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Anglers’ Discards Reveal Facts about Fishery

While collecting black crappie carcasses for research, biologists notice fishing trends at three camps on central Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes.

Cooler of carcasses

Every winter, seasonal residents flock to central Florida fish camps to relax with a rod and reel. Often the reason they come is black crappie: a reliable source of seasonal income for many local businesses and a sought-after species throughout the state.

Biologists with the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) study the crappie fisheries in the Harris Chain of Lakes and other lakes in central Florida. To aid in the management of these lakes, biologists place coolers at fish camps and ask anglers to discard carcasses of filleted crappie in them. Several times a week from January to March, biologists return to the fish camps to exchange coolers and take carcasses back to FWRI's Eustis Fisheries Research Lab in Lake County for measuring and analysis.

Data gathered from 2009 through 2011 were recently analyzed for the crappie harvested from lakes Dora and Griffin in the Harris Chain (Tables 1 and 2). Reported carcass lengths reflect what anglers caught and kept for fillets.

Table 1: Black crappie harvested from a fish camp on Lake Dora

Year # Sampled Avg. Length (in)
2011 580 11.47
2010 894 11.73
2009 489 11.52

Table 2: Black crappie harvested from two fish camps on Lake Griffin

Year # Sampled Avg. Length (in)
2011 666 10.27
2010 1,122 10.46
2009 1,345 10.40

The data do not mean that the fish are necessarily smaller in Lake Griffin, but show that crappie anglers on Lake Griffin tended to keep smaller fish. The smallest recorded was 7.78 inches, an inch and a quarter smaller than the smallest from Lake Dora, 9.03 inches. However, Lake Griffin anglers also harvested the largest single fish each year--just over 15 inches, an inch larger than the largest on Lake Dora.

Biologists also observed differences between the two fish camps on Lake Griffin, designated "A" and "B."

  • Fish camp "A" had an average crappie length of 10.61 inches, compared with 10.24 inches at fish camp "B."
  • Anglers at fish camp "B" tended to keep crappie about one-third of an inch smaller than at fish camp "A" and 1 inch smaller than at Lake Dora.

Researchers are not sure why differences have developed at the three fish camps. The reason may have less to do with the crappie than with the anglers catching them.

The FWRI biologists at the Eustis Research Lab thank the anglers who participate in these carcass studies for sharing information that can benefit Florida's native sport fisheries and the angling communities that depend on them