I normally write about college or professional sports here but occasionally I pontificate about the outdoor sports like hunting and fishing. Today I want to take a minute to take exception to something I read online from a Weiss Lake page. I have a place on Weiss Lake. Nothing fancy, just a beat up old fish camp with a boat dock.
Today I read on a Facebook page a group calling for all fishermen to release any crappie they catch in late march when the females have eggs in them and are ready to spawn. There were even some wanting it be made illegal to keep crappie caught in late March. Are you kidding me? Really? While I get that this sounds like a noble call at face value, let me explain a few things here. There are two kinds of people fishing for crappie on Weiss Lake for the most part. People who own, rent or least property on the lake with docks to fish from and those who come to the lake with boats to fish the lake. Now, that is not to say that many people with docks do not ALSO have boats and fish from their boats as well. BUT, a lot of the folks with docks spend a lot of time and resources sinking trees or other attractors around their docks for the purpose of crappie fishing from their dock. And many of us can’t even get out boats out of our boat docks in January and February when the bulk of the female crappie are being harvested. While it is possible to catch the occasional crappie from these docks throughout the year, there is actually only a two or three week span when these fish can be caught from the docks in any numbers. That’s right, the last few weeks of March or early April WHEN THE FISH COME IN TO SPAWN.
Many of these people do not live on the lake. They work all week and come to the lake on weekends. Which means they have six to eight days when they are there to fish from their docks and can actually catch crappie. Meanwhile, people come from all over the country on week long vacations throughout late December, January, February and early March and troll for the crappie when they are bunched on ledges preparing to come to the shallows for the spawn in spring. There are also a large number of guides who spend all week taking groups, sometimes two groups in one day out all week long to catch crappie. Before the spawn these people load up on limit after limit of the fish. The bulk of this fishing takes place from late January to mid-March. If you don’t believe just go to Facebook or google Weiss Lake Guides and you will see the pictures and read the descriptions of the limits of fish their customers caught. When the fish start moving into the shallows to spawn these same folks anchor their boats around the trees people have put around their docks and fish all day long. I know, because I’ve gone to my place during the week and watched them. I’m not faulting them as long as they don’t interfere with me when I’m on my dock trying to fish. It’s an open lake so people can fish where they want. Of course, by this point the crappie population has already been dramatically reduced. I only bring this up to make a point.
Last spring I fished virtually every weekend during the spring crappie run. The grand total of crappie that I cleaned from everyone who fished my dock for the entire run was 42 fish. The year before I cleaned 47. Most guides clean that many for their customers nearly every day they go out. As do a majority of those who come to lake for vacation. Yes, some of the fish I cleaned had eggs in them. Too bad. They were no more likely to spawn than ANY female crappie caught from a boat for the two months leading up to the spawn. They just got closer to the date. You have no problem with the thousands of female crappie caught by the customers of guides and visitors to the lake but you want me to put back the handful of females I catch from my dock because it happens to be the couple of weeks right before the spawn. I want to point out again for the slow thinkers in the audience that approximately half of the fish kept in the months leading up to the spawn would have ALSO laid eggs if they were released. They weren’t.
Telling people that fish their docks that they shouldn’t keep crappie caught the ONLY time they can really catch crappie from their dock is unrealistic and in my opinion asinine. It’s well intended but poorly thought out. If you want to protect the numbers of crappie in Weiss Lake you WILL NOT succeed by trying to get people to release females with eggs. The ONLY way to retain crappie numbers would be to reduce the creel limit year-round. It is currently 30, reduce it to 20 and enforce it and you will maintain higher crappie populations on the lake. Of course, nobody wants to do that because it might have a detrimental effect financially on the guides, hotels, bait shops and restaurants in the area. Fine, but don’t come to me and tell me I shouldn’t keep the few dozen crappie I clean every year while ignoring the thousands of females caught and harvested by boaters in the two months leading up to the spawn. This is like telling hunters they cannot shoot any does after the rut because they are probably pregnant. It is a senseless effort that makes you feel like you are doing something but will have minimal if any effect on the overall population. Nor do I think it is fair. That’s my opinion. You are welcome to disagree but I will not be throwing back crappie just because they look like they might have eggs in them.