Those are the days that keep us going back out on the streams, ponds, and fields for decades to follow, seeking that perfect day. Bright and early one Saturday morning, my neighbor and I were pulling up next to a pond that was about two-acres in size and located in the Sierra foothills near the town of Murphy’s. Not knowing where to start, Mike went left with his spinning gear and I went right with my fly rod.
It was a sunny spring morning, and we were both catching fish immediately. Much to our surprise however, all of the fish we’re catching were neither Trout nor Bass but beautiful black-spotted silver Crappie as big as your hand. It didn’t matter what we threw at them, we caught a fish on almost every cast. Flies, poppers, spoons, or top water bass plugs, they all caught fish.
We caught fish until our arms hurt; we probably caught 50 fish each before we decided to quit at about noon. It was a good thing we quit early, since we had to spend the rest of the day cleaning and filleting our catch. We fired up the barbeque and prepared for one of the best fish feeds of our lives. The Crappie has an awful lot going for it.
They grow to a fairly large size, are extremely prolific, and usually quite plentiful. Crappies are spirited fighters, and reasonably co-operative when it comes to getting hooked, and are also very probably the best tasting fish that swims. But, before you can have a Crappie feed, you have to catch them.
One of the Crappies best features is that whatever way you like to fish, is just fine with them. Bait, spinners, and flies, or live minnows will all enable you to catch multitudes of Crappie. Whichever angling method you choose, the single most important thing to remember in catching Crappie is that they are excellent predators that love to eat minnows.
Since minnows usually congregate in the submerged brush for protection, that’s where you’ll find Crappie. To paraphrase an old real estate axiom, the three best places to find crappies are brush, brush, and more brush.
Obviously if you are a bait fisher, the best bait for Crappies is live minnows. Use a bobber and vary the depth of the minnow until you find the depth the fish are holding at. If you prefer spin fishing gear, probably your best bet is the Crappie jig, which is a lightly weighted hook with either a soft plastic body or a body of brightly colored feathers.
Many different colors work but my two favorites are red and white, or chartreuse. As in bait fishing, vary the depth of the jig until you strike paydirt. Cast along the edge of the brush and use short jerks of the rod tip to give the jig a lively motion.
While lots of folks never thought of a flyrod as a crappie weapon, I really enjoy using an ultra-light Crappie jig with my flyrod for Crappie. You have to slow the timing of your back cast and wait until you feel the tug of the line behind you before you start your forward cast. Otherwise you’ll waste a lot of valuable fishing time in the doctor’s office having hooks cut out of the back of your neck. Shatterproof sunglasses and wide brimmed hats are also recommended.
While I am usually an advocate of catch and release fishing so that we’ll have good fishing into the future, Crappie can be an exception to the rule. Crappie, like Bluegills and Brook Trout, are just too darned prolific for their own good. In a closed environment, like a farmpond, Crappie will keep breeding until there are too many fish for the amount of food available.
Until next time!
Don Moyer began writing his outdoor column, Tight Lines, at the Tracy Press in 1979. Don’s first book Tight Lines, Observations of an Outdoor Philosopher is on the Amazon.com best seller list.