The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department fisheries office in Wichita Falls recently completed crappie surveys on lakes Arrowhead, Bryson, Buffalo Creek, Cooper, Iowa Park, Millers Creek and Palo Pinto. The drought negatively affected crappie populations at most of these lakes, but not to the same degree.
“At Arrowhead, the crappie catch rate (number of crappie/net) was the third-highest we’ve seen. The good news is we caught lots of legal-length crappie up to 13 inches so fishing should be good next year. We also caught lots of smaller fish so the future looks bright also. Legal length fish were quite chunky. We caught these fish in 3-4 feet of water, but they will soon be moving deeper. During the winter, boat fishing the derricks and around the bridges (especially Deer Creek) where the crappie congregate is encouraged.
“At Bryson, we sampled crappie for the first time. The black crappie we sampled were small and there were just a few of them. They were sampled along the west bank across from the boat ramp. Boaters planning on fishing this lake should plan on four-wheel drive to launch a boat.
We caught a few crappie in Buffalo Creek and they were all adults. We expect fishing to be slow based on the numbers we sampled, but at least there are some brood fish that will spawn next year to help rebuild the population. Interestingly, we sampled a black crappie, the first specimen of that species we have seen from Buffalo Creek. It most likely escaped during the floods from a pond above the lake. It will be about three years before Buffalo Creek has a good population of harvestable crappie.
Cooper near Olney had low abundance of crappie. Adults and small crappie were present, but at about 10 percent of their normal numbers. However, the adult crappie we sampled were incredibly chunky for their size.\
Iowa Park Lake had quite a few crappie just under the 10-inch minimum length limit. These crappie were thick and should be fun to catch. While not numerous, there are certainly enough to warrant fishing for them in the coming year and they will reproduce, helping expand the population’s overall numbers. During the drought, we partnered with the city of Iowa Park to cut trees off the dam and place them on the lake bottom along the dam. These trees are now providing great habitat for crappie, and anglers should concentrate their efforts there and in flooded terrestrial plants to increase their catch rates.
Miller Creek is loaded with crappie. In fact we sampled record numbers of crappie. However, most were small which bodes well for the upcoming years. We did find decent numbers of larger crappie so fishing this spring will be worth a try. The fish sampled were chunkier than usual. There are so many smaller crappie that anglers will have to cull through smaller crappie to keep the harvestable length fish. Crappie up to 13 inches were sampled.
The drought took a toll on Palo Pinto as crappie numbers were about 25 percent less than what it had been. No legal-length fish were sampled, but some just under the 10-inch minimum length limit were sampled and could be over 10 inches next spring. It will take a while for the crappie population to become as well balanced as it once was.”
Good crappie angling is 2-3 years away, depending on the lake. Some lakes will rebound sooner than others. It is anticipated that Jacksboro City Lake, Kickapoo and Possum Kingdom would have crappie fisheries that might be worth checking out. If you have any questions, please call the Inland Fisheries Office at 766-2383 or email to [email protected]