Cecil

Producing my first crappies

29 posts in this topic

As some of you know, I have four ponds on the property where I either hatch various species of gamefish or grow them out to large size, upon which I sell and ship them to fellow taxidermists whole frozen across the U.S. I train them to feed on pellets as it's more efficient and easier than using live feed, and I get much faster growth than natural feed. I.e. I can produce bluegills to 8 inches in a year when in the wild it takes about 5 or 6 years. With yellow perch I can produce 7 to 9 inch yellow perch in a year when it takes up to 8 years or more in the wild.  After the fingerlings are seined from the hatchery pond and feed trained they are overwintered indoors in an RAS tank. 

 

This year I hope to add a new species: The Black Crappie. (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) 

 

Here are pictures of two of the brood fish 10 to 12 inches I caught on hook and line from a small lake within 5 minutes from the house. (Legal in my state of Indiana as long as I have a fishing license and follow all fishing laws and don't actually sell the brood fish).  A very attractive fish IMHO. Top fish is a female, and the bottom fish is a male. The males become darker during spawning time. 

 

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The pond is only 1/10 acre and is loaded with fathead minnows that have been reproducing since last summer, with no other predator fish in the pond. The fathead minnows run in the thousands now. Probably 10's of thousands. The Black Crappie is a very predatory fish that feeds on both invertebrates and small fish with fish being their favored forage. 

 

After putting in about 10 brood fish (I would have put in less but had issues sexing them, as when I caught the first of two groups the males had not taken on a dark color) they hung out under this pier for up to two weeks. I added the tree branches later as they prefer to spawn around branches, tree roots etc. As of today they seem to have disbursed and it's hoped they are getting into the spawning mode or at least taking advantage of the copious fathead minnows and we has a brief warmup the last two days. When planted the ovaries in the fish were not very developed. 

 

One side of the pier with a Weeping Willow branch I trimmed off a tree. 

 

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The other side of the pier with one too. 

 

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I have since tied a brick to each one to sink it a little. 

 

The pond is being fertilized with both waste water from a indoor RAS and a commercial pond fertilizer. 

 

The pier and branches will be removed when it can be determined that the offspring have reached 1 inch. They will be seined at night (for some reason there is more mortality when seined during the day),  and crowded in a tank to feed train on a mixture of krill and powder size commercial feed. 

 

The plan is once they are large enough to sex I will put one or the other sex in my grow out pond with the single sex yellow perch and bluegills. I'm hoping to ultimately produce 16 to 18 inch fish. 

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)
Ravnis, early and ande like this

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Crappie are great fish to eat . We make bush piles with Christmas trees and attract them to the area with dog food. Once they establish you can catch them all day 😀 Awesome in some areas this will attract crawfish shrimp and even catfish too so sometimes what u catch will surprise you lol

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I just want to grow really big ones to sell. I find the really large ones very impressive! 

 

I get them up to 20 inches to mount on occasion as I'm a fish taxidermist. 

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)

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Wow most guys mount large mouth bass mainly in my area some could be smaller but most will only mount 10 pounds or larger. Crappie id imagine would have to be near record but most only will mount personally caught fish. All caught fish normally sent off to be to the taxidermist cool you can do this stuff yourself.😀

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Cecil,

 

Growing Crappie has been my goal, however, each and every supplier that I have spoken with in my area suggest that it is near impossible to get Crappie to train to commercial feed. I know that Crappie are prolific at growing to nice sizes and would be a great addition to my system, I just can not justify paying for fry if they can not be trained to feed.  Does anyone have advice on how to overcome this issue?

 

Another concern is the amount of space required if you can get Crappie to breed, since they breed heavily, they can overpopulate any pond or system they are placed in and stunted growth occurs quickly. How to you plan to overcome this problem?

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Hmmm why don't yall try catch some juveniles or adults from local lake? If you get over populated you could always release the unwanted ones back or eat them. 😀

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Hmmm why don't yall try catch some juveniles or adults from local lake? If you get over populated you could always release the unwanted ones back or eat them.

Mike,

 

Between college, the farm, family time, and Owens Corning, I don't have time to find a decent fishing hole. Do you have any suggestions?

Edited by DC Farms (see edit history)

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Cecil,

 

Growing Crappie has been my goal, however, each and every supplier that I have spoken with in my area suggest that it is near impossible to get Crappie to train to commercial feed. I know that Crappie are prolific at growing to nice sizes and would be a great addition to my system, I just can not justify paying for fry if they can not be trained to feed.  Does anyone have advice on how to overcome this issue?

 

Another concern is the amount of space required if you can get Crappie to breed, since they breed heavily, they can overpopulate any pond or system they are placed in and stunted growth occurs quickly. How to you plan to overcome this problem?

 

 

From the papers I have read and according to one professor at Lincoln University feed training crappies is not anymore difficult than other species. He gets 90 percent on feed in a short amount of time. 

