Lake Waco volunteer group installs ‘crappie condos’ to improve fishing

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Here’s a tip for Lake Waco anglers: The newest hangout for fish is in the waters beneath the Twin Bridges.

Actually, it’s an open secret that a new Lake Waco advocacy group wants you to know about.

The Friends of Lake Waco recently teamed with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and a Baylor group to install 55 “crappie condos” under the bridges to provide cover for fish and make them more accessible to low-tech boaters.

“We like using the bamboo,” said John Tibbs, a Waco-based TPWD fisheries biologist involved in the project. “It’s free. I like the idea of taking an invasive species and turning it into something useful.”

The “condos” are definitely affordable housing, formed by dropping sticks of bamboo culled from Cameron Park into plastic buckets full of concrete.

Tri Beta, a biology volunteer group from Baylor, provided much of the labor and was also involved in a similar project at Tradinghouse Creek Lake.

Once the 12-foot-tall structures are dropped into water 16 to 20 feet deep, they’re visible only to the fish.

“Our goal was to get them all the way under the water,” Tibbs said. “They’re designed to be accessible to small craft and people without GPS.”

During the past three years, TPWD workers and volunteers have placed about 150 condos around the lake, including some around Peaceful Point at Airport Park. But this project is the first by the Friends of Lake Waco, which formed this summer.

“The real story here is the partnerships that are going on and the potential of having the Friends of Lake Waco chapter, with the express goal of improving habitat and fishing opportunities,” Tibbs said.

Friends of Lake Waco Chairman Brian Schmunsler said the volunteer group now has about 25 members and welcomes more.

“The vision and goal is to help Lake Waco be a better fishery from the angle of the public,” Schmunsler said.

He said the group is also interested in the campgrounds, boat ramps and other public lands around the lake and could act as a volunteer cleanup corps next time the lake floods, as it did this spring.

“My vision is that five years from now, if something like that happened again at the lake, we could get a group together to clean it up much quicker,” he said.

Schmunsler, manager of Keith’s Ace Hardware in Hewitt, is a true-blue fan of Lake Waco and wanted to be part of making it better.

“We camp all the time, fish all the time,” he said. “We probably camp out there 10 or 15 times a year.”

Source: WacoTrib.com

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