Pondmeisters seldom talk about crappie battles on light tackle. They don’t get excited telling stories about crappie like they do big bass. But most love to eat them and want to stock some in their ponds.
For decades, fisheries biologists have tried to explain consequences of putting crappie in lakes smaller then 20-acres. Crappie are unpredictable spawners. They may reproduce this year, but not next. They spawn before all other fish and their babies eat other on-coming babies of other species as they are hatched. They completely overwhelm the food chain, near the bottom, by consuming tiny fish. That affects all other groups in the pond. It’s not a matter of if, but when crappie become the dominant species, then stunt at four or five-inches. All this is true. You’ll probably catch a few giant ones early and feel all is well, but at some point (heavy on the word some), black or white crappie in small waters will overpopulate, overeat the food chain, and stunt.
Fish farmers and biologists have been scratching their proverbial heads for years trying to figure out how to change this inevitable truth. How can an enterprising entrepreneur-ish fish guy beat the odds? Bobby Glennon at J.M. Malone and Son Fish Hatchery in Lonoke, AR, is a biologist on a mission. He knows tomorrow’s marketplace is clamoring for something different, something special.
While most hatcheries in delta regions of Arkansas and Mississippi are focused on traditional food fish or sportfish markets, Glennon is leading change among standards of sportfish production. He’s researching numerous fascinating projects including–hybridizing crappie.
Imagine, in a perfect fisheries world, a crappie that won’t reproduce and could be stocked in small waters. One that exhibits hybrid vigor and gets along well with other fish while testing anglers who dare dabble a Blakemore Roadrunner jig in shallows during Spring spawning runs. Imagine an oasis of beautiful barn door fish that won’t overpopulate. Before we get too excited, Glennon reminds a few caveats. Like hybrid sunfish featured in the December newsletter, hybrid crappie aren’t totally sterile. They reproduce, a little bit. Not nearly like pure parents, but they will reproduce. Glennon is striving to minimize or eliminate that issue. Even with some reproduction, bass can easily control those small numbers of potential baby crappie. Asked how big they can grow, he’s still studying that potential. He has learned they exhibit hybrid vigor (growing faster than parents). Translation? Given a strong food chain and time to mature, look for crappie bigger than two-pounds. One other point to consider. Being hybrids, they become a put-and-take fish. Stock some and grow them. Due to limited reproduction, plan to restock as harvest requires.
Glennon is excited about the prospects. We can see these fish opening new opportunities for folks who want to diversify their fishery or have a small pond they can successfully raise something other than traditional fish. With his passion for science and translating it to something productive under water, he may be onto something big…and tasty, especially rolled in corn meal and deep fried at 350-degrees.