Two years ago Andy Fanter had a private pond filled with tiny black crappie. Catches of 100-plus in a few hours were common but the fish were barely seven-inches long and gave fillets that were potato chip thin.
But rather than toss them back to “grow bigger,” Fanter kept every small crappie he caught. His wife, Erin, did the same as did the friends Fanter took to his lease west of Kingman.
Fanter cleaned more fish some weekends than many avid anglers do in a year. Many fish fries held by friends were totally supplied with bags of thin fillets.
But that was back then.
Wednesday morning four of us ice-fished the pond and pulled about 70 crappie between 10 and 12 inches through holes in the ice. And the fish were ultra-fat. The fillets literally held twice as much meat as those from the pond two years ago.
The better crappie are the result of a careful management by Fanter. He used several tools.
Most importantly, he wanted to greatly reduce the overall number of crappie in the pond. The fewer the fish the more food that would be available. As it was, the fish were mostly stunted because of a lack of nutrition.
As well as catching and cleaning a few thousand tiny fish Fanter made sure the pond had good populations of such great predators as largemouth bass and wipers. Some were already in the pond and some he added.
A biologist by education, Fanter also had gizzard shad added to the pond to create a better forage base for all fish.
As well as the nice-sized keepers, Wednesday Fanter and friends caught at least two other year-classes of crappie from four to eight inches. Such populations of varying sizes is a sign of a healthy pond.
“The fishing’s slower than it used to be,” Fanter told a friend. “You don’t catch them about every cast but you can still catch a lot of fish.”
And they’re certainly fish worth catching.