April is here and so is the fishing season. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has caused us to have a late start to the season, but with warmer temperatures planned for the week along with some warm rain coming, expect the area lakes to start to warm up fast.
Once the water hits fifty degrees it is time for the crappie to start biting. The “paper mouth”, as crappie are called, is one of the earliest fish to bite in the spring. Crappies are one of the earliest fish to spawn, thus the reason they bite so soon and these tasty guys are one of the favorites for the frying pan. Catching crappie is also one of the easiest types of fishing. The key to catching crappie is structure. Pull up to an old sunken log or fallen tree and you are bound to get into a mess of them.
The favorite bait for crappie fishing is minnows. Hook a minnow through the lips with a small hook, add a little sinker to keep the minnow down, tie on a bobber, and you are good to go. Try to use as light as line as possible. I prefer six pound test line with eight pound line being the heaviest I would go.
Cast the minnow on the end of the log or tree top and get ready. Crappie can be a fast and furious bite if you find them as they prefer to travel in schools. You may have to adjust the depth of your bobber until you find where exactly they are. You may also have to move around some until you find the right set of tree tops. Stay with the tree tops and logs that are close to the break lines or creek channels, as crappie prefer deeper water. On bigger lakes, spend a lot of effort searching the creek channels up in the actual creeks and creek mouths as the crappie will migrate up into these tributaries to spawn.
Other baits that work well are 1/16 to 1/8 ounce jigs with feathers, synthetic hair, plastic curly tails, or tube bodies. Jigs come in a multitude of colors. Some people use long crappie poles or cane poles to place jigs and minnows between submerged tree limbs. We are fortunate to live in an area with a lot of great lakes known for their crappie.
However, the best place to head this time of the year are farm ponds. Farm ponds warm up a lot faster than bigger lakes so the fish will become more active and want to feed sooner than their lake bound brothers. Plus, with a lot smaller area to cover, it is much easier to find the crappie especially if structure is limited.
An ideal way to attract crappie to a specific area in the pond is to tie down an old Christmas tree or two with a couple of cement blocks within casting distance of shore. Guaranteed it will attract crappie and hold them once the pine needles fall off and it will save you a lot of time searching for the fish later. I always recommend being selective in what you keep.
Unfortunately, I witness too many crappie that are harvested in the four to six inch range and there is hardly enough meat on these little guys to make it worth cleaning them. Let the little ones go to grow some more. With a little work and patience, you can find plenty of bigger crappie out there.
Also, please do every thing you can to retrieve your line if your hook becomes caught in the tree, which can be a common occurrence when crappie fishing. One of the unfortunate parts of fishing from the bank is that it can be difficult or impossible to retrieve snagged hooks and lines. Unfortunately, too many birds and other wild animals get entangled in the line and end up losing legs, wings, or dying all together.
Spring crappie fishing success is just like any other time of the year. The fish respond well to approaching fronts. Expect the bite to be the best right before a change in weather as they put on a big feed. Mornings seem to be better than any other time of day as well but expect them to feed several times through out the day. Really, the best time to be out fishing is any time you can be out fishing. I guess there really is no bad time to be out fishing.
Now is the time to get the dust off the fishing poles. Change that fishing line before you head out and have a good time. Remember, it is always colder on the water than on the shore this time of the year, so take that extra jacket and wear that life jacket if you are out in a boat. That water is still frigid and an accidental fall in the water can literally take your breath away.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!