We evaluated the potential effect of minimum size restrictions on crappies Pomoxis spp. in 12 large Tennessee reservoirs. A Beverton-Holt equilibrium yield model was used to predict and compare the response of these fisheries to three minimum size restrictions: 178 mm (i.e., pragmatically, no size limit), 229 mm, and the current statewide limit of 254 mm. The responses of crappie fisheries to size limits differed among reservoirs and varied with rates of conditional natural mortality (CM). Based on model results, crappie fisheries fell into one of three response categories: (1) In some reservoirs (N = 5), 254-mm and 229-mm limits would benefit the fishery in terms of yield if CM were low (30%); the associated declines in the number of crappies harvested would be significant but modest when compared with those in other reservoirs. (2) In other reservoirs (N = 6), little difference in yield existed among size restrictions at low to intermediate rates of CM (30-40%). In these reservoirs, a 229-mm limit was predicted to be a more beneficial regulation than the current 254-mm limit. (3) In the remaining reservoir, Tellico, size limits negatively affected all three harvest statistics. Generally, yield was negatively affected by size limits in all populations at a CM of 50%. The number of crappies reaching 300 mm was increased by size limits in most model scenarios: however, associated declines in the total number of crappies harvested often outweighed the benefits to size structure when CM was 40% or higher. When crappie growth was fast (reaching 254 mm in less than 3 years) and CM was low (30%), size limits were most effective in balancing increases in yield and size structure against declines in the total number of crappies harvested. The variability in predicted size-limit responses observed among Tennessee reservoirs suggests that using a categorical approach to applying size limits to crappie fisheries within a state or region would likely be a more effective management strategy than implementing a single, areawide regulation.
Additional publication details
Predictive evaluation of size restrictions as management strategies for tennessee reservoir crappie fisheries