Crappie Season Is Here by Ken McBroom
It’s February and cabin fever is at its peak. The snow seems to be gone for good and with warm sunny days teasing you into thinking its time, the tackle box finally receives a little attention. You sort and organize the jigs and sinkers, bobbers and hooks. Line gets replaced on all the reels and the smell of spray lube drifts through the house. Ahhhh, the smells of springtime, dandelions and dogwoods mixed with WD-40 and salted grubs.
Those warm sunny days will trick the most seasoned Crappie angler into thinking its time. It could be however, that we all know the fishing will be tough but we go anyway, just to finally be fishing. It feels good to be on the water and it is a great time to work out the bugs in your equipment. It can also be a great time to put a few Crappies in the basket as well.
I wanted to share with you a lesson I learned from an old time Crappie angler on locating early season slabs. It is one of those lessons where you wonder why you had not thought of it before. In fact after learning about this obvious but sometimes challenging technique, I recalled that I had actually used the same technique while fishing with an even older timer Crappie angler, my Grandfather.
I can remember launching the 16-foot v-hull aluminum boat and the smell of the old Evinrude as it sputtered to life after a few hard pulls. My Grandfather never used an anchor. We just eased into the middle of a brush pile and he would hold onto a limb. We would then dip our Marabou Crappie jigs, the only bait my Grandfather ever used, into every hole they would fit. Most of the time we caught a couple slabs, moved on to the next brush pile, and repeated the process. I can remember thinking how boring it was to fish this way but we almost always went home with a few Crappie and I really do not remember ever catching any small Crappie this way but we never caught a whole bunch either. My Grandfather always said “everything in moderation”. I guess that meant Crappie fishing too.
I remember a few times when the Crappie were not in the brush or tree-tops along the bank and my Grandfather wasted no time. If the first couple of brush piles did not produce he pulled from the storage area in the front of the v-hull an old Styrofoam minnow bucket and a broomstick with something attached to the end and a wire wrapped around it. He would attach the wire to the thing inside the minnow bucket and then stick the end of the broomstick, with the thing on the end, into the lake. He would then steer the tiller motor with one hand while keeping the broomstick in the water with the other all the while staring into the Styrofoam minnow bucket. My Grandfather explained to me what he was doing but it would be many years later before I would understand it.
I can see my grandfather now, staring into what I referred to then as the crystal minnow bucket. The look was serious and only left that minnow bucket to get his bearing on where he knew the creek channel flowed and then it was back down, his eyes squinting while he chewed on the Red Man in his jaw. Finally he would say, “ok Ken right here” but not before a spit of tobacco stained the water next to the boat. I was ready before he could say right here. The spit was my cue, as he never spit while he searched the crystal minnow bucket, only when he found the brush below. Again, I know he explained what he was doing but like so many lessons he taught me in my youth I only truly began to listen after he was gone. This lesson was no exception and even took applying the technique before realizing that my Grandfather, who was very old school, was actually using electronics to locate brush piles along a creek channel that were too deep to see. It was a flasher unit inside that minnow bucket and the bucket would have shaded the orange bars that flashed around the unit.
I remember him telling me that the Crappie would move from the creek channel to the shallow water to spawn. He told me that Crappie always traveled from one form of cover to the next as they made their way to shallower water even if the journey was longer. All this coming back to me as I decide to search for Crappie in a little deeper water and discover stake beds lined up in a neat row leading straight for the creek channel. This is when I listened to my Grandfather and began jigging a white marabou jig and finally found them in 17 feet of water suspended in the middle of a huge man made stake bed.
I realize that maybe this early season Crappie tip is not a profound one to many but I know that when I searched for deep water Crappie I just looked for a creek channel. Not to say the creek channel itself won’t produce but find some brush that leads from the deep water into the shallow water and you have located a travel route that will help you concentrate your efforts onto a spot along that creek channel that is more likely to produce some action.
Locating such a spot is not always easy and may take some extra time searching the fish finder for these Crappie magnets. The cover, more times than not, will not be in a continuous line. Look for stake beds and brush piles along the creek channel and slowly work your way to shallower water and try to find another brush pile closest to the first but moving toward shallow water. In the early season when the days are warm but the water is still cold Crappie will use these travel routes of cover to move from shallow to deep water depending on the temperature of the water as it fluctuates throughout the day. Hit each spot of cover until you find some fish and then move with them. If you know of a good spawning area for Crappie at your lake you can create a travel route, where legal, by sinking stake beds or brush in a straight line from shallow to deep water.
The season is here so get out there and take advantage of this technique, as I believe it will help you catch more Crappie. If my Grandfather can locate these travel routes with an old hummingbird flasher then I know it must be a bit easier now to locate these potential hot spots for some early season slabs.