Outdoor writer and Magnolia Crappie Club Vice President Bernard Williams believes that high-tech, advanced electronics being used by crappie tournament anglers these days necessitates that tournament limits should be reduced to five fish rather than the standard seven fish that is in place on most tournament circuits. (Photo: Richard Simms)
EDITORIAL: Lower the Tournament Limit
by Bernard Williams
Crappie tournament anglers should be restricted to weighing-in a maximum of five fish
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an editorial opinion of Bernard Williams, a noted outdoor writer from Jackson, Mississippi. Williams is also the vice-president of the well-known Magnolia Crappie Club. Williams’ opinions do not necessarily represent the opinions of CrappieNOW Magazine or its staff.)
I recently read a couple of social media posts by friends and fellow tournament anglers. One post was about ways to keep big fish in the Big 4 Lakes in North Mississippi. The post was about self-imposed ideas that would allow the big fish to remain in the lakes, from tournament trails to crappie guides. Another article on Crappie.com was about the effects of the Garmin LiveScope on fishing and how we should take a photo of the big fish and release them back in the lake.
Both posts struck a nerve with me as an outdoor press professional – a subject I have written about many times during my journalism career and conservation. My first bite at this apple a few years ago caused a significant stir when I suggested that tournament anglers only use artificial lures. Boy, was that hard to swallow for some of the older anglers. It was like I was suggesting taking away their 2nd amendment rights. They varied from, “You have no right to take away my minnows,” to “You sound like a damn liberal.”
First of all, I need to give you some background on what has brought the conservation idea to the foreground so swiftly. I’ve long believed we needed more stringent regulations on our crappie fishery than what the fishery professionals were regulating. In the past, I allowed the scientist to do their jobs, and I stayed quiet. I can no longer sit back and let our resources get depleted.
Tournament fishing has changed drastically in the past few years due to advances in marine electronics. I’m referring to the introduction of the Garmin Panoptix to crappie fishing. For all of you that don’t know, Panoptix is an all-seeing sonar, unlike anything you’ve ever seen on the water. It gives you the ability to see all around your boat in real-time and in 3 dimensions. LiveScope, as it’s called, is an amazing tool for scouting and fishing out ahead of and around your boat. You’re looking at live, incredibly detailed images of structures and fish swimming all around your boat – up to 200’ – even while your boat is stationary.
Underwater cameras have long been banned in the tournament arena. For some reason, the Panoptix Sonar is not considered an underwater camera by tournament officials. In my opinion, LiveScope is more than a camera. Underwater cameras are only useful in crystal-clear water; LiveScope works with any water clarity. In the south, we have heavily stained water. Panoptix works even in saltwater.
Well, LiveScope is not what this article is about; I only mention LiveScope to familiarize you, my readers, with the effects the Panoptix Sonar has caused on the crappie and bass fishing world. Instead of fishing for big fish, it’s more hunting for big fish. It’s like sight fishing for spawning bass all year long, all the time. You remember casting to a bass guarding a bed over and over until it finally takes the lure.
I was taught in business that you need to bring a solution if you bring a problem to the table. Crappie tournament trails should set their weigh-in limit at five (5) fish instead of seven (7) fish.
Our tournament trail (the Magnolia Crappie Club) averaged 65 teams over our 2020 season. We fished ten (10) regular-season tournaments and a two-day championship tournament. If we weighed five (5) fish instead of seven (7) fish, we would have saved 780 crappie over 12-inches long. Considering 80% or more are female crappie, that is tens of millions of eggs removed for our lakes that could have been saved.
Each spawning black crappie female produces between 11,000 to 188,000 eggs, while each white crappie female produces 2,900 to 91,700 eggs. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Many tournament circuits actually allow anglers to carry more fish in the livewell than they are allowed to weigh in (provided they stay within the state-imposed legal limit). Anglers simply cull down to their tournament limit prior to carrying the fish to the weigh-in stand.
I like the rule the American Crappie Trail uses. ACT only allows eight (8) fish in the boat during tournament hours. Arkabutla, at one time, anglers could only have seven (7) fish in the boat on tournament day. I can remember throwing back 28+ fish over two (2) pounds because they wouldn’t help our weight.
I’ve been on the tournament scene for a while; when I first started, we were weighing ten (10) fish; before that, trails were weighing twenty (20) fish. It was like pulling teeth to get anglers to go to seven (7) fish. Let us self-impose these changes before it becomes mandatory or competitive fishing is outlawed completely. The bass and walleye fishermen showed us how to be an influential conservationist.
Change, for some anglers, is painful. It scares them to death. If we, as anglers, embraced the Panoptix technology so quickly, we should make the five-fish limit switch with open arms. We should demand our trails adopt this rule change.
Here’s another far-reaching idea. Why can’t we all get GoPro’s and film the weighing, measuring, and release of our fish as we catch them? Sports cameras in the boat would be a much more comfortable and cost-effective measure than placing marshals or spotters in each vessel.
The five-fish limit may help save our precious resources for our future generation. It’s a small price to pay for such an addictive pastime. Change is coming like a freight train; just don’t be standing on the tracks.
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We will share some of your opinions in the May Issue of CrappieNOW. Again, Williams’ opinions do not necessarily represent those of CrappieNOW Magazine or its staff.