Smithville Lake crappie forecast improves | Outside

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The Missouri Department of Conservation has announced that changes to crappie fishing regulations at Smithville Lake have improved fishing conditions.

Eric Dennis, a fisheries management biologist, said the new crappie length and creel limit regulations at Smithville Lake are a good start. Anglers can now harvest 30 crappies per day, but no more than 15 crappies can exceed nine inches.

Previously, fishermen could only keep 15 crappies by 9 inches.

The change was engineered by conservation biologists to allow the harvest of more undersized black crappie fish while protecting the white crappie population.

White Crappie tends to grow faster and larger in Smithville Lake, while in years past, large numbers of black crappies were stunted and did not reach the 9 inch length limit.

The Missouri Conservation Commission approved the change in 2018, making this the second spring that anglers will have a good chance of catching crappie when they move close to shore to spawn.

“Fishermen harvested a lot of black crappie once the regulatory change was in place,” Dennis said. “But also, surveys of fish populations in the lake last fall showed an increase in the average size of black crappie. With less competition for food, black crappie can grow faster because there are more baitfish to eat and it has to expend less energy to obtain them.

He said that in October and November, fish populations showed noticeable growth.

Dennis said the Conservation Department has 30 years of fish population survey data for comparison.

Before the change, only 2% of black crappies sampled in fall surveys were 9 inches or more, which is a size that provides good nets for eating fish.

But last fall, it jumped to 39% of black crappies who were over 9 inches tall.

The size of white crappies has also improved.

Ministry staff have also checked anglers at the lake over the past year. They were catching a sufficient number of black and white crappies and fishermen have reported successfully fishing from the docks last winter.

“Most people seem to stick to the regulations,” Dennis said. “The people I spoke to who were fishing were very positive. They had black crappie and an eight and a half inch fish has a nice fillet. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out over the next couple of years. “

He said the white crappie had faint vertical bars on the sides as a color pattern. They have six dorsal fin spines. Black crappies are silvery with a color pattern on their sides which is mostly irregularly arranged dark spots and spots, not vertical bars. The dorsal fin has seven or eight spines.

Both species are among the most popular sunfish in Missouri.

Additionally, MDC’s MO Fishing app allows anglers to use digital devices to check regulations, find places to fish, and provide GPS coordinates for stuck brush piles in lakes that attract fish.

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