Is There Anything That Can Be Done About Crappie Overpopulation In A Lake Or Pond?
When it comes to crappie overpopulation there are four things you can do:
- Provide More Significant Cover
- Remove The Majority Of The Crappie
- Add A Substantial Influx Of Predator Fish
- Completely Start Over
It doesn’t take very long when fishing to figure out whether a pond or lake is overpopulated with crappie or bass. Make a few casts out, if you quickly catch three or four of the same fish within ten casts and they’re all small (about the same size) then you likely have a problem!
I’ve fished in both scenarios. In one situation I fished an old farm pond in Hamilton County Illinois. Every cast to every other cast we threw we caught what I swore had to of been the same fish. It didn’t matter what bait you chucked out there, a fish would grab it on the fall. It seemed like they’d never eaten before!
Another time I went to a small two-acre pond near Zeigler Illinois. I had been forewarned by my physics teacher to expect a lot of small crappie as they had over ran his in-laws pond.
Even after experiencing a devastating cold front in March, every single cast either landed a 5 to 6″ crappie, or at least a bite as many couldn’t get the bait in their mouths!
What Causes Crappie To Overpopulate A Small Lake?
Take a simple ecosystem, what do you have? There’s algae, plankton, bait fish, game fish, and predator fish…
Like a good chain link, each one serves an important purpose. Take away the plankton, you’ll lose the bait fish… Won’t be long before you’re down to just the largest fish in the lake which will turn cannibalistic and eventually weed themselves out.
Crappie are the middleman in the chain, but also have another distinction. They prefer the exact same food source as bass thus competing and depleting. Combine the fact that crappie lay up to eight times as many eggs per female and you could soon find your ecosystem chain broken.
What Steps Can I Take To Correct A Crappie Overpopulation?
Depending on which stage your lake is in, there are definitely ways to reverse and rebalance your system to where crappie will grow and flourish. We will take a look at those now.
Provide More Significant Cover
If your pond or lake lacks cover and structure needed for healthy baitfish populations then you’re going to quickly run out of food to go around for bass and crappie. You can definitely add minnows to your pond and save money by purchasing per pound but yearly stockings is not going to solve the underlying problem. Eventually you’ll either forget to stock them or get lazy and before you know it, nothing but small crappie will flourish!
Bait fish can only swim so close to the bank until they have to retreat, especially when cold temperatures come in and they must take their chances out where their predators are. Providing abundant structure throughout a pond will help keep several of the baitfish alive and allow them to reproduce year after year. The more structure, the better your population of bait will be.
Remove The Majority Of The Crappie
This can be a fun way of thinning the herd. If possible take a child you want to introduce to fishing as they will have a blast, not caring about the size of the fish but more the action!
Don’t think that you can go out and catch a couple of hundred of fish out and be ok. A crappie can lay between 25 and 40 thousand eggs which brings me to my next point. Remove the crappie in March when crappie will soon lay their eggs!!!
Try to get ahead of them if possible!
Don’t think for a second, you’re wasting fish by removing them. You can still eat them whole or make an amazing crappie chowder out of them. If you don’t want to fool with them, then add the crappie to your garden. They make incredible plant nutrient and breakdown rather quickly.
Add More Predator Fish To Your System
Crappie have natural predators in the form of Bass, Flathead Catfish, and Blue Cat Catfish. If you can safely transport them to your body of water, then this could be a great way to get your crappie under control.
Bass in the 12 to 15″ range are the best feeders when it comes to crappie. At some point though, the crappie will be depleted, and you’ll have a problem with bass populations, so structure is still key!
It’s also possible to drawdown your pond to force the crappie into a bottleneck making easy pickings for the predators.
Completely Start Over
If you think your pond is beyond redemption or you just don’t have the time to personally fix the issues then you’re better off draining the pond and starting over.
Doing so will allow you to easily go out and place cover wherever you see fit. You can create the perfect ecosystem and within a few years harvesting nice fish from your lake. I would only do this as a last resort though.
If you find yourself in the position of having stunted crappie populations in your lake understand you’re not alone. People often complain about the size of fish in their lake not knowing it’s just fell out of balance.
Use the tips above and you will get back in balance and not have to travel far to catch some large crappie!