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LAKE CONROE is known for its superior largemouth bass fishing.
Conroe is one of the highest-ranking lakes among those that have produced Sharelunkers (13-pound or larger bass) and has hosted several world championship tournaments including the Bassmaster Classic.
As good as the bass fishing can be on this reservoir that dams up the West Fork of the San Jacinto River in Montgomery and Walker Counties, the perch fishing is better.
It can be epic.
I learned this myself in May 2021 while catfishing under the 1097 Bridge.
Only having a few live shiners, channel cats were biting steadily. But after pitching a shiner near a piling on the north side of the bridge, I got a hard “thump”. At first, I thought it might be a big crappie, so I waited a couple of seconds and set the hook.
The fish fought harder than any crappie I ever caught and was shocked when I pulled in a massive bream. It was without a doubt the largest I had ever caught and I at that point had caught some big ones. What was equally as impressive was the one I caught nearly as big on the following cast. I’m talking legit monsters! And officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department note this in their official profile of the lake.
“Bluegills of gigantic proportions can be had by the angler who wants to be patient and target them. They can be caught along rip rap, fishing deep near the toe of the slope (sometimes 8 feet or more). Baits must reach near the bottom quickly to avoid the small bait-stealers that inhabit the shallower water. Live worms or crickets are the best producers. Some good fly-rod action can also be had using sinking insect imitation flies and sinking fly line.”
They also note the lake’s superior crappie action.
“Crappie are also very popular and offer good opportunities for anglers seeking table fare. Black and white crappie made a comeback in the lake with the efforts of the Lake Conroe Restocking Association’s spring stockings of advanced juvenile crappie. Good catches of crappie can be had in early spring and in the fall.”
There are several abundant species of panfish available on the lake, so for anglers looking to scratch a particular species off the life list, Conroe is a good stop. Let’s check out key panfish species and look at some of the TPWD profiles
Black Crappie: The black crappie is easily confused with the white crappie. However, it is deeper-bodied than the white crappie, and silvery-green in color.
The record for black crappie is 2.40 pounds and was caught by Daniel T. Chow on April 17, 2022, showing big crappie is a happening thing right now on the lake.
White Crappie: The white crappie is deep-bodied and silvery in color, ranging from silvery-white on the belly to a silvery-green or even dark green on the back. There are several vertical bars on the sides. The dorsal fin has a maximum of six spines.
While both white and black crappie will congregate around brush piles and bridges, whites will school up in open water. Few anglers pursue them this way, but they are more likely to be found on open flats than their close cousins. The Conroe record is a whopping 2.7 pounds and was caught by Shannon E. Everett on April 17, 2019. Once again, this shows catches of huge crappie in recent years.
Bluegill: Bluegills may be distinguished from other sunfish by the dark spot at the base of the dorsal fin, vertical bars on their sides, and a relatively small mouth. Bluegills begin spawning when water temperatures reach about 70°F. Spawning may peak in May or June but continues until water temperatures cool in the fall. The lake record is a very large 1.41 pounds and was caught by Tina Cunningham.
Redear Sunfish: The redear is a deep-bodied sunfish with a relatively small mouth. Color ranges from dark olive green above to almost white on the belly. The sides are usually yellow to green. These are often called “shellcracker”. Nicholas Mosley caught the 1.12-pound lake record.
Finding panfish is as easy as finding structure.
Conroe is loaded with man-made brush piles that are a magnet for panfish. Anglers fishing for crappie should load up with live shiners and lower them down toward the bottom and slowly reel up until they get bit. Then they should mark that spot on their line and keep fishing in that zone. Crappie can be voracious but often key in on specific depths to bite.
Bream can be over the same brush piles but will often hit closer to the surface. A red wiggler or hunk of nightcrawler fished under a bobber is usually a great way to score.
The aforementioned 1097 is a great place to fish and although it receives a lot of pressure, seemingly constantly gives up good catches.
Moving into the northern tier of the lake, anglers should not overlook the shorelines along the Sam Houston National Forest. Fallen trees, layovers, and weed lines will hold good numbers of bream.
These are great spots in particular for fly fishing. Small poppers are fun to fish early and late as perch hit the surface feeding on insects and insect patterns work once the sun comes up and fish are bonded to structure.
I personally plan to hit Conroe this year to fly fish for perch and hopefully score on more giants. Looking back at the largest of the two fish I caught, I have no doubt it would have been in contention for a lake record. It was, however, dipped in batter and fried. And that’s OK. One of the best parts about seeking panfish is putting them in the pan and creating great meals for the family.
—story by CHESTER MOORE