As each day lengthens and the sun's power strengthens, warming waters trigger the spawning urge in crappie. They gradually move from their wintertime holding patterns in deep water into shallows where they lay their eggs.
Thanks to being concentrated in a much smaller area and the relative ease with which they can be located, the fish are perhaps easier to catch in this situation than at any other time of the year. Also, after the slowed metabolism and lean times of winter, crappie are hungry.
Any of a wide a variety of ways to catch crappie -- jigging, using minnows, trolling, waiting for a bobber to bounce, jerking popper-type corks with a minnow beneath them around docks and even use of small in-line spinners, can, in the right circumstances, produce bulging stringers. When you find bedding crappie and almost every cast with a small jig or a minnow brings a strike, it's about as much as any angler should reasonably ask.
Crappie will never win any sweepstakes when it comes to fighting once hooked. Despite their wide profile (the same general shape which bream utilize to such good advantage), crappie just don't fight hard. They may outdo a wet dishrag on light tackle (and I know what I've just said will offend some crappie enthusiasts, but ounce for ounce and pound for pound, crappie may be the most sluggish game fish found in freshwater) You can get maximum enjoyment in this regard through the use of ultralight tackle.
Long, highly sensitive rods made with the crappie fisherman specifically in mind are especially good in this regard. Almost any spincasting outfit geared for monofilament in the 2-6 pound class will work.
Whatever the crappie lacks in pugilistic qualities, it more than makes up for when it comes to the 'taste test.' Along with walleye and trout, I would rank crappie as one of the finest of our freshwater fish when it comes eating. Whether filleted, fried whole, or prepared some other way, the tender white flesh is delicious. Also, thanks to its prolific reproductive powers, the crappie is a fish which is plentiful.
That is generally true, but something has happened on Lake Wylie in recent years. There are still crappie, but nothing like the numbers that was the case, say, five years ago. I don't know what has happened and I haven't heard any fisheries biologist make anything approaching a definitive statement, but my personal or gut feeling is that pollution is a factor. I'd welcome the thoughts of others on this matter.
Problems in Lake Wylie aside, in other area reservoirs liberal limits and lots of fish bear solid promise of fine eating. The message is quite clear -- find some time to get out on the water and catch a mess of slabs. They are normally thought of as a big lake fish, but the two largest catches of crappie I ever personally made were in ponds that might have been two acres in one case (in Kentucky) and maybe 10 acres in the other (in Florida).
Should success smile on your efforts, and the fact that for the average angler it is more likely to do so now than any other time of the year is worth repeating, you have the promise of wonderful eating. Here are three ways to prepare your catch.
We are now well into the turkey season, and on a personal basis, I can't remember a more frustrating spring. More than half the days I've hunted locally have been marked by the sounds of silence, without so much as a single gobble to stir my soul. Many others report similar frustration, and in a recent trip to Texas, a place I've hunted maybe 20 times over the year, what is usually comparatively easy hunting was a singular challenge. But just because the season has been slow doesn't mean things can't change. Some years, peak gobbling occurs late in April, although in fairness it should be noted that thanks to poor hatches for three consecutive years, turkey populations are down. My advice is to be persistent, savor the experience in all its many blessings and hunt hard.
The species has lots of names: crappie (pronounced the way it looks only in the Carolinas; elsewhere as croppie), sac au lait, speckled perch, slabs and many more. Call the crappie what you will, the fish comes into greatest prominence during April.
Jim Casada welcomes information on upcoming events. He can be reached at jimcasadaoutdoors.com or (803) 329-4354.