Response of the Crappie Population to Regulatory Changes in Kentucky Lake, Kentucky: A Case History

The objective of this case history was to document the response of the crappie (Pomoxis spp.) population at Kentucky Lake to restrictive harvest regulations. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, crappie abundance declined due to poor recruitment and high mortality during severe drought years. A tagging study estimated minimum exploitation at 45%. Following the drought, restrictive harvest regulations (30 fish creel and 254 mm minimum length limit) were implemented to reduce exploitation, and subsequently increase survival of crappie from age 1 to age 2. Annual survival of these smaller crappie, determined from cohort analysis, was increased from approximately 21% to 48% following implementation of restrictive regulations. Abundance of adult crappie increased following the restrictive regulations. Recruitment variability was not affected by the restrictive regulations, and probably was affected more by environmental changes. Mean lengths of age-2 crappie declined from 252 mm preregulation to 236 mm postregulation. Angler acceptance of the 254 mm minimum length limit has been good. However, if the growth rates continue to decline then a less restrictive minimum length limit might be appropriate.

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