Three record crappie have been harvested from our local lakes in as many weeks. Although the thermometer indicates we have been on a rollercoaster ride, something as important, if not more so, than temperature has been steadily at work — that is day length.
Since the winter solstice on Dec. 22, day length has been increasing, and will continue to increase through June 22. Fish behavior is, in many ways, impacted by day length. Fisheries biologists refer to day length as “photo-period,” and they base much of their helpful work off of photo-period.
For example, when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department collects egg-laden female striped bass in advance of the production of hybrid striped bass fry, they use photo-period as one of the variables that must be right to predict the presence of, and spawning condition of, the female striped bass they are after.
Such conditions have come together on area reservoirs and have crappie and other species on the move.
I previously reported two weeks ago in this column about Trey Goodnight’s record crappie landed on Stilhouse Hollow Lake, and about Taji Johnson’s record crappie taken on Belton Lake.
This past week, Stillhouse contributed another record crappie to the record books. On Feb. 22, 10-year-old Jack Robert Hoyson of Harker Heights landed a black crappie which serves as the first specimen entered in the Junior Angler category for that species on Stillhouse Hollow.
Jack and his father, Michael Hoyson, owner of Hoyson Auto Care in Killeen, were invited to fish with family friend Cory Welch in Welch’s boat, equipped with Garmin LiveScope technology.
According to Jack, the three anglers had been fishing for about two hours before the black crappie struck his bait.
“We were using live minnows,” said Jack. “Corey was using the trolling motor to keep us near the tree, and using LiveScope. We were fishing a large tree that was underwater.”
Jack’s father added the trio was fishing over 14-16 feet of water, but the crappie were holding only 6-8 feet beneath the surface, and near the tree.
As the trip concluded, Welch, an avid area angler familiar with the water body records for our local reservoirs, suggested the father and son consider having Jack’s largest fish measured and weighed.
Welch contacted me by phone and we made arrangements to meet shortly after the fishing trip concluded.
Jack, who began fishing when he was only 3 years of age, was introduced to the sport by his father.
When I asked what he finds appealing about the sport, Jack stated, “I like the adrenaline rush I get from catching fish.”
When the ruler and scale had told their tales, Jack’s black crappie weighed 0.75 pounds and measured 10.875 inches.
I assisted father and son in submitting the required photos and application to the TPWD headquarters in Austin.
When asked what he intends to do once his record fish certificate arrives, Jack had already devised a plan.
“I’m going to hang it on the wall and and go see if I can catch bigger fish.”
A quick glimpse of the Junior Angler records for both Belton and Stillhouse shows there is plenty of room for company where Jack’s name will soon be found.
Records for both game and non-game species are maintained, with some species having no entries to date.
There are essentially two broad record categories: all-ages and Junior Angler. Junior Anglers are those anglers under the age of 17 who are not yet required to possess a fishing license. These two categories are further divided into rod-and-reel and catch-and-release categories.
Catch-and-release records are the simplest to apply for, as they only require that the fish be measured since the category is based on fish length, not on fish weight. Taking a photo of the fish with its mouth held shut and its tail lobes pinched on a measuring device, and a photo of the angler with the fish is required for the application. A witness to the release of the fish and to the measurement of the fish is also required.
Local records may be found on the TPWD website at tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/recordsearch.phtml.
Rod-and-reel records must have all of the same photos and measurements as catch-and-release category entries. Additionally, such potential record fish must be weighed on a certified scale with a witness to the weighing.
I serve local anglers as an official TPWD weigh station with certified scales up to 30 pounds and can be contacted at 254-368-7411.
As spring approaches, day length increases and water temperature rises, one of the most productive windows in the annual angling cycle will soon be upon us. Being familiar with current records and how to go about qualifying for a record go a long way toward obtaining such a goal.