Home Forums Fishing Panfishing How to fatten up crappies????

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  • Avatarbbump
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    My brother caught a 16″ crappie last year from a pond that had not been fished for 15 years. I stored it properly and got it to the taxidermist (frozen) after a couple weeks. This took place back in December. It was long, but paper thin.

    This pond is about an acre. It is 6-10 feet deep, but mostly 6 feet. We have caught some 20+ inch bass out of it. Lots of tiny blue gills through the ice.

    The taxidermist called me yesterday and mentioned that the fish had no meat on it. When he went to skin it, the meat was adhered directly to the ribs and he could not get it to come off. He also said that the guts were about a 1/3rd of the normal size.

    We put our heads together and can only explain this as the crappies are starving. The bass are big and healthy because tehy are eating the little blue gill.

    Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? I am wondering if there is a way I can get some type of feed to give to the crappies. I would like them to gain some size, but at the same time, it is sad to think they are starving themselves.

    AvatarCRIA1576
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    Mature crappies are very efficient and voracious predators in their own right. A 16″ crappie’s diet is actually going to be very similar to the bass that are also in the pond. The 10″+ bluegills will also compete for the same forage.

    If the crappies and larger bluegills are both skinny and short in numbers, there may be too many bass in the pond. The panfish could be struggling to compete with their larger rivals. If the bass numbers are out of balance in comparison to pan fish, it will be difficult to grow thick crappies and gills. You may want to think about either harvesting some of the bass to equalize the ratio or purchase more bait. You can get thousands of fat head minnows stocked into the pond to increase forage for all of the fish. However, the ratio of bass to pan fish will still be out of wack.

    Just my $.02

    AvatarDaver
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    Post count: 404

    Not with crappie, but with bass…we were fishing a pond years ago that was loaded with bass and also catfish. Both were easy to catch, but strangely, both species of fish appeared to be very stunted in their growth. Looking at the cats we had on the stringer, it looked like we had reeled in a bunch of “heads”, with fins. The bodies were 1/2 of normal size per their heads. We tried to clean some of those cats and there was precious little meat to be had. We later learned that the pond owner did not want any minnows in the pond, so there weren’t any, and I don’t know how those fish survived, but they were SKINNY.

    I would look into getting some fathead minnows in that pond, after clearing it with the owner of course.

    Avatarjereseib
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    A crappie that big should be able to feast off baby gills. I caught my biggest crappie, a 17.5 incher on a squarebill crank while bass fishing. Only thing I could suggest is stocking some minnows in the pond if they arent in there already.

    lunker99lunker99
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    Post count: 120

    Did you catch any other crappies to compare? Sometimes it’s just an older fish going down hill.

    AvatarMichael Weber
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    No offense to the other responses, but I wanted to clarify some misinformation on this thread.

    First, stocking minnows will not provide a good prey source, has the potential to introduce unwanted species (e.g., bullhead, carp, and green sunfish primarily), and is not recommended. The minnows that are stocked will all be quickly consumed and will not establish a population. Thus, unless you have an unlimited budget and can add 100s of minnows daily, it will not help.

    Second, if you are catching few bass but they are big and fat, you do not have too many bass in the pond, but instead not enough, and the ones in there need to remain. This is likely the case if you are catching lots of small bluegill.

    Crappies are rarely a good idea in small (<20 acre) ponds. They typically become very abundant, only reach small sizes, and compete with and prey upon the bass (which might be why there are not many in the pond).
    It is hard to provide accurate advice on how to manage the pond without a proper fishery survey, but a safe piece of advice to get the crappie under control while helping the bass and bluegill is to release every bass caught in the pond while keeping every crappie that you catch.

    If you are located in central Iowa, I may be able to look at the pond for you (just PM me). Otherwise, there are several private pond consultants throughout the state that I'm sure would be willing to help.

    Best of luck!

    AvatarBrad Phillips
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    I know guys around here that buy minnows in bulk from Hank’s, gallons of bait in oxygen rich bags.

    But, as has been mentioned I think “proper” pond management has to be handled on a case by case basis…

    For instance, one of the stocking guys around here preaches no structure ???

    Avatarbbump
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    Post count: 490

    Quote by: CRIA1576

    Mature crappies are very efficient and voracious predators in their own right. A 16″ crappie’s diet is actually going to be very similar to the bass that are also in the pond. The 10″+ bluegills will also compete for the same forage.

