It’s only natural. Hundreds of fishermen are catching hundreds of Lake D’Arbonne crappie day after day after day. The boats are so thick in some areas of the lake that it seems like you could “walk on water” from boat to boat. Then, you start to wonder, are folks catching too many? Is all this good fishing going to be bad for crappie fishing in the future? Who knows?
Well, if anybody knows, I’d say it would be West Monroe’s Mike Wood, head of the inland fisheries division of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and his staff. Mike has spent his entire life close to D’Arbonne fisheries — in his heart even when it wasn’t close to his home. He started his career on the ‘Bone and has a special place for it in his heart. So, we asked him the questions that others have been asking in emails, on fishing chat sites and at the launching ramps.
Bottom line is this: I have to admit. I have had the same concerns. As I said earlier, if you have witnessed this unbelievable fishing first hand, it is only natural. But there’s another way to look at it. Crappie fishermen should be celebrating this season a lot like LSU football fans would celebrate an SEC championship. Enjoy the success. Whoop it up. Get in on the action. And yes, be a good sport and save the little ones for next year…. In the end, I’m going with what Mike says.
Mike Wood: “As a fisheries manager, I have to say that I’m very proud that D’Arbonne anglers are able to enjoy the great fishing we have now. I understand that anglers want to protect a resource we all value so highly. So we’ll continue to use the tools we have to monitor D’Arbonne Lake. If we see a threat, whether in the form of over harvest, water fluctuation, or anything else, we’ll be quick to recommend necessary action.”
Here’s the whole Q&A I had with Mike this weekend. It should make you feel better:
QUESTION 1: With the extreme cold weather and the crappie being ‘hemmed in’ in deep water on D’Arbonne, do you think the excessive number of fish being caught for three months in a row will have a negative impact in the future?
ANSWER: “It’s true that there are lots of crappie in deep water. It’s also true that lots of anglers have enjoyed good success. But, we shouldn’t ignore the following: 1. We have cold weather in North Louisiana every year; 2. Crappie concentrate in the deep water of D’Arbonne Lake every year; 3. D’Arbonne anglers enjoy good fishing in deep water every year. And… it’s just as predictable that, every year, some of the most well-meaning sportsmen in northeast Louisiana will voice concerns of negative impact from excessive harvest. I respectfully disagree and I partially base that opinion on the fact that hundreds of happy anglers are out there now. Wintertime crappie fishing on D’Arbonne Lake didn’t just start to be very popular.”
QUESTION 2: Do you think that overfishing has to some point, been detrimental to the population of really big fish that the lake has been famous for, but seem to be lacking the last few years?
ANSWER: “We’ve been hearing concerns of overfishing for quite a number of years now. LDWF has used that time to conduct extensive sampling of the D’Arbonne crappie population and D’Arbonne anglers. So, it’s with a high degree of confidence that I can say that overfishing is not occurring and that D’Arbonne Lake is not suffering from lack of large crappie.”
QUESTION 3: Is great crappie fishing cyclical in nature anyway, and Mother Nature will take care of it despite what we do?
ANSWER: “Crappie populations are cyclic and there’s no doubt that we’re on a peak. Enjoy the blessing we have now. The current abundance of crappie started with a great spawn 2-3 years ago. It’s important to know that a good spawn has far more impact to crappie populations than hook & line harvest. We’ll need to be very mindful of that when the new tainter gates are opened up for “flood control”.
QUESTION 4: When the weather changes and the water warms (like now), will it be a quick “hit the shallows and spawn and get the heck out of there” spring for the white perch on D’Arbonne this year?
ANSWER: “The spawning behavior of crappie is a simple reaction to weather and water level conditions. We simply can’t predict those things. However, I can predict that the spawning period will start soon, peak in March, and that some crappie will still be spawning through the end of April.”
QUESTION 5: For at least 60 days, there have been at least 150 fishermen on the lake. That’s 9,000 fishing “hits”. If each fishermen averaged conservatively, 10 fish per trip, that’s almost 100,000 crappie caught. In reality, it’s been more like 100 days and most people seem to be catching more than that. What is the impact?
ANSWER: “Those numbers seem scary until you consider that D’Arbonne Lake is a 15,000 acre impoundment that’s very conducive to crappie production. Harvested fish are replaced each year by recruitment from a healthy crappie population in good habitat. D’Arbonne Lake has matured very gracefully. The current open-water type ecosystem is more conducive to open water forage (shad and silverside minnows) than it once was. That type of forage base supports the abundant populations of crappie and channel catfish that we now associated with D’Arbonne Lake.”