By angelamontana

Posted: November 20, 2023

Nearly 10,000 hatchery-reared white crappie stocked at TRR

MILES CITY – If all goes well, anglers could reap the benefit of experimental crappie production at the Miles City Hatchery, after stocking of 9,800 hatchery-reared white crappie at Tongue River Reservoir on Oct. 10.

The crappie population at the reservoir – particularly white crappie – dropped significantly in 1996 when the reservoir water level was reduced to rebuild the dam. Crappie numbers increased slightly the first two years after dam repairs were completed in 1998 but have   steadily declined since. The dam rebuild added four vertical feet of water, created a new high-water mark and changed the fish habitat in the reservoir, which has not  stabilized yet.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff are trying to establish a crappie brood population at the Miles City Hatchery to eventually allow annual stocking of crappie at the reservoir. Overall crappie goals for the reservoir are to improve crappie abundances, sustain the popular crappie fishery and bolster the forage base for other predatory species. If a crappie brood can be established, both white and black crappie would be stocked when annual trend sampling at the reservoir demonstrates low natural recruitment and crappie abundances are below 11.6 fish per gill net, as outlined in the Statewide Fisheries Management Plan.

The four-inch-long, hatchery-reared, white crappie stocked at the reservoir are the first since 1990. It started with the collection in October 2022 of 100 adult white crappie at Spotted Eagle Pond in Miles City. The fish were over-wintered in the hatchery building, and 36 survivors were transferred to an external hatchery pond in late April to spawn on their own. The pond was drained Oct. 9, and to the delight of fisheries staff, they had 9,800 young-of-the-year crappie, which were stocked at the Pee Wee Point boat ramp at Tongue River Reservoir.

“Kudos to hatchery staff for their willingness to assist with establishing a crappie brood for the state’s and anglers’ needs,” said regional fisheries manager Mike Backes.

Thirty of the adult white crappie brood originally placed in the pond in April were also collected and transferred to another hatchery pond, where they will remain until next spring. They will be utilized again for spawning in hatchery ponds in 2024.

In October, Fisheries crews also collected 109 white crappie and 73 black crappie, average length 5.5-6.5 inches, from four fyke nets set overnight at Spotted Eagle Pond. They will add to next spring’s brood fish at the Miles City Hatchery. They were released into half-acre hatchery ponds to over-winter and will be relocated to 1.5-acre hatchery ponds in April to allow space for spawning and rearing. Offspring would be targeted for Tongue River Reservoir stocking in October 2024.

According to Backes, each fyke net at Spotted Eagle also included 100-200 young-of-the-year crappie (predominantly whites) that averaged 3-4 inches long, demonstrating a very successful spawn in 2023. There were also two noteworthy-sized black crappie, one at 10 1/8 inches and another at 14 inches, which were released back into Spotted Eagle.


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