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Spring a crappie time of year

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POSTED February 14, 2011 12:26 a.m.
As is common this time of year, we have been getting a taste of the coming spring.

For the past 10 days or so, while the nights have been chilly, the days have been sunny and delightful. Even on the days it has been foggy, when the sun finally manages to burn off the fog, it seems to be a truly glorius day.

These pre-spring days are all it takes to get me planning more outdoor excursions to take advantage of all the great weather.

One of my favorite rituals of spring is crappie fishing. Like most fish, crappie grow dormant during the cold temperatures of winter. The good news is that as water temperatures begin to rise, the crappie wake up from a hibernation-like stupor and go on a spring feeding binge.  Springtime is crappie time.

Perhaps the best place to seek spring crappie is in small farmponds.

Because they are smaller and usually shallower, farmponds get warm sooner than the bigger deeper waters.

All it takes is a week or 10 days of warm spring weather and the water in shallow ponds will heat up enough to the point where the crappie begin their spring feeding binge. The fish have been dormant all winter and make up for lost time by feeding voraciously.  

Sure I fish the bigger waters too, but farmponds give me a head start on the season.

The crappie has an awfully 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 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 spinfishing 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 favorites are red and white, or chartreuse.

As in baitfishing, 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 flyrods 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 backcast 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 doctors office having hooks cut out of the back of your neck. Shatterproof sunglasses and widebrimmed 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. The result is an unhealthy population of stunted fish.

Catching and eating a big batch of crappie once in awhile will actually result in a healthy population of larger fish. Don’t feel guilty about keeping a big mess of farmpond crappie.

Keeping a giant stringerful of crappie for a family feed is good for the fishery and it’s even better on the palate.

While a fish fry is an old tradition, I really prefer to barbecue crappie and bast them with lemon butter, throw in some garlic French bread and a good wine and you’ve got a meal fit for a king. Well, there you have it.

Grab your rod, head for your local farmpond and some sunshine, great fun, and some of the finest tasting fish in the world — the crappie.

Until next week,

Tight Lines
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