I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how great of a Crappie lake Rend used to be. Rend is a 19,000 acre lake in Southern IL. Surrounded by trees and Buck Brush it has everything for strong spawns. We have stump rows, standing timber, rip rap, lay downs, stake beds, brush piles, bridges and lots of humps and channels. Fifteen years ago we had a great limit in place that would allow for the few Crappie anglers (before Crappie fishing went crazy) to harvest the small fish to allow for more growth for the bigger ones. Our limit is 25 fish/ person and only 10 fish can be over 10′ long. yes its kind of confusing. So that means lots and lots of fisherman are keeping 7,8, and 9 inch Crappie. That was great when there were only a hand full of Crappie fisherman on the lake.
Now fast forward to the present. Crappie fishing has become extremely popular (which is a great thing) and there are from 5-7 times the fisherman harvesting Crappie from the same 19,000 acres. Now we have the introduction of side scan, seminars, social media and just all around better equipment. Anglers are far more educated at finding the hiding spots of big Crappie and figuring out how to make them bite. Every good stump row, stake bed, and brush pile now has a boat sitting over the top of it. Every Spring the best bushes on the lake gets beat by many good Crappie fisherman/ day. There is nowhere for these fish to hide and we are taking out thousands of these 7-9″ fish on a daily basis. What do you think the odds are of a Crappie making it to 14″ now? Very slim.
I remember when I started guiding how much fun and rewarding it was to show a group how enjoyable it was to catch 100 fish a day. We always threw back the small ones and only kept what we could eat. There were so many days we could sit on that perfect bush or stake bed and catch 20-40 keepers on a jig. Feeling the thump that many times in a day is what made me so passionate about this sport.
Those days are long gone. First off, no I am not a biologist and may not understand the balance between microorganisms and how phytoplankton react to the suns rays on a beautiful Spring day. However, as guides we spend at least 200 days/ year on the water and I can tell you the lake is in bad shape.
Most lakes in the country have a a minimum length limit protecting the future supply of the lake. Imagine how effective it is to not harvest a fish under 10 or 12″. No matter how much pressure the lake gets, you will always have a large number of fish above 10′ that will continue to grow and spawn.
We have talked to our Biologist till we are blue in the face and there are no changes on the horizon. I guess when they start to notice the decline in revenue (money matters right) maybe someone up top will start to pay attention to the wee fisherman. Don’t give up on Rend Lake, there are still some good fish left to be caught, but we definitely need to speak up and try to get a more conservative, common sense limit in place so we can get our great fishery back the way we remember it. A 15 fish limit above 10″ is a very common limit across the country for a reason. It works!
Thank you all very much and remember to take a kid fishing! Andy.