Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Although air and water temperatures are still relatively
cool, longer days and increasing air temperatures are slowly warming area
lakes. Increasing lake temperatures begin to stimulate natural spawning
instincts of many area sport fish. In preparation for the upcoming spawning
season, most sport fish undergo increasing levels of activity. When one
mentions increased fish activity, anglers are never very far behind. Those
that pay attention to spawning requirements of targeted species can better
their springtime fishing success.
There are several fish reproduction characteristics common to many fish.
For fish that spawn in shallow water, which include crappies, black bass,
sunfish, and catfish, the males of the particular species are the more
devoted parents. They usually construct some sort of nest, fan the eggs
to provide oxygen and reduce siltation, and guard and protect the fry
(larval fish) after hatching. Open-water spawners, which include white
bass, do not construct nests and provide no protection for the eggs or
fry. Regardless of the species, as a rule less than 5% of fry will survive
their first year. Therefore, the females of most species produce extremely
high numbers of eggs to combat the high mortality rate. For a particular
species, age of sexual maturity varies and depends on growth rates and
population densities. Given these generalities, let's examine the specific
spawning requirements of several of the popular sport fish of the area.
One of the earliest spawners in the area is the white bass. When the water
temperatures approach 53-55oF (typically late-January and February), this
species makes spawning runs up accessible rivers. The males migrate first,
sometimes a month before the females. Often, spawning takes place at the
surface, as fish are observed splashing and rolling. Several males attend
one female and the eggs are scattered in midwater. On average, each female
produces about 500,000 eggs. White bass eggs are adhesive and sink to
the bottom. The eggs are not protected by either parent. Spawning in a
given area usually takes place over a period of 5-10 days. Some white
bass reach sexual maturity by age-1 and most by 2 years of age.
In the spring, crappies (both black and white) start spawning when water
temperatures reach 56oF, but activities usually peak around 62oF (March-April).
Nests are constructed by the males near some form of cover (usually hydrilla
in Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend) in shallow protected areas absent of wave
action. The depth of nests depends on water clarity; in stained and turbid
water they will be relatively shallow. Females contain 10,000 to 160,000
eggs and spawn repeatedly in the nests of several males, which defend
the nest until the fry disperse. Most crappies mature at age 2 or 3.
Largemouth bass may spawn when water temperatures range from 60 to 75oF
(late March-early May), but peak time usually occurs during a full moon
when water temperatures range from 65-70oF. Nests are constructed by the
males on firm substrate in shallow water in areas of no current or wave
action. A male seeks out a ripe female and induces her to spawn through
repeated physical contact. The spawning pair makes repeated passes over
the nest, depositing eggs which sink and adhere to the bottom. Several
females may spawn in the nest of a single male. Males devote considerable
time to guarding the nest, sometimes for several weeks and do not feed
during this time. Sexual maturity is usually reached within 2 to 3 years.
A female may produce 2,000 to 145,000 eggs.
Two sunfish species which may be of interest to area anglers are redear
sunfish and bluegill. The redear sunfish spawn usually peaks around 68-70oF
(April-May), while bluegill start later in the season and peak around
72-78oF (May-June). Both species may spawn more than once each year. Colonies
of nests, which are roundish depressions about twice the diameter of the
constructing male, are found in shallow water in various substrates, but
gravel is preferred. Females spawn in the nests of several males. The
males guard the nest only until the eggs hatch. Both species sexually
mature at ages 1 to 2 and each female produces 2,000 - 80,000 eggs.
Blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish all require a shaded
depression, cavity, or some form of shelter to construct a nest. Typically,
undercut banks, hollow logs, barrels, or rodent burrows are selected and
prepared by the male. All three species usually spawn from May - July,
but blue catfish usually spawn first when water temperatures range from
70-77oF. Channel catfish spawn when water temperatures range from 72-80oF.
Flathead catfish usually initiate spawning when temperatures reach 75oF.
Males of all three species guard the nest; age at sexual maturity usually
ranges from 2 to 5 years. Each female may produce 2,000-100,000 eggs.
Contact us with questions or concerns about area fisheries by phone (409-384-9572)
or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Good luck and good fishing!