Is live sonar technology detrimental to the crappie population? By live sonar I’m referring to Lowrance ActiveTarget, Garmin LiveScope, Humminbird MEGA 360 and the soon to be released Humminbird MEGA Live. This technology is fairly new being released around two years ago; forget the Garmin PanOptics that was just a pre-release of the current Garmin technology.
Management issues for state conservation departments are now feeling the strain under the rising population of crappie anglers due to Co-Vid and more anglers targeting crappie because of live sonar technology. In general few crappie live more than 3 or 4 years, however, depending on conditions up to around 8 years. Plus crappie populations are cyclical creating even more of a challenge for conservation departments.
But the question is does live sonar technology have a negative effect on crappie populations? How are anglers and guides going to self regulate the number of crappie they keep if they target only the bigger crappie. Will the state conservation departments be proactive to decrease limits or implement slot limits?
The list of questions goes on and on. Unfortunately, the answer is not going to be simple or implemented quickly by state conservation departments.
Economics also plays a major part in the live sonar electronics debate of good or evil. I talked with four individuals about how this issue is playing out and how it’s affecting their income. Keep in mind that if the crappie population plummets due to poor spawning conditions or over harvesting these individuals could be out of a job.
“Any type of technology can be used or abused regardless if it’s a flasher, side imaging, down imaging, MEGA 360 or live sonar. Fishermen as a community, a group will have to come up with a plan to make sure the crappie population will survive in order to maintain a healthy population. Without fish anglers aren’t going to buy lures and if that happens fishing tackle companies will go out of business,” said Mitch Glenn owner of PICO Lures (www.picolures.com) and national sales manager for other popular fishing related brands.
Fishing guides take clients out to make a living, however, conservation also plays a major part in maintaining a healthy fish population.
Beaver Lake Crappie fishing guide and PICO Lures Pro Staffer Greg Robinson (www.gregsguideservice.com) not only guides, but also installs electronic units has seen a trend in popularity in live sonar technology for crappie fishing over the last two years. Even expensive units are being rigged on low priced boats.
“I don’t know if it is hurting the population of the bigger crappie, however, people aren’t releasing them. It’s straight to the cleaning table. Nevertheless, I don’t think that it is hurting the overall population on Beaver Lake,” said Robinson.
“I think it will definitely impact the crappie population. Technology is allowing more anglers to catch more fish. Some places are being over fished and the big crappie over fished. I don’t know what we are going to have to do. Slot limits, lower limits, We need to push conservation and police ourselves,” said Bobby Garland Pro (Bobby Garland(R) – Brands) Tim Howell.
Howell noted that anglers catching a trophy crappie should release it if they were not going to have it mounted. Being a guide, Howell has to balance harvesting crappie when taking out clients and conservation. Most clients fishing for crappie aren’t releasing them until they get their limit.
“Live sonar is the best and worst thing to happen to crappie fishing. Crappie fishing has grown in popularity and the internet posts are everywhere exposing lakes to excessive pressure that some can’t handle to maintain a healthy crappie population,” said Howell.
Howell and some other guides in Mississippi did meet and talk about what could be done to maintain the crappie population. This was a step in the right direction noted Howell.
“Right now on Lake of the Ozarks the crappie population is really good. We have had several years of productive spawns so there are lots of different class years of crappie. As long as we keep having productive spawns I don’t think live sonar makes that much of a impact,” said Bobby Garland Pro and Humminbird pro staff Terry Blankenship.
Blankenship believes that crappie get wise to getting caught and to lures. “After they get caught once or twice on a certain lure or lure color pattern they start figuring out that a certain lure results in a quick commute to a boat or a more fatal results in hot oil,” he said. “I do believe a length limit would cut down on over harvesting and keep a healthy population of crappie in lakes.”
In the end these guides and lure company owner know that to stay in business and keep the sport of crappie fishing growing it will take a combined effort between anglers and state conservation departments. Is live sonar detrimental to crappie populations and trophy crappie? It can be if anglers over harvest or remove an entire trophy class size of crappie from a reservoir.