Did you ever have a day fishing when everything went absolutely perfect? Those are the days that keep us going back out on the streams, ponds, and fields for decades to follow.,seeking that perfect day.
I recall one such day about 30 years ago. I had met a fellow who’d just bought a small farm near the town of Murphys. He told me there was a small pond on the place but he didn’t know if it held trout, bass, or any fish at all. The fellow asked me if I’d be willing to come to his new place and try out the fishing. Now that’s a nice change, a landowner asking me to fish his water!
Bright and early the following Saturday, my neighbor and I were pulling into the ranch driveway. The pond was only about two acres in size and had apparently been built in gold rush times. Not knowing where to start, Mike went left from the truck with his spinning gear and I went right. It was a bright sunny March morning, and we were both catching fish immediately. Much to our surprise however, all of the fish were 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 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 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 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. 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 stringer full 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 baste them with lemon butter, throw in some garlic French bread and a good red wine and you've got a meal fit for a king. I know, all the experts tell you that you’re supposed to drink a white wine with fish, but I don’t really care what the “experts” say, I love barbequed crappie with a good Cabernet. 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,