plants prevent erosion, oxygenate the water, contribute to a healthy natural environment and are create habitat for fish and other aquatic animals.
“Losing 86 percent of native plants in a 12-month period is a
real problem,” he said. “With a total of 110,000 carp still feeding, they will make short work of remaining native plants.”
Earlier in the year, Gunter and his supporters created an aquatic nursery to propagate Vallisneria Americana, a
non-invasive water celery that provides natural benefit to the lake and fish populations. The group has been introducing the plants, protected from white Amur fish by wire cages.
Nearly 700 of the pots have been placed near the shoreline so far.
“Original funding from the project came from a federal grant we received in 2007,” said Gunter. “TPWD and the SJRA
have $25,000 each to support our overall plant restocking effort.”
A program outlined by TPWD calls for an initial plant restocking of three acres over the next five to 10 years –
largely on non-residential shoreline north of the FM 1097 bridge. Eventually, officials project a total of 2,000 acres – roughly 10 percent of the lake – for native plants through reseeding and natural
growth. The coverage includes underwater plants as well as those on the surface and along the shoreline.
“We are supportive of having plants and healthy ecosystem on Lake Conroe,” said Mike Bleier,
president of LCA. “We’re concerned about targeting 2,000 acres as the right amount when the anglers seemed pleased with how things were last year when there was half that amount.”
In a newsletter to LCA members Tuesday, Bleier stated the organization’s board of directors is
generally supportive of the re-vegetation program as it has been outlined to them. None of the LCA money raised to purchase white Amur and fund hydrilla eradication programs has been used for the
plant restocking effort.
“We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely,” said Bleier.
“I just hope we don’t create another nightmare with different plants,” said Dana Richardson, a
community activist and critic of TPWD and SJRA officials. “The experts have been pretty slow to react in the past. I’d hate to see things get overrun again.”
One of the key issues on which both sides agree is that the approximately 100,000 white Amur in Lake Conroe will continue to feed on lake
vegetation. With hydrilla unavailable, the fish will turn to native plants – including the grasses and water celery now being planted by the Seven Coves Bass Club.
“At some point, we may have to look at a plan to reduce the number of carp in the lake,” said
Gunter, who favors a limited program to allow sport fishing of white Amur. (Note: Currently it is illegal to remove any White Amur “Grass Carp”
from Lake Conroe! When caught fishing for other fish, they MUST be released unharmed back into the Lake)
Such a program would not sit well with the LCA whose members raised more than $500,000 to
help purchase the fish. Gunter acknowledged the idea would not be popular with LCA, but suggested it as a limited option to help bring balance to the lake.
“Such an idea is premature at best,” said Bleier. “This is the height of the hydrilla growing season
and the Amur are eating water hyacinth and other problem plants. It’s taken us years to get this under control; we don’t want to risk what we’ve achieved.”
TPWD and SJRA officials will monitor the growth or decline of native and invasive plants with
surveys in August and October before determining a course of action for the future, according to Bleier.
“This is a very complicated situation and one that requires the cooperation of all concerned,” said
Gunter. “There is no such thing as a final solution. It’s an ongoing process.”