Although crappie is a popular sport fish, they can be challenging to manage.
For example if trophy largemouth bass is the goal, crappie is not recommended for stocking in ponds. They are notorious for stunting. According to “The Crappie Fishing Handbook” by Keith Sutton, a female crappie can have 180,000 eggs. Because of their relatively large mouth, young crappies soon switch from a diet of invertebrates to small fish, and can out-compete bass for forage. Great crappie/bass ponds do exist, but a good balance is difficult to sustain.
Even in larger bodies of water, crappie can be difficult to manage. There is a reason Oklahoma allows 37 per day. Also, pay close attention to length limits to help fisheries managers reach goals of happy anglers with each body of water.
Fishing regulations aren’t the only management tools for crappie.
Last April, we visited one of our favorite farm ponds and about every other bass we caught that day had a small crappie tail sticking out of its throat. These predators seemed to be successful at utilizing small crappie as a forage base. However, with a fluctuation in the vegetation type or quantity, or harvesting of the wrong size of bass, the population structure could be thrown off balance and make recovery of quality size fish difficult.
Some local lakes stock saugeye to help control the stunted crappie population. Further north, muskellunge may do the trick. Knowledge about these predator management tools can lead to a great bonus opportunity for the angler. If you are catching stunted crappie every cast near a brush pile, keep in mind that the next “log” you snag may just be a big ol’ management tool.
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Oklahoma. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.