I’ve touched on this subject in the past, this is really a huge issue for me and many others. What do we want to see our panfish populations look like in 20 years? Are we to leave it up to our Department of Natural Resources, or can we show some self control on what we want to take home to eat, or release to swim again?
There have been plenty of studies on what affects the size of bluegills in our lakes that revealed plenty of theories. Is there enough forage in the lake to support growth of these fish? Are the lack of sizable pike and their downfall playing a roll in the matter? A couple of there studies have shown that largemouth bass play an important roll in keeping the numbers of smaller bluegills down. Ultimately though, it comes to over harvesting larger fish, bringing buckets of large fish home to eat makes sense right? I mean heck, they have more meat on them and they are pretty easy to catch once you find a school of them. This is where we have the chance to make a difference for our future anglers.
Ask anyone that fishes with me how many fish I keep, and how many big pie plates and slab crappies I have let go. Don’t get me wrong, I do love taking enough for a meal home every now and then, but we need to think of the size structure of the fish we are taking home. That goes for any species, you don’t see folks bringing home 30″ walleyes and 40″ pike back home to fillet up and eat. So why are we keeping the 10″ bluegills and 14″ crappies for a bath in crisco?
I’ll admit when I was younger it was more of a pride thing. Let’s see who can bring home the most and the biggest fish!! Until I started fishing with folks that were letting these fish go, and explaining to me the reasoning behind their craziness…. Yeah craziness, that’s what I thought. What the heck are we even out here for if we can’t go home and show off our catch? But it was those folks that set that the fire in me, they made me realize that we are the stewards of our lakes. Those of us that are practicing selective harvest need to stand on a mountain top and let it be known that if we don’t start having more self control, and being more selective on what we want to harvest, we are going to lose those great opportunities of being able to land a trophy caliber panfish.
Ok, stepping off the soapbox! But please take this advice and realize that we are responsible for the success of our future anglers.