We’ve had a relatively short winter, knock on wood, but to this fisherman, it felt way too long.
I made a special trip to the Payette River, only to have the fishing ruined by floating ice and slush.
I embarked on several ice fishing expeditions, and while the weather and company were great, the fishing was perpetually slow. To be honest, it had been way too long since I had a good fishing day, and I was starting to get cranky.
And so, this past weekend, my buddies Caleb and Larry took me crappie fishing. It was just the slump-buster I needed.
Crappie are the perfect fish for shaking off a winter’s worth of rust. They typically become active in February, several weeks before bass, bluegill and catfish. And crappie hang out in big schools, so if you can find them, you’ll probably catch a pile.
I haven’t done much crappie fishing. I’ve caught a handful here and there, usually while fishing for bass, bluegill or perch.
Once, at one of my favorite local ponds, I caught a pair of beautiful 14-inch slabs while throwing a big plastic lizard for pre-spawn bass. But I’m far from an expert, so I was glad to have two experienced crappie anglers around to show me the ropes.
I won’t divulge any trade secrets, but I will say the most important tools for crappie fishing are a boat and a fish finder. You can catch fish from shore if you know where to look, but crappie schools hang out anywhere from shallow coves to deep pockets approaching 50 feet in depth.
Having the mobility to cover lots of water and a fish finder to identify schools and measure depth is key.
Once you’ve found the fish, catching them is simple. Crappie prefer small jigs to live bait. Both fuzzy hair jigs and plastic jigs will work, and while color preference varies depending on the day and location, bright choices such as orange, pink, red and yellow mixed with black, white or brown are old standbys.
You can even tie on multiple jigs and catch “twins” — two crappie on one line.
Crappie have notoriously soft mouths, so a hard hook-set isn’t required. When you feel a bite, just lift up gently on the rod and keep the tip pointed upward as you reel it in.
Our crappie day resulted in a nice stringer of fillets for the frying pan, and we threw back dozens more. We even caught a smallmouth bass and a big catfish, just to keep things interesting. I caught my fish on crappie gear I had just picked up — Johnson crappie buster tubes and some hand-tied hair jigs — so I was pretty stoked about that.
And, as I told Caleb and Larry, I more than doubled my lifetime haul of crappie in one day. I counted the trip as a major success.
The forecast is nice again this weekend, so the fishing should only get better. If you want to have a crappie day of your own, you can find them in C.J. Strike Reservoir, Brownlee Reservoir, Paddock Reservoir, Lake Lowell and a handful of Treasure Valley ponds.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.