Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fishing in The Woodlands ponds and lakes

This is almost synonymous with fishing in the Woodlands parks but not quite. There are many bodies of water in The Woodlands. Each one has its own fish population and water ecology. This article will not address their differences and not recommend any particular park or body of water for fishing. Our purpose here is to reveal how the ecology systems generally work, what to look for in fishing these bodies of water, and what behaviors are expected of every single person fishing on these bodies of water. We also explore the varieties of fish that are found here and what dangers one may find hidden in eating those fish.

A resident caught this 6 pound Largemouth Bass on a spinner bait in a local pond. The fish was returned and lived to be caught again and perhaps spawn. A few weeks passed and another person caught the same fish and did not follow the rules; the person took it home and took away the opportunity for others to experience the excitement of catching a large fish.

This Bluegill is typical of a Bluegill caught on our ponds.

First, we will focus on the ponds. Some of the ponds were here before the master plan was developed. They are purely natural. Others were man-made to provide a distribution of ponds in various neighborhoods and control flooding. Builders charged a premium for a home on a pond or lake. This has been the case for every development that I have seen in the Houston area. Each pond has evolved over the years to a state of equilibrium among its fish population and other inhabitants. Most of the ponds have minnows, frogs, Crawfish, snails and bugs at the bottom of the food chain, Sunfish (Bluegills) in the middle, and Largemouth Bass at the top. Some of the ponds have catfish. Typically, no pond needs to be restocked. Each variety of fish independently regenerates. Some species such as the bass only breed in the spring; some such as the Bluegill, several times a year, even monthly.

There are three varieties of perch (bream) found here. The Redear, the Red Belly and the Bluegill. The Redear prefers deeper water, so we are unlikely to see them in the ponds; the Bluegill and Red Belly like to spawn in shallow water and are often found together. The Bluegill will grow up as large as 4 pounds. The Redear will grow that large as well, but the Red Belly tends to remain much smaller. Please consider others when fishing in these ponds. Don;t leave a mess of fishing line in the water or allow your plastic bags to blow into the water. That kills fish! Also, actively fish. Don't put natural bait on a line and walk away from it. A fish will swallow the bait and incur severe injuries from a gut wound or leaving the hook in its gut. A large bass can and will survive being caught many times if the humans who catch it will take steps to keep it alive after the process. Remove the hook carefully and get the fish right back into the water. The fish's mouth will heal. Don't wait more than a couple of minutes to show it to someone; the fish will lose its capability of equilibrium and breathing. If you want a memory, take a photograph. Also consider your own health when contemplating on keeping a fish. These ponds receive runoff from homes and accumulate minerals and chemicals. The fish are not tested for human consumption and the water is not intended for humans. Ponds are for not for swimming. I would not advise children or adults playing in any of them.

All fish in our ponds are considered park property and are to be released immediately after being caught. Visitors can be charged and fined for breaking the "catch and release" rule.

An alternative to fishing on a pond is to fish on Lake Woodlands or on the reservoir. This small Crappie was caught on the reservoir and had to be returned to the water to grow up.

Fishing on the reservoir is controlled by state fishing regulations. The fish can be taken home. The two large bodies of water are generally considered safe, so the fish living in Lake Woodlands or the reservoir can be harvested according to state laws. One must have a fishing license and observe all rules of that license, such as length of fish for harvesting and the quantity of individual species taken.3

You can leave with a basket of pan fish like this, or a few sports fish, e.g. catfish and bass.

No power boats are permitted on any pond or lake in The Woodlands. Canoes and Kayaks are often used by fishermen to seek out the fish. Flat bottom boats with trolling motors are allowed. Typical artificial and natural baits will catch the fish in the ponds and the lakes. I have found that plastic worms, top water lures and jigs produce about the same successes in these ponds as they do in other East Texas lakes and ponds. Color, size, and action do matter and depending on the weather, time of the year, time of day, life cycle of the fish and just some sort of magical preference of the day, a fisherman will have different results. Natural baits work fine, such as mealy worms, earth worms, or shrimp.

Ponds in George Mitchell Preserve are managed by the counties but have the same basic regulations as those under the jurisdiction of The Woodlands. Lakes and reservoirs are managed by the San Jacinto Water Authority and are patrolled by the Texas Game and Wildlife Commission. The Woodlands Park Rangers patrol the parks, enforce the rules and oversee the health of the ponds.

A word to the wise (and not so wise as well) - The Woodlands residents take great pride in the amenities here. The pond banks are not meant for trash. There are plenty of trash cans provided in our parks. Please have respect for this and clean up behind you. Take the extra step and not only clean up your trash, but those who were not so considerate before you as well. In George Mitchell Preserve, please haul all trash out of the park. It wasn't there before you and others came and should not be there when you leave.

1How to Measure and Release a Fish by Texas Parks and Wildlife
2Summary of Recreational Fishing Regulations by Texas Parks and Wildlife
3Quantity and length Regulations of fish - Texas Parks and Wildlife

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