Crappie messages issued on invasive fish species

blackcrappieThe mixed messages about invasive fish species could not have been more evident than these summer of 2012 headlines from Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“A Popular Newcomer: Black Crappie,” trumpeted one headline in DIF&W’s weekly newsletter. “MDIFW Encouraging the Taking of Largemouth Bass,” headlined an agency press release.

The latter effort came after the discovery of illegally introduced largemouth bass in the Grand Falls Flowage. The “popular crappie” is also an illegally introduced species now found in more than 300 Maine waters.

“It’s very unfortunate that illegal stocking continues,” Commissioner Chandler Woodcock said in the press release, “and it’s time that Maine’s angling community takes notice.”

Well, I took notice of DIF&W Fisheries Biologist Jason Seiders upbeat newsletter article on illegally stocked crappie, in which he noted “Black crappie are a popular sportfish and panfish in their native range, which extends from Florida to the Great Lakes and many spots in between. In recent years black crappie have continued to be illegally introduced into Maine waters and are now widely distributed throughout central Maine.”

Seiders went on to help anglers with information on where and how to fish for crappies. “Region B now has 45 lakes and ponds with populations of black crappie,” wrote Seiders, “and likely several more that are yet to be discovered. While the black crappie is an exotic invader, it has been embraced by many central Maine anglers as a sportfish that makes excellent table fare.

“Waters such as Cobbosseecontee Lake, Herman Pond, and Unity Pond are now popular destinations of anglers seeking black crappie,” wrote Seiders. “These fish are usually targeted with live bait and small jigs and can be caught in large numbers in certain areas. Anglers fish for black crappie during the open water season and through the ice.”

To his credit, Seiders did note, “While some anglers enjoy this new fishing opportunity, the Department and many anglers remain concerned about the spread of this exotic species.”

Apparently not concerned enough to stop promoting the exotic fisheries.

Invasive nonnative fish and plants have changed my life. Some have changed things for the better, others not so much. DIF&W seems to feel the same way. They celebrate some illegally introduced species while urging anglers to kill others.

I once enjoyed spectacular landlocked salmon fishing on Long Pond in Belgrade Lakes, just 10 minutes from my home. Then some idiot dumped northern pike into the lake. These voracious predators have changed the lake forever. My salmon are gone.

On the other hand, I love fishing for nonnative smallmouth bass, a feisty jumper that has been spread statewide by angers (illegally) and by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (legally).

I’m not sure if Commissioner Woodcock recognized the irony in his press statement urging the killing of largemouth bass because they “could jeopardize one of the nation’s premier smallmouth bass fishing destinations.”

A few years before that press release was issued, a DIF&W fisheries biologist, on Belgrade’s Long Pond, caught five fish species in his nets one day – all illegally introduced to the water – and killed only one, the walleye. The rest he dumped back into the lake, including northern pike and crappie. And then he issued a statement predicting great crappie fishing there!

Clearly, he was making a judgment call that day. Some anglers might prefer walleyes to crappie. Maybe he should have killed the crappie and released the walleyes.

Very few seem concerned that smallmouth bass, a nonnative species, has turned into our state’s number one fishery. Twice as many bass are caught each year than our native brook trout, an astonishing fact. On the other hand, I have to confess that I enjoy photographing and eating the most invasive plant in Maine, dandelions.

We are conflicted about nonnative invasive species, both plants and fish. Some we love. Some we love to hate. Those we love are not often recognized as nonnative to our state. Those we hate are always referred to as invasive and usually as illegally introduced.

That’s crappy.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.