Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Announces New Regulations on Big Four!

It’s all the buzz lately about new regulation changes coming to Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid, and Grenada and what it means for anglers.

I spoke with MDWFP, and regulations on lower Sardis Lake, from the Sardis spillway to Spalding creek is now ten crappie per day with no length limit. The daily creel limit for crappie is ten fish per angler, and the daily boat limit is twenty-five for boats with three or more anglers on Grenada, Enid, Sardis, and Arkabutla lakes. The minimum length limit for crappie remains over twelve inches. The new regulations go into effect on July 24, 2024.

I interviewed several guides about the regulation changes as well to determine what it meant for their business. I spoke with Carlos Willis, owner of Carlos Willis Fishing and asked how he thought the new regulation change would affect trophy crappie fishing on the Big Four in Mississippi. Willis responded, “Honestly from what I’ve seen fishing Grenada my whole life, we as anglers have very little effect on the actual size of the fish as a whole. We need high water springs to grow really, really big fish – four plus pounds. Grenada still will produce more 3-pound fish than any other lake in the country even without high water but that’s the best contributing factor.” Willis also added, “90% of the people that come to these lakes on guided trips are looking for the size fish that they can’t catch at home. There has always been places you can keep more crappie and fill your cooler better than these lakes. It’s the average size of fish that is the main draw. As a guide we will have to adapt our business and lean more towards the customers who want to learn and target those bigger fish.”

John Harrison, owner of JH Guide Service responded, “Technology has slipped up on us, and everybody is fishing a lot more than years in the past. Less people probably will go other places, but make no mistake, Grenada Lake still puts out monster crappie. When lakes get drawn down to a very low level in the winter for four months, they’re pretty easy to catch, and they have nowhere to go. The pressure is unreal. Bottom line, it’s a combination of several things that has made it harder to catch these fish. I’ve enjoyed fishing these lakes for over 50 years. I’m all for protecting our resources no matter what it takes.”

John Mayo with JH Guide Service said, “I think the new regulation will help the trophy crappie population. My personal opinion is ten fish per person is plenty to keep. I don’t think it will have a huge effect on guiding. People come to Mississippi for the trophy-sized fish. We throw back a lot of undersized fish every day that would be nice fish in most lakes around the country. I think the ten fish per person is definitely a positive.” I asked Mayo if he believed less out-of-state anglers would visit Mississippi and therefore have an adverse effect on the economy. Mayo replied, “As far as out of state anglers, I don’t think we will see much change. I just hope the MDWFP patrols our lakes because if not the regulation change would just be a waste. There are more people fishing than ever before and something just had to be done.”

Jason Cook with JH Guide Service said, “I feel like there may be a slight decline. However, most people book guide trips to get away for the weekend, spend time with friends and family, and have a good time. We go on guided fly-fishing trips in Arkansas, and never keep fish. We go to get away and relax. I’d say it’ll have a negative impact on anglers in close proximity to the state temporarily. Once the size of the fish gets back to where it was a couple years ago, they’ll be back in full force.” I asked Cook if he believed MDWFP could start a trend for other states to follow. “I think state biologists are already considering the impact of FFS and are doing studies, as well. It will not surprise me to see lakes in other states implement similar regulations. At the end of the day, this will be good for the fisheries and for tourism. Big crappie is what draws people into this state. Once again, if we are trying to manage big fish, we should limit the number of 15″ fish we can keep per day. Let them keep a trophy to get mounted, but very few people mount a stringer. The smaller fish are better table fare anyhow” replied Cook. He also mentioned that he believes Texas and Oklahoma will be the next states to follow suit.

Good, bad, or indifferent to the new regulation changes, the bottom line is people come to Mississippi for a chance at a three-pound fish. This was the case before forward facing sonar and is still the case today. What MDWFP has implemented will put more fish in the lake and in turn have the possibility of producing more three-pound plus crappie for anglers to enjoy for generations.