 

 

We are breeding Black Crappie in a 0.25 acre pond as part of a class project.  We feed train them each year when about 1" in much the way you describe.  It is easy to get >90% on feed.  Start krill with a mixture of #1 or #2 salmon starter.  Stock fish at high density and make for serious water exchange.  We feed hourly by hand or use 12-h belt feeders.  Former better but more expensive.

 

My crappies will be hatched in a small 1/10th acre pond which is easy to drain and fill back up. At some point the brood fish and 1 inch fish will be removed.  The broodfish will be put into a holding pond and the fingerlings will be indoors in a RAS until the following spring. They will then put into another 1/10th acre pond until they can be sexed. 

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)
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Wow breeding and raising crappie pond style sounds fun. 😀

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We will see. I have no problem growing trophy size bluegill and yellow perch. Also trout. Hope to add another species to the list. 

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How do you train crappie to feed on commercial feed?

 

 

You crowd them in a tank as fingerlings and start with freeze dried krill. Then mix in powdered high protein commercial feed and eventually all powered commercial feed. 

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Will be seining the crappie pond soon. I'm seeing 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inch crappies under the pier in the pond. So obviously there was a spawn. Will run well water into the pond to drop temps a little. Kind of wish they were a little smaller to feed train as larger fish are not always as easy to feed train. I guess I should have seined earlier. That said they will be going into an indoor RAS tank that has bluegills on feed that are around the same size. It should help the bluegills may help them feed train. 

 

Will keep you posted and post pictures soon. 

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)

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Hi Cecil,

I like the way you integrate ponds and tanks in fish production.  I wish we could breed Australian native species at the operator level.  Here's is a much more complex process involving hormone injections and the like.

Gary

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2 hours ago, GaryD said:

Hi Cecil,

I like the way you integrate ponds and tanks in fish production.  I wish we could breed Australian native species at the operator level.  Here's is a much more complex process involving hormone injections and the like.

Gary

Hey Guys just wondering will tilapia survive outdoors in South or North Carolina during winter? I heard was possible depending on depth but unsure . We once had some live in pool that had liner but was also between greenhouses believe was 8 ft deep. I'm unsure about being in open area raised in pond . 

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15 hours ago, MikeRich said:

Hey Guys just wondering will tilapia survive outdoors in South or North Carolina during winter? I heard was possible depending on depth but unsure . We once had some live in pool that had liner but was also between greenhouses believe was 8 ft deep. I'm unsure about being in open area raised in pond . 

Well as long as your deepwater temps in the pond stay above 50 F. (10 C.)  they can use as a santurary you should be O.K. as far as the literature I've read. Kellen here is the expert on tilapia along with others here like Ravnis. Maybe they will chime in? That said below 60 F. might be stressful to them. 

Having lived in NC I see it getting too cold but maybe not SC? And there are freak winters where tilapia will die all the way down to central Florida. 

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)

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I live in zone 8 but unsure what depth I would need to keep them alive . If a cold snap did happen could I cover the pool or would that cause problems?

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If you covered the pool, you would need to make sure gas can exchange. Don't want to suffocate the fish.  The charm of tilapia is it's a fast growing fish easy to breed.   There are American breeds (blue gill, crappie etc) that come very close and don't share the temperature weakness that tilapia has.

Water is actually a poor conductor of temperature as compared to air or metal.  One thing I found, was that a heater in the tank even though it could not heat the entire tank, would make a warm zone that they could get into to survive the coldest nights.  One species of tilapia is legal to own in my state as they will not overwinter naturally without a heat source in the water, such as a power generating station or something similar that makes a warm micro-climate around it.  As this thread is about Crappie, a new thread should be made if you want to ask more questions about overwintering tilapia.

That said, crappie are an excellent fish to raise for your locale and won't have near as many headaches.  I look forward to Cecil's progress.

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On August 6, 2016 at 5:51 PM, GaryD said:

Hi Cecil,

I like the way you integrate ponds and tanks in fish production.  I wish we could breed Australian native species at the operator level.  Here's is a much more complex process involving hormone injections and the like.

Gary

There are times when I wish I would just breed them indoors and just hold the brood fish in the outdoor ponds. I do have  pond just for brood fish. I may end up doing that as the seining, draining, and refilling can be difficult at times. 

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22 hours ago, Ravnis said:

If you covered the pool, you would need to make sure gas can exchange. Don't want to suffocate the fish.  The charm of tilapia is it's a fast growing fish easy to breed.   There are American breeds (blue gill, crappie etc) that come very close and don't share the temperature weakness that tilapia has.

Water is actually a poor conductor of temperature as compared to air or metal.  One thing I found, was that a heater in the tank even though it could not heat the entire tank, would make a warm zone that they could get into to survive the coldest nights.  One species of tilapia is legal to own in my state as they will not overwinter naturally without a heat source in the water, such as a power generating station or something similar that makes a warm micro-climate around it.  As this thread is about Crappie, a new thread should be made if you want to ask more questions about overwintering tilapia.

