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Sunfish and Crappie Management

Download and view the Big Panfish Initiative
Study Plan, 2021-2026
(PDF) for details on
how DEC plans to manage sunfish and
crappie populations to ensure more
sustainable fisheries in the future.

Big Panfish Initiative (BPI)

The Big Panfish Initiative (BPI) was developed to create destination fisheries for larger size panfish in select waters. The BPI is an experimental program that is being conducted to determine the impacts of lower harvest and minimum size limits on sunfish population age and size structure in select lakes throughout New York and to evaluate the level of angler satisfaction with this management strategy. It also includes an assessment of crappie population age and growth characteristics in select waters to determine if those waters have the potential to yield larger fish under more conservative harvest regulations.

There are two overall objectives within the BPI, which includes:

  • Implementing and assessing the impact of a special regulation for sunfish (bluegill, pumpkinseed, and redbreast sunfish): 15 per day, 8-inch minimum size, no closed season in the following waters:
    • Blydenburgh Lake (DEC Region 1)
    • Lake Welch (Region 3)
    • Canadarago Lake and Goodyear Lake (Region 4)
    • Saratoga Lake (Region 5)
    • Sixtown Pond and Red Lake (Region 6)
    • Cazenovia Lake and Otisco Lake (Region 7)
    • Honeoye Lake (Region 8)
    • Silver Lake (Region 9)
  • Assessing crappie (white crappie and black crappie) population age and size structure in the following waters under statewide daily harvest limits to determine if more conservative regulations will benefit these fisheries in the future:
    • Blydenburgh Lake (Region 1)
    • Muscoot Reservoir (Region 3)
    • Saratoga Lake (Region 5)
    • Delta Lake (Region 6)
    • Cazenovia Lake and Otisco Lake (Region 7)
    • Waneta/Lamoka lakes and Honeoye Lake (Region 8)
    • Bear Lake (Region 9)

Review complete details in the Big Panfish Initiative Study Plan, 2021-2026 (PDF)

BPI Study Updates

Study Assessment - Interim Report

From mid-April through early June 2021, trap net surveys were conducted to collect baseline data on sunfish and crappie populations in BPI waters before new regulations took effect in 2022. All study lakes where sunfish were targeted had populations of both bluegills and pumpkinseeds, which provided a better understanding of the prevalence of each species. Size structure, condition, and growth for both sunfish species suggest that there is room for improvement in the number of larger sunfish in all study lakes. Black crappie were the only crappie species present in all study lakes and will therefore be the primary species of interest. Size structures of crappie populations in study lakes were already at levels approaching or exceeding objectives in most waters.

BPI Study Assessment 2021 Interim Report (PDF).

BPI Study Report Cards (PDF), used to track whether study objectives (growth, condition, etc.) have been met.

Net Comparison Report

To track potential changes in sunfish and crappie populations it is critical that appropriate sampling gears are used. As part of the BPI study, the effectiveness of two different types of nets was evaluated on four study waters.

BPI Study Net Comparison Report (PDF)

Continued Monitoring

Sampling of BPI waters was repeated in Spring 2022 and will continue annually through 2025. Monitoring through the duration of the study will help determine if the new regulations are having the desired results. In addition, an angler survey will be conducted in 2025 to gauge angler sentiment for the new regulations and gather feedback on the quality of their fishing experiences on the study lakes. Information gathered from the fish population and angler surveys will be used to make decisions on the future of BPI management.

BPI Photo Album

Check out the NYS DEC Flickr page (leaves DEC website) for images capturing DEC Fisheries staff in action during their netting surveys as they collect important data for the BPI.