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The New Year Offers A Few Changes

It’s been a bit since we all shared a few moments on the weekend. As with just about everything to do with 2020, the last month really took its toll on this old stump-sitter. As one of the local folks who tested positive for COVID, 14 days in the house is a long time, followed by a trip to the ER to uncover the worst. It seems that somehow I had gotten a case of post-COVID pneumonia that really made things interesting. They found both my lungs had a few blood clots in them, which is a rough way to finish off 2020 and begin 2021. After a week in an Erie hospital, I was sent home to finish my recuperation until mid-February. As the New Year dawns over the view, I began to realize just how lucky I am and how much we have to look forward to.

Well so much for what is happening with me.

The world has really changed a bit in the past few weeks. We all have a new president, COVID is still in the headlines, deer season is over and we finally are getting a little winter weather, which means ice is starting to form and folks are catching panfish.

New York State DEC is looking at the statewide panfish season regulations and offering some changes. Bluegill, pumpkinseed, redbreast sunfish and crappie-black crappie, and white crappie are widespread and abundant throughout New York and are very popular with anglers. These species generally provide harvest-based fisheries and there is concern that current harvest regulations could result in overharvest and lead to less than ideal size structures and lower quality fishing.

Recently the DEC Bureau of Fisheries has developed a draft called the Sunfish and Crappie Management Plan that seeks to balance conservation and fishing opportunities for more sustainable fisheries in waters across the state. The draft plan also proposes development of destination fisheries for larger-size sunfish and crappie through the “Big Panfish Initiative.”

The draft plan takes into consideration both the current science on sunfish and crappie management and the opinions of New York anglers to set management objectives. Results from an online angler survey indicated support for more conservative sunfish fishing regulations. Recent research on the impacts of sunfish and crappie harvest regulations indicates that lowering daily harvest limits or increasing minimum size limits can result in improvements to population size structure which is likely to improve fishing sustainability and quality for these species.

Here are a few of the highlights from SCMP:

Reducing the sunfish statewide daily harvest limit from 50 to 25 fish; increasing the crappie statewide minimum-size limit from 9 to 10 inches; establishing the Big Panfish Initiative, which includes implementing an 8-inch minimum size limit and a daily harvest limit of 15 for sunfish in the following waters: Blydenburgh Lake (DEC Region 1), Lake Welch (Region 3), Canadarago Lake and Goodyear Lake (Region 4), Saratoga Lake (Region 5), Sixtown Pond and Red Lake (Region 6), Cazenovia Lake and Otisco Lake (Region 7), Honeoye Lake (Region 8), and Silver Lake (Region 9); implementing a 12-inch minimum size limit and a daily harvest limit of 10 for crappie in the following waters: Blydenburgh Lake (DEC Region 1), Muscoot Reservoir (Region 3), Saratoga Lake (Region 5), Delta Lake (Region 6), Cazenovia Lake and Otisco Lake (Region 7), Waneta/Lamoka lakes and Honeoye Lake (Region 8), and Bear Lake (Region 9); and evaluating the impacts of these fishing regulation changes to sunfish and crappie population structure and through periodic checks of anglers.

These changes seem harsh, but if you take a minute and look at the overall picture of the SCMP, it seems that the state has selected the above fisheries as “trophy” lakes, for better choice of words. If pan fishing is something you enjoy, imagine in a few years having a lake within a few hours drive to go chase trophy size panfish. Sounds like a winner to me.

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