    If the crappies and larger bluegills are both skinny and short in numbers, there may be too many bass in the pond. The panfish could be struggling to compete with their larger rivals. If the bass numbers are out of balance in comparison to pan fish, it will be difficult to grow thick crappies and gills. You may want to think about either harvesting some of the bass to equalize the ratio or purchase more bait. You can get thousands of fat head minnows stocked into the pond to increase forage for all of the fish. However, the ratio of bass to pan fish will still be out of wack.

    Just my $.02

    I like that thought and I agree. Late last fall, we were taking the bass that were keeping the bass that were less than 5 pounds. I appreciate your input.

    Avatarbbump
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    Post count: 490

    Quote by: lunker99

    Did you catch any other crappies to compare? Sometimes it’s just an older fish going down hill.

    Yes we did. It was a mistake we even found them. We were targeting bass all summer and my brother decided to try for crappie. We caught 10 that were between 12 and 16 inches. All of them super thin.

    Avatarbbump
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    Post count: 490

    Quote by: Michael+Weber

    No offense to the other responses, but I wanted to clarify some misinformation on this thread.

    First, stocking minnows will not provide a good prey source, has the potential to introduce unwanted species (e.g., bullhead, carp, and green sunfish primarily), and is not recommended. The minnows that are stocked will all be quickly consumed and will not establish a population. Thus, unless you have an unlimited budget and can add 100s of minnows daily, it will not help.

    Second, if you are catching few bass but they are big and fat, you do not have too many bass in the pond, but instead not enough, and the ones in there need to remain. This is likely the case if you are catching lots of small bluegill.

    Crappies are rarely a good idea in small (<20 acre) ponds. They typically become very abundant, only reach small sizes, and compete with and prey upon the bass (which might be why there are not many in the pond).
    It is hard to provide accurate advice on how to manage the pond without a proper fishery survey, but a safe piece of advice to get the crappie under control while helping the bass and bluegill is to release every bass caught in the pond while keeping every crappie that you catch.

    If you are located in central Iowa, I may be able to look at the pond for you (just PM me). Otherwise, there are several private pond consultants throughout the state that I'm sure would be willing to help.

    Best of luck!

    Yes, I am in central Iowa and I really like the points you make. I really didn’t find much interest in stocking minnows. I had been searching around online and found actual 25 pond bags of crappie food. I thought about getting a feeder and trying to have it auto feed.
    I have always heard that a pond will either have thriving crappie and bass, but it cannot sustain both.

    AvatarCRIA1576
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    Post count: 581

    I have always heard that a pond will either have thriving crappie and bass, but it cannot sustain both.

    In small ponds (<2 acres), this may be the case. However, generally this has not been my experience in medium-larger ponds. One of the best ponds in this area is around 10 acres, and you can easily catch 50-100 bass from 2# and larger on an average morning or afternoon. This same pond supports thriving populations of 12-15" crappies and 10-12" bluegills. This pond is surrounded by CRP and has 2 small feeder creeks. The maximum depth is around 12'.

    When i suggested possibly stocking minnows for feed, I did not mean to going to the bait shop for 10# of minnows. I would agree with the other poster that this approach would increase the risk of stocking unwanted species. However, there are professional fish stocking outfits in the state that can provide only fathead minnows and other forage fish varieties. I did a very cursory search last night, and a 1 acre pond could be stocked with 10# of fatheads once per year to supply adequate food for predator species.

    I think the risk with using a dry "crappie" food is that non-target species may also eat it. In other words, similar to an aquarium at home, I would suspect all of the fish species in the pond would eat the feed, including small bass, bluegills, and any catfish that may be in the pond. I would just hate to get my hopes up with an approach like this.

    You mentioned the pond has a population of 12-15" crappies. It may be most efficient to consider using minnows to maximize the availability of forage for predator fish of this size. This could benefit the body condition of the fish you are targeting fastest. While you will certainly compete with the bass, predation from small gills and crappies should be reduced as compared to the dry product.

    One poster already mentioned that you should be taking every gill and crappie you catch out of the pond, no matter the size. I agree with this approach, and the last I knew the IADNR also supports this recommendation. If they are too small to eat, you can use them for a variety of other uses including excellent garden compost.

    Avatarbbump
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    Quote by: CRIA1576

    I have always heard that a pond will either have thriving crappie and bass, but it cannot sustain both.

    In small ponds (<2 acres), this may be the case. However, generally this has not been my experience in medium-larger ponds. One of the best ponds in this area is around 10 acres, and you can easily catch 50-100 bass from 2# and larger on an average morning or afternoon. This same pond supports thriving populations of 12-15" crappies and 10-12" bluegills. This pond is surrounded by CRP and has 2 small feeder creeks. The maximum depth is around 12'.

