Can Crappie Be Overfished When Fishing in a Responsible Manner?
When you check your local fishing regulations and note that often crappie have what seems like a high catch limit, frequently around 25 per day or even no limit in many cases, you wonder how the fishing can handle that.
Overfishing is definitely possible when dealing with fish such as bass, catfish and trout. This could make you wonder, Can crappie be overfished as well?
Yes; Crappie can be overfished just like any other species. However, in the case of crappie which lay up to 20,000 to 30,000 eggs per spawn this is not as critical an issue. Crappie begin to mature and can reproduce at about 6 inches, so take only those fish larger than 9 to 10 inches to maintain a healthy population.
What Is Overfishing and How Likely Is It to Affect Crappie?
Overfishing is the removal of so many of a population that they cannot reproduce which leads to them being wiped out. This can affect other species in addition to the overfished species due to food chain issues.
Overfishing most often occurs in public waters and is commonly seen in commercial fisheries that are not properly maintained. When dealing with game and sport fish though it occurs when large numbers of anglers harvest a particular fish from the same body of water.
One example of this was the heavy fishing of Striped Atlantic Bass which resulted in the need for additional restrictions on fishing in order to restore their population.
When considering species that normally become overfished most often it is bass, catfish and trout that come to mind. That is because these species reproduce at a much lower rate than most panfish.
For instance largemouth bass may only on average about 4000 eggs per pound of weight, catfish around 3500 per pound and rainbow trout less than 3000 eggs.
Crappie on the other hand can lay up to 20,000 eggs for black crappie and 30,000 eggs for white crappie. This leads to much higher numbers of smaller crappie and a greater chance that they will reach adulthood.
Thinking of that lets do some quick math. Assuming 10 adult crappie or five mating pairs. You have 5 crappie * 20,000 eggs or a total of 100,000 eggs. If only 1 out of 100 of those mature to adults you are now dealing with 500 mated pairs. 500 crappie * 20,000 eggs and you have over 10,000,000 million eggs.
With those numbers here is hoping that the survival rate is far below 1% or instead of an overfishing problem you will be dealing with an overcrowded problem. This overcrowding of crappie is frequently seen when crappie are introduced into ponds.
What Causes Crappie to Become Overfished?
So if crappie reproduce at such high rates, what can cause them to become overfished?
Crappie are a food source for some species of bass such as striped bass in particular. High populations of striped bass or hybrid bass can result in a reduction of mid-sized crappie. If you coupled that with a large number of anglers taking mid to larger crappie then the numbers of crappie could begin to dwindle.
However, this tends to only occur in those waters where crappie fishing is extremely popular. It is rarely a problem in smaller private sections of water and often crappie can begin to overpopulate if not harvested on a regular basis or if there are not sufficient predators to curb their numbers.
Potential Solutions for Can Crappie Be Overfished?
In larger public waters local authorities, namely the DNR or Department of Natural Resources, will periodically assess the availability of various species and decide if regulations are necessary.
Should they determine the population is reaching a low level they may institute minimum size restrictions, catch limits or even a ban on keeping a certain species.
Some locations in the country have instituted a restriction on crappie and you should check your local laws just to be sure. It is also possible that a restriction may only apply to a single body of water.
In some cases, you may find that the loss of crappie is not due to anglers taking too many fish, but instead due to a larger abundance of predators consuming them. In these cases a reduction of the predatory fish may be necessary.
In this case, a higher catch and removal of species such as bass and even some types of catfish, may help allow some crappie to reach adult age and reproduce.
Conclusion: You Shouldn’t Worry Too Much about If Can Crappie Be Overfished, in Most Cases It Is a Non Issue
While it is possible to overfish crappie, in most instances this is a non issue due to their high spawn rates. Local DNR staff will monitor the various fish species in public waters and periodically change catch rates if necessary. In smaller ponds, crappie normally tend to overpopulate and frequent catches help to remedy this.