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Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish UPDATED #13874586 02/05/21 04:19 AM
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Ken Gaby Offline OP
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Decided to start a new thread about crappie limits.

I talked to fisheries biologist at the Hatchery in Athens and the biologist in charge of the LOP area lakes. Specifically asked questions about crappie numbers, limits, spawn, ect.
I've also called the biologist in charge of crappie on Fork but have not been able to talk with him. I'll try to summarize the info I learned.

Is increased fishing pressure hurting crappie numbers? No. Will keeping less than a limit help the fishery. Won't have an impact. Reason: What happens during the spawn cycle has far more impact on overall numbers than anything fishermen can legally do. Weather conditions greatly impact spawn cycles. One bad year can reduce overall population far more than all the fishing pressure can in several years. Females lay between 5,000 and 60,000 eggs. Survival rate to fingerling size is 1-2%. Even that low rate produces hundreds of thousand of crappie each year.

Can crappie be managed for a trophy fishery? Not likely in large reservoirs. Crappie growth rate in east TX lakes is 2 yrs to minimum length. Avg life span is 5-6 yrs. By the time a crappie reaches 2+ lbs, their life span is almost exhausted. Are bigger fish the older fish? Not always. Like any species, growth rates differ in individuals. Are there crappie older than 6 yrs? Certainly, but they are few and far between. How can bass be managed for trophy quality and not crappie? Bass life span is 10-12 yrs with some at 15 yrs. Longer life span lets fish grow bigger. Do bigger crappie have different genes? No. Genes are the same in 1 lb fish as they are in 2lb fish.

Will Livescope hurt crappie fishing? And does the pressure on LOP in winter have a detrimental impact? He doubts Livescope will have a noticeable impact for the reasons noted above. He is aware of the pressure on LOP in winter which has been going on for over 10 yrs now. Net sampling does not indicate a down turn in overall populations.

One biologist noted a comment or two that people claim biologist don't care about the crappie fishery, only the bass. He said that's furthest thing from the truth. Crappie are a highly sought after fish and attention is always paid to populations. He said the last survey on LOP, they requested their counterparts from LA come over and bring their nets which are made slightly different. Both types of nets were used and the LA style proved to be better. TPW is now looking at getting some of those type nets.

I offered the assistance of CAT anglers if they wanted to do age studies on particular bodies of water. And said they were welcome to come to a weigh in and take ear bone samples for aging. I asked about aging by scale method and he said it's very inconsistent in TX waters due to higher water temps. Scale method is more accurate in northern climates but still not accurate enough to be used for aging.

Overall the conversations showed a good level of interest in the crappie fishery. I do think it would be good if they used info from guides and other anglers to help with creel surveys. It's simple enough for people to record date and hours fished and numbers caught. Guides have this type info in abundance but their catch rates would skew the overall data I think. I also suggested they publish some of the data they have so crappie fishermen are more informed. He noted that was a good idea. The biologist over Fork has some type recent press release which is one of the reasons I'm trying to connect with him.


Last edited by Ken Gaby; 02/05/21 05:29 PM.

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Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13874590 02/05/21 04:29 AM
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Interesting post. Thanks for sharing. thumb


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Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13874645 02/05/21 10:47 AM
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Very interesting information. Great questions. Thanks for taking the time to make contact with the authorities and for sharing your findings.

I hope you hear back from the biologist over Lake Fork. If you do, please post a similar recap of y’all’s discussion.

Last edited by Buckchaser; 02/05/21 10:50 AM.
Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13874669 02/05/21 11:34 AM
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Solid post with a lot of good info. Thanks for taking the time.

Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13874672 02/05/21 11:37 AM
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Good to hear some facts vs. speculation! Thanks for the obvious leg work!

Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Buckchaser] #13874673 02/05/21 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Buckchaser
Very interesting information. Great questions. Thanks for taking the time to make contact with the authorities and for sharing your findings.

I hope you hear back from the biologist over Lake Fork. If you do, please post a similar recap of y’all’s discussion.


I also appreciate you taking the time to talk to the biologist!!

Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13874708 02/05/21 12:50 PM
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Good report Ken. I tend to lean with the biologist on this but still only keep 11'' fish and usually only 15. It's just a personal thing but each to his own. If a guide wants to cut back to 20 instead of 25 I would not hesitate in hiring him. Just the information learned is worth the money.

Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13874710 02/05/21 12:51 PM
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Thank you for the information and the time you spent to gather it Sir!

Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13874848 02/05/21 02:21 PM
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Good information to know. Thank you

Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13874911 02/05/21 02:51 PM
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Morning Ken, you have touched on so many good topics.

I think if you catch a lot of fish and have been doing this awhile, you only will keep a few fish per trip. I usually keep 10 or so over 12”s long.

I think there are genetic strands of crappie (like Florida Bass) that produce bigger fish in their 7 years of life. If you look at some of the crappie lakes in Mississippi three pound crappie aren’t that hard to come by. I fished a lake in Louisiana during the 90’s and caught numerous 3 pound crappie during the spawn each year. These crappie just looked different and were 17”-18”s long.

