Illinois hunting and fishing

A hatchery truck is filled with small crappies raised in a rearing pond southeast of Lake Springfield Friday. Photos by Chris Young

DNR boosts Lake Springfield crappie population by 150,000

November 09, 2012 at 09:38 PM

With a few turns of a valve, water gushed out of a small pond, carrying with it more than 150,000 crappies to be stocked into nearby Lake Springfield.

Every couple of years over the past 25 years, fisheries biologists have drained the rearing pond, hoping that two dozen breeding-age fish placed in the pond a year-and-a-half earlier will have produced thousands of new offspring.

The small crappies, averaging 3.5 to four inches long, are intended to supplement natural reproduction in the lake and provide a bit of insurance that crappie fishermen will continue to have good luck in the coming years.

Over its lifespan, the pond has produced crappies, walleyes and bass.

The production of 150,000 small crappies was a record by far.

“Numbers-wise, it was the best we’ve ever done,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Dan Stephenson. The previous best was 77,000 crappies.

“I’d have rather had 75,000 at twice as big, but I’ll take it,” he said.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Getting the fish out of the pond takes hours, a crew with dip nets, and lots of patience.

Most of the fish wait to come through until the pond is almost empty.

“We had a whole bunch of fish come right at the end,” Stephenson said.

Fisheries biologists and hatchery personnel had help from City Water, Light and Power employees and volunteers from the Springfield Crappie Club.

“Twelve pounds of fish,” called out Herb Dreier, coordinator of DNR’s urban fishing program, as he weighed basket after basket of crappies before dumping them into hatchery truck holding tanks.

“Nine pounds of fish. Thirteen pounds of fish. Twenty pounds of fish.”

In all, 1,960 pounds of fish were stocked into Lake Springfield Friday afternoon.

Jerry Jallas of the Springfield Crappie Club said it is important for anglers to put something back.

“It’s real important,” he said. “It preserves (crappie fishing) for future generations.”

Stephenson said rearing ponds are not stocked with the usual balance of predator and prey species, like the average farm pond.

“At any of our nursery ponds, we put in only the species we want to raise so we don’t have to worry about predation,” he said.

“If it’s bass or walleyes we will feed them minnows. But with crappies, you don’t have to feed them anything.”

The pond environment provides enough insects and other food to sustain them.

“I just stock the breeders and come back in a year and a half,” he said.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

Illinois hunting and fishing