While fishermen struggle to find keeper crappie at some of Mississippi’s historically slab-producing lakes, state wildlife officials are taking steps to promote good fishing.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks recently proposed to uniform the limit for all four North Mississippi Flood Control Reservoirs operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Fishermen would be limited to only 15 fish per day and all crappie under 12 inches would have to be released under the regulation approved by the MDWFP Commission. On boats with more than two anglers, the limit would be 40 per boat per day on Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid and Grenada lakes.

“Maybe it will help, maybe it won’t, but it sure can’t hurt,” said Bill Thomas of Southaven, a longtime Sardis fishermen who is having his worst year ever. “I struggled all through the spawn period and now I can’t find any on the open water where I have always trolled. 

“When I average five fish per day during the spawn and fewer than five trolling, I can tell you something’s not right.”

The problem, biologists say, is that none of the lakes have had good spawns in recent years. Because the four lakes are flood control lakes, the water levels can vary as much as 25 feet in the spring. A sudden rise and fall during the spawn can have a dramatic impact on the productivity.

“This year, during the spawn, it was so sporadic we couldn’t even find brood fish for our hatchery,” said former MDWFP fisheries chief Ron Garavelli, who now oversees the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery at Enid. “It was just a bad spring, and that’s been the case up here at these lakes for a while. Good spawns have been rare.

“I know what the fishermen are saying and I share their pain,” he continued. “I haven’t had a good fishing trip this year, either.”

A bad spawn can affect a fishery for years, seemingly as if an entire year class is missing in the population creating gaps in the length frequency. The big problem at the four flood control projects is that there have been several years of inadequate spawning by crappie. 

“We had the fish from the last good spawn reach the 12-inch range about a year ago and they’ve been all we had,” Thomas said. “Once that group is gone, we’re going to be short on keeper fish. The reduced limit should help.”

Another regulation change on the lakes is a three-pole per angler limit.

For a complete look at the proposed crappie changes in Mississippi, read "Changes proposed for crappie limits."

The public has until June 21 to comment on the proposed changes. Send comments to in writing to MDWFP Fisheries Bureau, 1505 Eastover Dr., Jackson, MS 39211, no later than June 21.