Stakeholder Engagement Vital in the Creation of a Black Crappie Management Plan
By Amber Nabors
Few sights evoke the excitement of Florida fishing more than a johnboat bristling with cane poles and loaded with anglers stocking their coolers with tasty “specks”. The black crappie, also known as the “speckled perch,” is second only to largemouth bass among the Sunshine State’s freshwater anglers. These fish make the city of Okeechobee the self-proclaimed “Speckled Perch Capital of the World” and attract vacationing tourists during the peak winter fishing months. Whether you swear by Missouri minnows or prefer marabou jigs, this popular game fish seems custom-made for creating great fishing memories with your family and friends—and providing a great meal together afterward.
In managing important Florida species such as black crappie, the Florida Fish and Wild- life Conservation Commission (FWC) strives to involve folks who we call “stakeholders” in the process of developing management strategies for their local resource(s). Stakeholders are individuals or groups who are significantly affected by or who significantly affect wildlife or wildlife management decisions or actions. It is our belief that we cannot be truly successful in completing fisheries management projects without stakeholder input and support. Stake- holders played a significant role in our Black Bass Management Plan and recently, their feed- back is being incorporated into our new Black Crappie Management Plan (BCMP).
A goal of the BCMP is to use existing scientific information and stakeholder input in the development of priorities and strategies that maintain or enhance black crappie fisheries in Florida to meet the needs of current and future stakeholders. Stakeholder input during this process is extremely valuable to us, and we want folks to know that we truly take each suggestion into consideration and use their input to create a better management plan. We recognize that our stakeholders have just as much passion for Florida’s fisheries as we do, and we are always proud to work alongside such involved and invested stakeholders.
Black crappie fisheries have highly variable spawning success and very dynamic populations, are typically harvest oriented, and have historically been managed to prevent overfishing through harvest regulations (e.g., size and bag limits). But, beyond these harvest regulations, there has been relatively little directed management for this species in Florida when compared to largemouth bass.
Therefore, the BCMP is being created by FWC staff from multiple divisions and offices, and with input from a wide range of stakeholders to provide the best direction for management and research for this popular game fish. The actions that the FWC will take to effectively manage black crappie fisheries throughout Florida include regulation review and consideration, collaborative habitat management, addressing research needs, engagement with stakeholders, and recruiting the next generation of “speck” anglers. These action items will be incorporated into FWC workplans to increase participation in black crappie fishing and expand Florida’s reputation for providing excellent black crappie fishing opportunities. The draft BCMP can be reviewed in full online. The final copy of the BCMP will be available at the above link in the Fall of 2019.