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Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologists are pondering whether to increase creel limits on crappies at Lake Shelbyville.

Mike Mounce, biologist at the 11,000-acre reservoir, said the move is being considered that would let anglers keep more crappies, including a few under the current length limit of 10 inches. No rule change would go into effect before at least April 1. The current rules are 10 fish daily, with each one at least 10 inches or longer.

Mounce said a review of current rules came after complaints over the past few years from anglers who said they were not catching as many legal crappie at the lake as they had in past years.

Earlier surveys indicated the growth rate for white crappies was on target. Fish reached the 10-inch limit in about 2½ years, he said. However, after the complaints Mounce used other more accurate techniques which revealed the fish were taking about four years to reach the legal limit.

"That's about six months to a year longer than what I'd like to see," Mounce said.

In addition, an abundant number of black crappies, which are far more numerous than the white crappie, are growing so slowly that most don't reach the 10-inch mark, he said. For example, surveys found about 34 percent of the white crappies were over 10 inches but only 1 percent of the black crappies reached 10 inches and it was taking six years for them to reach that length.

A rule change would allow anglers to harvest more fish from the population and reduce food competition among the crappies, Mounce said.

Mounce has visited with lake guides and angling clubs for input on the proposal. He does not know what the new rules will be. The goal is to fashion a regulation to achieve a faster growth rate and allow anglers to enjoy the tasty food crappies provide.

Fine-tuning a crappie population is not easy, Mounce said.

"This is a problem with crappies. They have large population shifts. One year the regulation might be appropriate and the next year it's not," he said.

Stay tuned.

Muskie die-off

IDNR biologists also are taking a look at a larger-than-normal spring die-off of muskies in the Kaskaskia River below the Lake Shelbyville Dam.

The cause is unclear, but speculation centers on unusual weather in Central Illinois during the spring. Water temperatures hovered at the spawning temperature for the fish for longer than usual. That fact might have caused more stress on the fish than they experience during most years. More stress weakens the fish and makes them more vulnerable to diseases.

Mild weather earlier in the season also meant fishing pressure in the spillway was intense. More released fish may be dying from injuries caused by poor release techniques. The spillway, which holds the current state muskie record at 38½ pounds, is popular.

"This is not an unusual occurrence. We generally lose some after the spawning season," Mounce said. "But, this is exceptionally heavy this year."

Tournament notes

- Rusty Naggle and Zeke Yoho won the with a five-fish limit weighing 18.07 pounds won the Ron Ward Memorial Scholarship Tournament sponsored by the Champaign-Urbana Bass Club at Lake Shelbyville on June 3. Brian Plank and Ron Houser were second with 16.55 pounds. Third place was Todd Bates and Darren Gates weighing 15.37 pounds. Money raised goes to fund bass research for the Illinois Departnment of Natural Resources.

- Mike Weisenburger and Robert Cannady won the Cabela's King Kat Tournament Trail on the Mississippi River at Quincy on Saturday with 87.50 pounds, including big fish of the event at 34.80 pounds.

- Travis Boley and daughter Victoria Boley from Weldon won the Fishers of Men Legacy event at Clinton Lake Saturday with a limit weighing 12.97 pounds. Jeff Cooley and daughter Taylor Cooley were second. Steve Grubb and son Kasey were third.

- Two teams from the Mackinaw Valley Bass Club based in Bloomington placed second and third in the Illinois Bass Federation two-day team event on the Mississippi River Fort Madison, Iowa, last weekend. In second place was the team of Joe Snyder, Jerry Martoglio, Loren Peters, David Hunt, Randy Ferguson and Tim Fauth. In third place was Glen Lynch, Larry Russell, Steve Anderson, Bob Thompson, Michael Hunt and Scott Anderson. Steve Anderson also had big bass of day two of the event.

Scott Richardson is Pantagraph outdoor editor. Phone (309) 820-3227 or email srichardson@pantagraph.com Read past outdoor and fishing columns or take part in online discussions at www.pantagraph.com/blogs.

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