Crappie Numbers to Remember: 9 and 30!
By Debra Walters, Fish Biologist
A sure-fire cure for cabin fever after this year’s winter is a day of crappie fishing. There’s no better time to fish for crappie than in the spring from April to mid-May. However, after you buy your new fishing license, check the 2010-2011 fishing regulations before taking a crappie fishing trip because new size and bag limits went into effect on March 1 for selected waters.
A new 9-inch minimum size limit was added at 38 lakes. A daily bag limit of 30 crappies will also be in effect for all 44 lakes with a 9-inch size limit. The goal of these regulations is to improve the quality of crappie fishing by increasing the numbers of larger fish available for crappie anglers to catch.
Delaware was the first Ohio lake to have a 9-inch minimum size limit on crappie. The excellent crappie fishery that developed at Delaware resulted in 9-inch minimum size limits being added to Alum Creek, Caesar Creek, Deer Creek, Seneca, and Tappan in 2001. Since implementation of the regulation, numbers of large crappies have increased and both black and white crappies have maintained good growth. Among anglers fishing for crappies at these lakes, 91% approved of the size limits.
The 38 new reservoirs with a 9-inch minimum size limit are Acton (Butler and Preble counties), Atwood (Carroll and Tuscarawas counties), Berlin (Stark, Mahoning and Portage counties), Buckeye (Fairfield, Licking and Perry counties), C.J. Brown (Clark County), Clear Fork (Morrow and Richland counties), Clendening (Harrison County), Dillon (Muskingum County), East Fork (Clermont County), Ferguson (Allen County), Grand Lake St. Marys (Auglaize and Mercer counties), Griggs (Franklin County), Hargus (Pickaway County), Hoover (Delaware and Franklin counties), Indian (Logan County), Kiser (Champaign County), Knox (Knox County), Loramie (Auglaize and Shelby counties), Milton (Mahoning County), Leesville (Carroll County), Madison (Madison County), Mosquito (Trumbull County), Nimisila (Summit County), O’Shaughnessy (Delaware County), Portage Lakes: East, Long, North, Turkeyfoot and West (Summit County), Paint Creek (Highland and Ross counties), Piedmont (Belmont, Guernsey and Harrison counties), Pleasant Hill (Ashland and Richland counties), Rocky Fork (Highland County), Rush Creek (Fairfield and Perry counties), Salt Fork (Guernsey County), Springfield (Summit County), Veterans Memorial (Hancock County) and West Branch (Portage County).
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Some people may ask “Why didn’t the Division of Wildlife put these crappie regulations on all lakes in the state?” Fish biologists sifted through data from crappie population surveys and angler surveys collected at nearly 100 lakes statewide to identify which lakes would best benefit from a size limit regulation. Reservoirs were considered good candidates for proposed length limits if crappie populations had: 1) few older fish, 2) fast growth, and 3) substantial fishing pressure. Hoover Reservoir and Piedmont Lake are perfect examples of lakes chosen for the 9-inch size limit. At these lakes, crappies reach 9 inches in just 2 to 3 years, but very few older fish are present because of heavy fishing pressure and extensive crappie harvest. In contrast, Burr Oak and Guilford Lakes were not chosen for the new regulations because they exemplify lakes where crappie regulations are not needed and would not improve the crappie fishery. In this group of lakes, old crappies are abundant because it can take as long as 5 to10 years for a crappie to reach 9 inches. Under these conditions, angler harvest of the abundant, slow-growing 7-8 inch crappies is not causing a problem. Research from throughout the Midwest on a variety of fish species has shown that if minimum size limits are used on slow growing fish populations, most fish die from natural causes before they ever reach the legal harvest size.
Another step biologists took when considering crappie regulation changes was to determine the desires of crappie anglers. A 2008 online angler survey indicated 81 percent of crappie anglers favored 9-inch length limits. Additionally, based on 2008 on-the-water creel surveys at 32 reservoirs, 81% of crappie anglers supported the use of length limit regulations when biologically appropriate. On-the-water creel surveys conducted at 15 reservoirs during spring 2009 showed solid support for daily crappie bag limits. Among 2,278 anglers interviewed, 80% favored daily catch limits. Anglers’ willingness to comply with new regulations is critical to the regulations’ success.
All crappie anglers should know how to properly measure a fish and the best techniques for releasing fish unharmed. Anglers will be required to release crappie less than 9 inches at the crappie regulated lakes. Measure fish with mouth closed and tail compressed to determine total length of a crappie. Increase survival of released crappie by landing fish quickly, reducing handling time, keeping fish in the water as the hook is removed, and cutting the line on deeply hooked fish.
So this fishing season, remember to check your fishing regulations before taking a fishing trip to determine if the numbers 9 and 30 apply to the crappie at your favorite lake. Additional information about the crappie regulations is available by contacting a fish biologist from one of the Division of Wildlife district offices in Akron, Athens, Columbus, Findlay and Xenia.