I don’t think TP&W has dedicated the resources to producing Big Crappie like they have for producing Big Bass. Bass populations and genetics will always be number one.

As long as fisherman can catch enough crappie to eat TP&W is satisfied with the results.


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Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Buckchaser] #13874947 02/05/21 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Buckchaser
Very interesting information. Great questions. Thanks for taking the time to make contact with the authorities and for sharing your findings.

I hope you hear back from the biologist over Lake Fork. If you do, please post a similar recap of y’all’s discussion.


Thanks for taking the effort to dig into the issues concerning crappie limits. thumb


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Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13875173 02/05/21 05:13 PM
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Great info! Thanks for the detail.

Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13875192 02/05/21 05:24 PM
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I'll state up front that I have no issue with the guides dropping limits or keeping limits. It's everyone's choice. No good or bad for me. I wanted to state this as this response directly relates to that issue.


Talked to the biologist over Fork and Palestine this morning. Interesting conversation. He was aware of the guides plan for a 20 fish limit and had read many of the FB posts.
He is in agreement with the info stated above from the other biologists.

He did add that he has had many conversations about Livescope in the past year and he has Livescope himself. So he's familiar with what's happening with Livescope.
He added that the crappie fishery philosophy has been a harvest philosophy. However, he sees the current movement in the past couple years with more emphasis on trophy fish. Managing for trophy fish is very difficult due to the short life span. But there is talk among TPW biologist that managing for trophy quality might be something that's coming. They need more data sets on age and year classes before making any type recommendation. The first issue is to determine if managing for trophy fish is even possible. It would take some very select regulations if that were possible. Something like the regs on catfish at Tawakoni; only keeping a certain number of fish over a specific length. And there's been talk among biologists if there needs to be a minimum size limit since crappie gain minimum length in a short time; 1-1.5 years.

Jake received an inquiry from the Tyler paper reference the dropping of crappie limits by guides because of Livescope. Below is his response.

Every day, in some fashion, since Sunday afternoon! I've been handling Livescope related questions, mostly pertaining to crappie fishing, since the summer of 2019. Despite what a lot of comments claim, TPWD is not ignoring the potential impacts from live-scanning sonar technology on our crappie populations. However, the bottom line is the population dynamics for most crappie populations in Texas are influenced heavily by density dependent factors and minimally, if at all, by harvest. Quality habitat and the right weather conditions usually produce a strong year class that can single handedly sustain the entire population for a few years. Conversely, poor habitat (shoreline) and unstable weather will typically result in weak year classes. This cyclical nature causes boom and bust crappie populations, regardless of harvest levels. Quality crappie lakes typically have more boom year classes than bust, resulting in more stable fishing year in and year out, and again, it is rarely affected by angler harvest. For example, crappie on Fork reach legal length and sexual maturity on average in two years (closer to one year for White Crappie) and their average life span is 3-4 years; anything over 6 is a very old fish. In other words, these fish are out of the population one way or the other in under 5 years on average and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to manage population densities within that time frame. The bottom line is reducing harvest by 5 fish/person is more of a social-related decision than a biologically significant one. The live-fast-die-young philosophy that Texas crappie present essentially limit the effectiveness of bag limits to structure population densities. In all reality, decreasing harvest could just as easily negatively impact the quality of some crappie fisheries, again through density dependent factors. Growth rates are heavily determined by population densities and available forage. While reducing harvest sounds good on the shell, it could easily result in a larger abundance of smaller fish, as growth rates slow down. A fast growing crappie that lives 5 years will be a lot more impressive than the same crappie with a moderate growth rate. On the other hand, if the angler's concerns are solely focused on a potential declining abundance of large fish, they could likely impact that by limiting the number of fish over a given size that they harvest. A management strategy of this nature would have a better chance at producing a measurable success.

This topic is growing quickly, and as I've continued to say, we are aware of it and will continue to manage our sport fish with the intent of providing the best angling opportunities available for our constituent base. Overall I applaud our anglers for wanting to do their part to make fishing better. I see this topic growing and I hope to talk at a few crappie group meetings over this summer, to continue to explain crappie management from my perspective. With that said, I'm never opposed to putting together a study that would contain a heavy angling component. We already have the Livescope and a strong desire to catch fish! Looking forward to more discussions on this topic with you and others.

Jake


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Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13875339 02/05/21 07:10 PM
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I love to fish and eat them too. However tech is making it not fishing anymore. If you are going to eat them just be responsible. The problem is the money thing. Guides make money when they caught more fish. Lower the limits is one way but not the true problem.

Re: Crappie Numbers and Trophy Fish [Re: Ken Gaby] #13875365 02/05/21 07:29 PM
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Great post. I agree that TPWD has some great info and input.

I still credit to the guides for doing something even if in the big picture it may only make a miniscule difference.

I personally think that some of the anecdotal evidence the guides brought up is due to boat and fishing pressure scattering the fish. I think like any animal (ducks, deer, etc.) they will adapt to the pressure from predators and boats especially late in the "season". Of course i have no evidence to back up this theory! roflmao


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