    When i suggested possibly stocking minnows for feed, I did not mean to going to the bait shop for 10# of minnows. I would agree with the other poster that this approach would increase the risk of stocking unwanted species. However, there are professional fish stocking outfits in the state that can provide only fathead minnows and other forage fish varieties. I did a very cursory search last night, and a 1 acre pond could be stocked with 10# of fatheads once per year to supply adequate food for predator species.

    I think the risk with using a dry "crappie" food is that non-target species may also eat it. In other words, similar to an aquarium at home, I would suspect all of the fish species in the pond would eat the feed, including small bass, bluegills, and any catfish that may be in the pond. I would just hate to get my hopes up with an approach like this.

    You mentioned the pond has a population of 12-15" crappies. It may be most efficient to consider using minnows to maximize the availability of forage for predator fish of this size. This could benefit the body condition of the fish you are targeting fastest. While you will certainly compete with the bass, predation from small gills and crappies should be reduced as compared to the dry product.

    One poster already mentioned that you should be taking every gill and crappie you catch out of the pond, no matter the size. I agree with this approach, and the last I knew the IADNR also supports this recommendation. If they are too small to eat, you can use them for a variety of other uses including excellent garden compost.

    Thanks for the feedback. We have been taking every fish. The biggest issue is that it is just a small, old pond. Seems there should be no fish in it, but for some reason they are stacked. Just trying to balance it out for the future.

    Avatarkenhump
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    Post count: 12770

    Is there any structure to shelter baitfish? If you need to dispose of some gills check to see if a local wildlife rehabilitation facility could use some.

    AvatarDaver
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    Post count: 404

    Quote by: CRIA1576

    I have always heard that a pond will either have thriving crappie and bass, but it cannot sustain both.

    In small ponds (<2 acres), this may be the case. However, generally this has not been my experience in medium-larger ponds. One of the best ponds in this area is around 10 acres, and you can easily catch 50-100 bass from 2# and larger on an average morning or afternoon. This same pond supports thriving populations of 12-15" crappies and 10-12" bluegills. This pond is surrounded by CRP and has 2 small feeder creeks. The maximum depth is around 12'.

    When i suggested possibly stocking minnows for feed, I did not mean to going to the bait shop for 10# of minnows. I would agree with the other poster that this approach would increase the risk of stocking unwanted species. However, there are professional fish stocking outfits in the state that can provide only fathead minnows and other forage fish varieties. I did a very cursory search last night, and a 1 acre pond could be stocked with 10# of fatheads once per year to supply adequate food for predator species.

    Agreed. I also did not suggest going to a local bait shop for regular minnows. That is why I said fathead minnows, I should have also said to get them from a fish supplier so you don’t risk getting unwanted rough fish. Suffice to say, there are different opinions on crappies in ponds, minnows, etc. and difference of opinion does not necessarily mean that there is misinformation being provided. Another good resource to check with is PondBoss.com.

    As for me, I not only stocked a quantity of fathead minnows in my pond, I also purposely created habitat for them to spawn successfully, so there is viable population of them. Check with others to be sure, but stocking fathead minnows is not a radical thing, or even a mistake in my opinion. Good luck.

    AvatarHugeRod
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    Post count: 213

    I would like to put my own personal experience into a response for your problem. The only time crappies will hurt a pond, is when they are stocked prior to a healthy population of bass. If a pond is 1 acre, or 20 acres makes no difference, period. Throw away your DNR textbooks, experience is always your best teacher.
    We’ve been stocking ponds this way for 40 years and have had no problems. Crappie populations are typically boom or bust, you never know what kind of spawning weather you will get, from one year to the next.
    Perch are another specie you can add, although you will be hard pressed to get a good population of them in a pond with a healthy bass population.
    Back to your thin crappies, sounds like they need more food, but would think they could get all they need with a healthy bunch of bluegills. Crappies generally will not eat snails, so that is eliminated from the menu. Small crappies eat the same as other panfish, but you say that the big ones are thin. A cousin of mine stocks mud minnows in ponds, and they do just fine, as long as they have enough shallow water, and weeds to escape in. He has also tried the bagged feed, but all the fish become accustomed to meal time, and even big cats will surface to get at the bagged stuff.
    Without seeing the pond, it’s hard to make a good recommendation, shallow water weeds, watershed type, fishing pressure, structure, all play a role in success or failure.
    For now I’ll tell you good luck, and hope you can get things going in the right direction,
    Rod

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