Good News for Lake Ft. Phantom Crappie Anglers
Galen Jons, Fisheries Biologist

We recently did our fall crappie survey at Lake Ft. Phantom Hill, and the results were somewhat surprising! We found quite a few crappie, in all areas of the lake.

Many local crappie anglers can attest to the unusually tough crappie fishing out at the lake last spring. Our office received numerous calls from anglers wondering where the crappie were. Of course, any hardcore anglers who fish even more than we do probably have a better idea of where the fish are biting.

We suspected that fish were spread out and not as concentrated as in years past, spawning way back in the shallow flooded vegetation, and possibly coming into the shallows to spawn at night. Any or all of these factors could have contributed to the poor fishing last spring.

We also considered the possibility that the crappie population had crashed. Crappie populations are cyclic and somewhat notorious for crashing for no apparent reason. However, we weren't convinced that this was the case at Lake Ft. Phantom. Now we have proof that the crappie are still there.

Our netting resulted in 166 crappie caught in ten nets. Of these, 85 were adult fish (five inches or greater), while 81 were immature fish. In years past, our catch rates ranged from 36 to 199 adult fish, and 2 to 39 immature fish. Although our adult catch rate this year is not the highest we've seen, it certainly is nothing to sneeze at. What is interesting is that our catch rate of immature fish was more than double the highest we've seen in previous years. We think this will help sustain the crappie population (and fishing) for a few more years, at least.


As for legal fish (ten inches or greater), we caught 35 this year. This indicates that there is currently a good number (41% of the adult population) of legal crappie available for anglers. Over the past five years, our surveys have collected from 15 to 42 legal fish.

On average, Ft. Phantom crappie that are 1.5 years old are seven inches long, whereas crappie that are 2.5 years old are just under ten inches. This varies from year to year. For example, in the last fifteen years that we've aged these fish, 2.5-year-old crappie have ranged from 8.5 to 10.5 inches long in Lake Ft. Phantom. This year, 1.5-year-old crappie were 10 inches long, and 2.5-year-old crappie were 11.3 inches long! These are the fastest growth rates we've seen for crappie in this lake.

Every net contained a few crappie, and there wasn't much variability among nets. This is important, as it tells us that the crappie are pretty evenly distributed throughout the lake. At least during the first week of November, they were not concentrated around the dam, rocky banks or other traditional crappie hotspots.

While we can't predict that crappie fishing will return in all its glory this coming spring, we think the future looks bright for crappie anglers out at Lake Ft. Phantom. Good Luck and Good Fishing!








Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.
5325 N. 3rd
Abilene, TX 79603
(915) 692-0921

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