“We wanted to provide a tool that is specifically designed at helping to protect our crappie fisheries,” said B’n’M president Jack Wells. “First, it will accommodate bigger fish, those that exceed 2 pounds and are pretty frequent here in Mississippi. We’ve also incorporated a scale which will not only indicate the length of the fish, but also help anglers determine the fish’s age and weight based on statistical modeling of comparative fish lengths. The third aspect is that the crappie saver will also indicate specifically where to vent the fish in order to deflate the swim bladder.”
Swim bladder deflation, a practice commonly referred to as venting or fizzing, is a come of age technique that relieves the pressure of the fish’s distended swim bladder and keeps the distention from wreaking havoc on its internal organs after release and allows the fish to return to the depths by re-balancing the pressure of its swim bladder. The practice has seen widespread practice in national bass events and has been heralded by biologists with helping to save the lives of thousands of tournament caught and released fish. B’n’M designed this new product with the help of longtime crappie expert Ronnie Capps. Ronnie not only has years of on-the-water experience as tournament champion and wildlife officer for the state of Tennessee but also holds a degree in Fisheries Management with a minor in Chemistry to back up his design.
Question: Ronnie, what was the purpose behind the design of this measuring device for B’n’M?
Capps: There are several things. One, when you put a crappie in this thing, it’s not going to flop back out like some of these other ones. That lets you handle the fish without damaging it so it can be weighed and released unharmed. The Saver was also designed with an airbladder deflation guide that shows you exactly where to deflate the fish without having to guess. Naturally it’s tells you how long the fish is and it will also come pretty close to giving you it’s weight and age.
Question: Why is there a need to deflate a crappie?
Capps: Believe it or not, there’s a trend towards releasing more crappie and most all crappie tournaments are requiring their anglers to release fish alive. When we get into the post-spawn months of May, June, and July, crappie move into deeper water and when they’re caught from deeper water, the air bladder expands and puts a lot of stress on the fish. When they are released back into warm water or even held in a livewell till weigh-in, a lot of them end up dying.
Question: How can you tell when a crappie needs to be deflated?
Capps: It will lay over on it’s side in the livewell or when you put it back in the water, flapping it’s fins, and floating like a piece of styrofoam. It’ll also have a hard knot right behind the pectoral fin where the bladder has expanded. Another way to anticipate if it needs to be deflated is the depth of water you caught it from. I make it a practice to deflate every fish that comes out of water over 8-9 feet deep. Think about diving in a swimming pool. You can feel the pressure in your ears in just 8 feet, so why wouldn’t a crappie feel that same pressure when it’s suddenly brought up from 8 feet.
Question: Can you walk us through the process of deflating a crappie in the Crappie Saver?
Capps: Take the fish and place it head first into the Saver. Let’s say we have a 12 inch fish. There’s a sliding scale, the ADG, near the head that shows where you would insert the needle on a 12 inch crappie to deflate it. I use a 2 inch 18 gauge hypodermic needle used for vaccinating cattle. You can get these at most veterinary supply places, it looks like a turkey injector but smaller and all you need is the needle, not the whole syringe. Going in from the tail side, slide that needle under the scale at a 45 degree angle and go straight down. You’ll see bubbles come out the other end of the needle and you can even hear the pressure release. The puncture doesn’t hurt the fish at all. There’s no need to squeeze the fish, just let the pressure equalize for about 8 seconds, remove the needle and then you can release it or put it in the livewell, knowing he’ll survive till weigh-in.
Question: But it wasn’t enough for Ronnie Capps to just design a size checker and deflating tool, there’s more isn’t there?
Capps: (grinning) Yeah, I couldn’t stop there. I’ve been recording the sizes of the fish we catch all over the country and I was also able to get my hands on some fisheries management records from several other states across the country. On a healthy fishery, you can tell the weight of 99% of the pre-spawn crappie based on its length. You can also come pretty close to guessing the age of the fish by it’s size, so I asked B’n’M to put those weights and ages right there on the scale. This really is the last crappie measuring device you’ll ever need.
The Slab Master Crappie Saver is constructed of hard, ABS plastic and has a retail price of $24.99. The device is available directly from B’n’M through our website and is scheduled to hit the shelves at Bass Pro Shops this spring. Visit www.bnmpoles for more information.