Crappie site fidelity.
Field Findings--Fish species that tend to spawn in concentrated groups and in the same areas each year, such as largemouth bass, walleyes, and bluegills, sometimes require special regulations to reduce harvest if exploitation is excessive. Recent research adds to evidence that crappies make this list.
Fish biologists used trap nets to collect adult crappies in a Nebraska reservoir in May of three successive years.* Fish were collected in the same five coves each year, tagged with colored tags specific to each cove, and then released. All coves had a loam bottom with similar substrate hardness. Almost 17,000 fish were tagged during the study.
Cove fidelity--the percentage of tagged fish that were recaptured in the same cove within and between spawning seasons--was studied. Although some crappies moved between coves (several fish moved almost 4.5 miles to another cove within the same spawning season), the majority showed cove fidelity. Sixty-five to 89 percent of crappies tagged in a cove were recaptured in that same cove during the same spawning season. Cove fidelity from one spawning season to another ranged from 47 to 92 percent.
This study showed crappies in this reservoir prefer spawning areas with high clay substrate and minimal silt, and that substrate compaction lower than typically considered optimal may be important in crappie spawning site selection. Even when similar substrates are available at multiple locations, crappies tend to return to the same cove to spawn each year.
These findings show that crappies may spawn in predictable locations each year, and that anglers should practice reasonable harvest rates during the crappie spawn. The . authors suggest habitat conservation for spawning coves where spawning substrate may be degraded through a reservoir's natural aging process.
* Fryda, N. J., K. D. Koupal, and W. W. Hoback. 2008. Abundance and cove fidelity of adult crappies during spawning seasons in a Nebraska irrigation reservoir. American Fisheries Society Symposium 62:587-594.