Crazy weather makes crappie tough to gauge

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May 3, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Springfield News Leader

Crazy weather makes crappie tough to gauge

Several area lakes offer good spots for this fish.

Crappie patterns change from day to day and week to week as weather varies in spring. This spring, for instance, has had its up and downs with a variety of both cool and warm conditions, mixed with ample rain.

If a cold snap hits, fish migrate to deeper water. Good spots during the pre-spawn feature shallow water (2 to 8 feet) adjacent to deep water shelves or drop-offs. In a couple of weeks, most of the fish will be up near the banks in shallow water brush, Access to deep water is not critical then.

It’s no secret that crappie in April and May are found in shallow water brush. Missouri Department of Conservation fishery biologist Fred Vasey says that white crappie nest in Table Rock Lake from the second or third week of April to early June. Nesting activity is best when water temperature rises to about 56 degrees. Some of the best crappie fishing in Table Rock is on the James River Arm.

Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, Pomme de Terre, Stockton and Bull Shoals have good to excellent crappie fishing.

Lake of the Ozarks may be the best of all. When the lake was built in the 1930s, most of the brush and trees were cleared from the flood basin. That was bad news for anglers until they learned to create their own fish habitat, which they have been doing ever since.

Sunken brush and cedar trees are abundant and crappie and bass congregate at them. Most all resorts and private dock owners have crappie beds. In April and May, just about any shallow-water brush becomes a hot spot.

Having fished the Lake, I learned from some friends who live on the lake how to fish crappie in the jungle of brush. One of the best techniques is a 1/16-ounce blue plastic tube jigs with extremely soft, clear rubber weed guards. They are available in most tackle stores. Without the weed guards, there is a whole lot of frustration hanging up in the brush.

When the 55,600-acre Truman Reservoir was in its prime throughout the 1980s, the lake was an excellent crappie and bass lake with a lot of woody cover. Tube jigs and clear rubber weed guards were fished with good success.

While Truman is still a good crappie lake, much of reservoir's woody cover has disappeared.

Aging lakes do lose their woody cover over time and the crappie fishing slows down. One remedy is to add cedar trees for cover. The conservation department has tried discarded Christmas trees for several years. The department has recently considered a plan to use cedar trees to bolster the need for woody cover for crappie and bass.

In large Missouri impoundments and natural lakes the crappie is one of the most important fishes in the creel because it reaches a fairly large size and is readily caught. It ranks as one of the most popular panfishes.

In many crappie lakes, there is no reason to use a rubber weed guard for fishing. The simple bobber and crappie minnow generally does not hang up on brush. This method of fishing maybe the best of all. Most of us have fished this method as kids. There is nothing more exciting than watching a red and white bobber disappear under the water.

I will never forget one crappie outing with a friend years ago. We were cruising down the highway. My friend asked me if we should stop at a bait store to buy crappie minnows. I hesitated. The day before with another friend, we had caught a limit of crappie with blue and white, one-inch tube jigs. We had shunned the live minnows. I figured we did not need minnows.

We motored to the spot were I fished the day before. There was only one other fisherman near us. He was using a red and white bobber and live minnows for bait. My friend and I began casting tube jigs.

As it turned out, we were shut out with tube jigs that day. Our neighbor limited out with 15 crappie,10 inches or more. He motored slowly away with a big smile on his face. My friend said, “I guess we should have stopped for minnows.” I agreed. Never underestimate the power of minnows when it comes to catching fresh crappie.

There is another good strategy for crappie anglers. I was introduced to Thill Slip Floats by my outdoor writer friend, Gerald Scott of from Sedalia.

The rig is an ultra-sensitive method of catching crappie that have seen too many 1/32-ounce tube jigs and live minnows pushing red and white bobbers.

The lightweight balsa floats are quiet and wonderfully sensitive. A tiny brass swivel connects to a 1/32-ounce plastic tube jig of choice. Two tiny red plastic beads hold the jig until the anglers makes a short cast that releases the jig.

A very fine cotton string tied on to the monofilament line makes for an easy on and off stopper. Long casts are not needed for results with the light slip floats. A good choice of rod is a 6-foot, 6-inch medium action. White “Crappie Nibbles” are sold at most tackle stores. The BB-size "Nibles" are molded on the jig hook for smell and taste.

This is the time for catching crappie. As for the eating, the fillets rival those of walleye.
 


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