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OUT 0,1 AMERICA illustration by Mike Krone One Man’s Trash Fish OF HOOKS, LINES AND STINKERS. I BY BRAD TYER Trash fish, trash fish swimming in the big ditch Trash fish, trash fish swimming in the big ditch All the way from Jericho to the Gulf of Mexico. “Trash Fish,” Ralph White, 2002 111r 1 he West Fork of the San Jacinto River was dammed to form Lake Conroe in 1973. By the early 1980s, the 20,118 acre lake was choking on hydrilla, an exotic aquatic weed originally imported to Florida for use in aquariums. From there boat trail ers and dirty props flushed it into the ecosystems of the southeastern United States, where it took hold like water borne kudzu. In 1981 and 1982, some 270,000 weed-eating Asian grass carp, aka white amur, were dumped into Lake Conroe to control the weed. A few years later, the hydrilla was almost gone, at which point sport fishermen started complaining that aquatic plant cover in the lakenot just the hydrillahad been chewed to shreds. They wanted more weeds for bass habitat. By the mid-199os, the carp were dying out and hydrilla made a comeback, treated this time with spot applications of herbicide. The dance has gone on, back and forth, trying to balance the imported carp and the invasive plant in a manmade lake. Lake Conroe’s hydrilla, rumored to offer prime nesting habitat for water moccasins, was nightmare-inducing to a shaky-kneed young water skier, but the carp, despite being ugly, didn’t much bother me. As vegetarians, they kept the hydrilla in check without crowding out the game fish. They ate three times their weight daily and grew fat in a predatorfree zone. I remember fishing for the heavy suckersbigger fish than any other we could catch in the lakeoff a pier with soft dog kibble for bait. I never caught one, but I was around people who did. We left some big carp onshore to die, but we never ate them. We considered them vaguely uncleansomething about them feeding in the muck at the AUGUST 7, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 21