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Small crappie draw big fines

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:18 PM

A few under-sized crappie cost two fishermen $3,218 as the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency continues to take a hard-line approach to enforcing game and fish regulations.

Nooga Outdoors reports that the crappie bust occurred at Watts Bar Lake, where TWRA officers came upon two fishermen cleaning their catch at a marina. They found that at least eight of the crappie did not meet the 10-inch minimum required by TWRA regulations.

The two East Tennessee fishermen were cited and subsequently found guilty. Their fines and court costs totaled $3,258.

The 10-inch minimum size rule applies to crappie caught on Middle Tennessee lakes, including Old Hickory and Percy Priest. There are also minimum size limits for largemouth and smallmouth bass, sauger and walleye.

It is the angler’s responsibility to measure each fish before keeping it to make sure it is a legal size.

There is also a daily limit on the number of crappie that can be kept. That daily limit varies from 15 in some areas to 30 on most Middle Tennessee waters. Lake-by-lake regulations are listed in the Tennessee Fishing Guide, available for free at most outdoors outlets.

There is no size limit on white bass (stripe), but there is a daily limit of 15 per angler. In March four fishermen below Cheatham Dam were caught with 360 stripes over their combined legal limit of 60.

The illegal fish cost of the Nashville men over $2,000 in fines and court costs.

In many cases involving such violations, the offenders’ defense is that they were not aware of the regulations. At one time that often resulted in leniency by the court, but more and more the TWRA has convinced judges to issue substantial penalties.

The TWRA believes such high-profile cases draw attention to the fact that game and fish laws are rigidly enforced, that violations will result in severe penalties. The Agency says that will serve as a deterrent to other potential poachers.

There is a purpose behind all game and fish regulations. In the case of the crappie minimum length, the TWRA wants to allow the smaller crappie to grow bigger and therefore make better use of the resource.

Daily creel limits are in place to protect a species from over-harvesting and to more equally distribute the fish among more anglers. In the case of the four fishermen who kept 360 white bass over the limit during the spring spawning run, they not only depleted the population in that area, they also deprived fellow anglers of several dozen legal limits of fish.

Fishermen who object to any of the regulations can voice their opinion by contacting the TWRA Department of Fisheries at the agency’s Nashville headquarters. However, once the regulations are in place, all fishermen are required to abide by them whether they agree with them or not.

Disagreement with the law – like ignorance of the law – is not a defense that holds up in court.

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