LAKE PLACID-Anglers targeting black crappie on Lake Istokpoga are doing a good job protecting the fishery, according to a three-year study conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The study was in response to angler concerns that declining catch rates during the past several years might mean the popular panfish was being overharvested.
"Black crappie populations, also known as speckled perch, are highly cyclical and have boom and bust years," said Bill Pouder, FWC regional freshwater fisheries administrator, in a news release. "Because of this fact, it can give anglers the distinct impression a lake has been overfished. However, this study provided an opportunity to ensure that previous studies were still valid and to learn more about the lake's crappie fishery, and it yielded some interesting results."
During the study, accomplished with help of local volunteers, the FWC tagged and released 600 crappie and conducted angler surveys.
Survey data were collected from anglers about:
the average length at which anglers decided to harvest crappie,
growth rates from captured tagged fish,
size and age at which crappie spawn and
angler catch and harvest rates.
Crappie anglers on Lake Istokpoga are effectively regulating themselves, the study found.
"The results showed anglers were fishing as if there were a 9-inch minimum size limit, with 91 percent of the fish harvested being 10 inches or greater. Another piece of important information from the study: Crappie in Lake Istokpoga spawn at about 8.8 inches in length or at 3 years of age -well below the size at which anglers harvest them," the news release adds.
This information was obtained from anglers whose catches were documented at fish camps and through tag returns.
The data also verified information previously obtained from a 2011 opinion survey, where 81 percent of the anglers interviewed said they didn't keep crappie less than 10 inches in length.
The study indicates more restrictive harvest regulations would not necessarily improve the black crappie fishery on Lake Istokpoga but neither would they hurt, Prouder said. Regardless, FWC biologists will continue to monitor the crappie population on the lake to see if more restrictive regulations are needed and will continue soliciting angler input.
Anglers interested in commenting about black crappie size restrictions on Lake Istokpoga may voice their opinions by email to Bill.Pouder@MyFWC.com or by calling the FWC Southwest Region office at 863-648-3200.