Crappie connoisseurs living near Cheney, Chelan and Kent could be catching their quarry close to their casas in a couple years if a plan cooking in Olympia comes off.
Fishery managers are considering trucking $30,000 worth of juvenile fish up from an Arkansas grower as part of an new experiment in stocking the species.
A decision is expected within a month.
If it’s a go, a total of 70,000 to 80,000 black crappie from 21/2 to 31/2 inches would be released into Downs, Wapato and Sawyer Lakes, at a density of about 75 fish per acre.
The lakes were picked for their generally smaller size, growth potential, existing but limited crappie populations and geographic spread.
Biologists would monitor angler catches to see how many marked fish turned up in the creel over a period of years.
“It’s our best chance to figure out if we can do this in Washington,” says warmwater program manager Bruce Bolding.
Past stocking efforts have been more “shotgun” in nature, Bolding says.
Funding would come from the warmwater program budget and be in place of money that would otherwise be used to raise crappie fry at one of the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s hatcheries, he says.
Bolding says that’s had inconsistent results — too many and too small fish, or big but few fish.
A related drawback for the species in Washington is that, well, we’re Washington — fairly high latitude, short growing season, not many minnows — it’s not too difficult to grow crappie to 7 or 8 inches, but to get them much past that mark requires a switch in their diet to other fish.
“We don’t have the gizzard shad of the Midwest,” acknowledges Bolding.
But if the new take is approved and works, it could be expanded to other waters eventually.
In other warmwater news, a planned for repeat of last year’s stocking of 50,000 channel catfish into 30 Washington lakes has been postponed until next spring, he says.