That said, crappie are an excellent fish to raise for your locale and won't have near as many headaches.  I look forward to Cecil's progress.

Ravnis,

They are an interesting species but do have one major drawback: They are very sensitive to handling and develop fungal issues in cold water if handled and bacterial issues in warmer water. Some handlers will only handle them after dark. 

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Ready to seine the crappies out of the pond as soon as I empty the tank of bluegills indoors. The bluegills will go to various schools along with tilapia and yellow perch hopefully soon. I am going to have to make them more self sufficient for start up next year as I'm spending a lot of time getting them going. It's too bad they can't keep their systems running though the summer but it's not possible. 

 

Edit: Got tired of waiting on the schools and sold all the extra bluegill and yellow perch to a local new pond owner. 

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)

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Seined the crappie production pond today and plan on so tomorrow and possibly on Thursday too. Unfortunately pictures will have to wait until tomorrow as the battery in the camera went dead. Was able to charge it up though. 

Seined up at least 1500 fathead minnows (Pimepahles promelas) and a few hundred black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) fingerlings that were offspring from 12 black crappie brood stock I planted this spring. I was disappointed the most of the crappies averaged only 1.5 inches but there are about 25 to 50 that went from 3 to 5 1/2 inches. I think the fathead minnows I originally planted for forage for the broodfish may have been too prolific and were competition for the crappie fry. 

Since the tank I planned on putting them in for feed training still has 3 to 6 inch tilapia due to still waiting on the schools to get their biofilters cycled, I'm going to try and keep seining until have a sufficient number of 3 to 5 1/2 inch fish to safely put in with the similar size tilapia. I may put together a small floating cage for the smaller 1.5 inch fish to also put in the RAS tank. The smaller ones may be easier to feed train. The larger crappie may be carnivores and more difficult to feed train.

Temps and weather are supposed to be nice through Friday with a high on Thursday and Friday of 68 Fahrenheit ( 20 celsius). 

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)
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it sounds like good results for a first attempt. I hope to get back to my work with feed training and breeding sunfish in aquariums.. I did buy a couple of hundred crappie in october but i lost them all. They had been handled a lot from hatchery to a pond stocking retailer and moved from a big tank to small tank at that facility.. on top of since they are not feed trained they had not eaten in a week.. well, it was a loss.  The time i had good results i drove to louisiana and bought form the hatchery and that may be what i need to do in the spring to ensure i get strong enough fish to last through the feed training stresses.

 

 

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Sorry to hear that Brian. I do know from experience, and from what some people in the industry have told me, crappie do not take handling well at all, and are prone to fungal and bacteria issues from handling. Fungal in colder water and bacterial in warm water. Some suppliers will only seine them after dark! I can tell you as a taxidermist they easily loose scales vs. other species. 

I also know that if any centrarchids are handled in cold water they will be prone to fungus if they don't go on feed ASAP and the water is not in a warming mode. It'a also Imperative that salt be used to reduce osmotic stress. All my tanks from the seining holding tank to the acclimitization tank to the the RAS have a bout a 0.5 percent solution of NACL. My crappies went from about 50 F. (10 C) more or less to, about 75 F (29 C) in less than 24 hours by bringing them inside. At first I let the acclimatization tank warm up to ambient temp but bumped it a little by putting an aquarium heater in.  I also used a ammonia neutralizer to counter any increase in ammonia during this time. I could have slowed this down but had to weight the benefits of getting them into the RAS and on feed ASAP. 

That said I have lost a few and will probably lose more. I think they are feeding on the crushed freeze dried krill and starter feed but if they are it's not really obvious yet. 

 

A nearby school  finally cycled one of my tanks so I was able to unload all of the tilapia to make way for the crappies. 

 

After two days seining I believe I have about 300 1.5 to 2 inch crappies in the RAS. I ended up pitching about 25 much larger crappies to a holding pond outside for the winter as caging them in the same tank was problematic. No doubt putting them in with the smaller crappie would have been a disaster as they wouldn't have feed trained and they would have feasted on the smaller crappies. 

I do think the thousands of fatheads in the same pond, while they may have been good forage for the brood stock and larger YOY, competed with the crappies fingerlings as they seem to be undersize IMHO. 

First and second picture is my acclimatization tank. Third picture is temporary immobilized fish from saltwater dip to kill parasites. Four picture are three different size fish to show size variation. I only put 1.5 to 2.5 inch fish in the RAS

 

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Edited by Cecil (see edit history)

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FUBAR! LOL 

 

I think I'm too dumb to utilize the attachment of files here as it isn't consistent for me. For some reason photo bucket doesn't allow me to upload photos lately. 

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)

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