***Please keep in mind that this report is for the Kentucky portion of Kentucky Lake and does not necessarily reflect the makeup of the crappie population in the Paris Landing area. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will review the findings once the study is completed.
In response to the information that we have (trap netting data and anglersí opinions) the KY Department of Fish and Wildlife will be conducting an intensive crappie research project on Kentucky Lake throughout 2003.
This project has several objectives.
(1) We will tag 30 white and 30 black crappie with radio transmitters. We can then track these fish daily throughout the spawn and into the summer to determine their daily movement patterns in relation to weather, water changes (clarity, level, flow) and each other (i.e., are the whiteís doing the same thing as the blackís). This will help us understand some of what we already know, i.e., black crappie prefer clearer water with gravely bottoms, spawn in deeper water and slightly earlier than white crappie.
I should mention here, it is very important that if you catch a crappie with a very thin diameter (8 lb. fishing line) wire hanging out of its belly that you release this fish unharmed immediately. This wire will be about 12 inches long, so it should be very noticeable. If you happen to (by mistake I hope) harvest one of these crappie, please call the telephone number on the tag. This study is for the sake of all anglers, but we canít learn anything if the tagged fish get caught. If we get the tag back we can re-implant it into another crappie. But it will be best to just release the crappie if you catch one.
(2) We will floy tag (small plastic yellow tag) 750 whites and 750 blacks to determine exploitation (harvest). If you catch a crappie that has a small yellow tag attached in its back (near the base of the dorsal fin), please return the tag to claim your prize. This tag is worth MONEY. There will be a phone number on the tag to call, or you can use one of the return envelopes that we will place at many of the marinas and bait shops around the lake.
(3) The food habits (what are the crappie eating) of crappie will be looked at throughout the year to determine if there are differences between food habits of white and black crappie.
(4) We are asking several anglers that fish frequently for crappie throughout the year to keep an angler diary. This diary will be based on each anglerís daily fishing trip. It will be used to learn how many white crappie are caught compared to black crappie, and if there are any differences in habitat where fishermen catch the two species.
(5) We will conduct an annual creel survey on Kentucky Lake to collect angler data regarding all types of fishing. So this study will help us assess the crappie population, as well as, other sportfish populations in the lake.
(6) Finally, we will be doing some extra sampling (electrofishing and trap netting) in the spring. This will help us determine the accuracy of our annual fall trap netting data.
Since the mid 1990ís trap-netting data has indicated a change in species composition at Kentucky Lake. Prior to 1997, black crappie collected in trap nets made up only 18% of the catch on average. Since that time, black crappie have made up 72% of the catch on average.
Why the change? We know that black crappie prefer clearer water, which we have had in the past few years. Black crappie also prefer aquatic vegetation, which we have. So is this change in species dominance real? We hope to determine this and much more by doing some intensive sampling of the crappie population later this year.
Although trap-netting data suggested a change in species dominance from white to black crappie, the harvest during the 1998 creel survey did not show this change. Black crappie made up 12% of the crappie caught and 17% of the harvest. During the 1991 creel survey, black crappie made up 13% of the crappie caught and 16% of the harvest. So even though our trap nets were catching a higher percentage of black crappie in the late 1990ís, the anglers were still catching the same percentages of white and black crappie as they did when our nets were catching few black crappie.
Furthermore, in 2001 our trap nets on the average caught almost 5 crappie (>10 inches) per net night (we fish 20 nets for four nights, so we have an effort of 80-net nights). The average for the eighteen years of data is close to 2 crappie (>10 inches) per net night. So the number of crappie in the population is more than double the long-term average. But remember, the majority of these are blacks.
This data suggest that the
number of white crappie has declined, while the number of black crappie
has greatly increased. Our creel surveys showed us that very few anglers
caught black crappie. As a matter of fact, last spring (2002) most anglers
caught very few crappie of any color. Some may agree with this based on
their fishing last spring, but let me assure you that some of the poor
fishing experienced during that period was caused more by water clarity
(muddy water), water level fluctuations and cold fronts. So, if there are
really all these black crappie out there and nobody is catching them,
maybe we need to change the way we fish. Our fishing methods need to adapt
to the changing reservoir just as the fish populations have.
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