The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is accepting comments and suggestions from fishermen to take into consideration when regulations are set this summer, and I’ve submitted mine:
Cut the daily crappie limit from 30 to 20 in Middle Tennessee waters.
That reduction has already been made on Kentucky Lake and is expected to pay future dividends in terms of allowing more fishermen to catch fish.
“I totally support it,” says nationally prominent crappie authority Steve McCadams, who has guided on Kentucky Lake for almost a half-century.
“A 30-fish limit allows too many crappie to be taken out of the lake,” McCadams says. “In recent years we have started seeing a population decline.”
It would be wise to follow suit on heavily fished lakes like Percy Priest and Old Hickory for the same reason: over-fishing. During the prime spring months you can practically walk across many coves on jam-packed crappie boats.
Veteran Lebanon guide and retired fisheries biologist Jim Duckworth favors lowering the limit for the same reasons as McCadams.
“Nowadays there are not only a lot more crappie fishermen, but they are also better crappie fishermen,” McCadams explains. “Electronics can find the fish when they’re deep, and other modern gear give fishermen advantages that didn’t once exist. And nowadays, serious crappie fishermen fish year round. It used to be that most crappie were caught in the spring, but that’s not the case anymore; big catches of crappie are made year round by fishermen who know how to do it.”
That combination – a lot more fishermen catching a lot more fish – is taking a toll on the crappie population in heavily fished lakes. Even with the TWRA stocking fish to supplement natural reproduction, the crappie can’t keep up.
Since the number of fishermen is going to keep growing, the only solution is to reduce the number of fish they keep.
Most crappie fishermen fish two to a boat, so a 20-fish limit would allow them to bring in 40 fish per trip. Forty keeper-sized crappie is plenty. When fishing with a guide, the guide can also keep a limit. And they can go back the next day and catch more.
The possession limit is twice the daily limit, so even with a 20-fish limit two fishermen could stock 80 crappie in their freezers – plenty for a fish fry. They can always add a few cats, stripe or spots.
Nobody likes to eat crappie more than I, but the days of subsistence fishing are over. Bringing home enough fresh fish for a few delicious meals should be the goal, not loading up a freezer.
That’s my suggestion to the TWRA. Yours can be mailed to:
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
P.O. Box 40747
Nashville, TN 37204
Or emailed to: FishingReg.Comments@tn.gov
Deadline for submissions is April 23.