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Reducing crappie limit is good idea

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:18 PM

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is conducting its annual study of possible changes to the state's fishing regulations, and one that comes up every year is a proposed reduction in the daily crappie limit.

It's currently 30 in most Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee waters, with a possession limit twice the daily creel limit.

There is a 10-inch minimum size limit.

I don't hear much quibbling about the size limit, although there was some resistance initially. Any crappie under 10 inches isn't going to grease much of a skillet. Most fishermen seem agreeable to releasing the small ones to let them grow for another year.

However, I detect growing support for reducing the 30-fish daily crappie limit to 15, which it already is on some lakes.

Fifteen keeper crappie -- fish 10 inches and bigger -- is plenty for one person per day. And since most crappie fishermen fish at least two to a boat, they can bring in 30 fish a day between them.

That's more than enough for a meal, with some to freeze for later. Remember, even with a 30-fish daily limit, only a 60 can be legally possessed.

The argument against lowering the limit is that allowing a fishermen to keep only 15 crappie a day hardly makes a trip worthwhile, considering the cost of gas and gear.

But would keeping an additional 15 fish make much difference in terms of economic investment?

If someone's only interested in acquiring a fish dinner, he can get more for his money at a grocery store than on a lake.

The days of subsistence fishing and hunting are about gone. Fishing and hunting nowadays are more about enjoyment than filling a freezer.

A freezer full of prime venison or a platter of golden-fried crappie are nice bonuses for a day in the woods or on the water. But let's honest: for what it costs to harvest that venison or catch those crappie, we could buy a lot more grub at the grocery store.

Eating the wild game we kill and some of the fish we catch enhances the satisfaction and the appreciation of what we do, but the outdoors is no longer a public food pantry.

Back to crappie: they are prolific, but nevertheless in some lakes the TWRA has to do extensive stocking to replenish them.

Fishing pressure increases every year, putting more and more strain on a limited resource.

It's said that 90% of the fish are caught by 10% of the fishermen, and I figure that's pretty accurate. That's why I favor reducing the crappie limit to better share the resource.

Instead of one fishermen taking home 30 crappie, I'd rather two fishermen take home 15.

Some professional guides complain that crappie clients won't shell out big bucks if they can keep only 15 fish a day. But they don't have to stop fishing at 15, they just have to stop keeping them. Leave some for the next trip.

Fifteen good-sized crappie a day is plenty for any one person. That's two or three meals, depending on how big they are and how hungry he is.

If that's not enough, McDonald's serves a great fish sandwich, at half the cost.

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