I love crappie fishing, and I can't really say why. Maybe it's the fact that they're one of Ohio's prettiest fish, silver and black with flat sides and high dorsal fins. Or that they're so deliberate. No line screaming strikes here, just a gentle bounce or two of the float, then a slow sliding away that gives you plenty of time to pick up your rod or cane pole and retrieve a flopping fish.
I like the lack of necessity for fancy equipment, too no tackle box filled with glittering worms and hardware, just a No. 6 hook, splitshot, and thin pencil float with a minnow on the hook, or a little jig with twistertail. There are lots of them too, and they're top table fare, not being called "panfish" for nothing. Multiple reasons for me to seek them now, and plenty of reasons for readers to seek them, too. Which they do.
Visit any crappie hotspot this weekend, and you'll see people gathered around every half drowned log and brushpile Most of them will have at least a few, hopefully enough for a good dinner. And many will be family groups, mom and dad and the kids. One woman told me last spring as she unhooked a fine crappie "We don't fish most of the year, but we do go out during crappie season. We just like to sit along the bank and catch some."
For most area anglers that's all that's necessary, just sit on the bank with a long rod or pole, fish around the woody structure that crappies like with a minnow, and you'll likely catch some, too. If relaxing along shore watching redwing blackbirds swaying on a cattail makes for a good mornings fishing, so be it. But there are ways to improve your catch, and if you're willing to take a little exercise to build a real skilletfull, here's how you do it.
First, remember that any piece of woody cover will likely have some fish, and you'll catch them quickly. But soon they're either gone or scared off, and bites will slow rapidly as only an occasional cruiser swims into your fishing spot. You're better off skimming the cream, then moving on to another bit of likely cover, then another and another.
Fish all sides of the wood too, moving in close, out a bit, near this limb, then that one. And if nothing much is happening, try adjusting your float up and down. Except when they're on a nest and actively spawning, they tend to move deeper as the day progresses, then gradually shallower as evening comes on, a good thing to keep in mind.
Boat fishermen can make a killing along the typical rocky, woody shoreline. Some still use minnows, but they're better off using a small 1/16 ounce jig with either maribou dressing or a little twistertail. White with a red head is tops, but pure white works, as does pink and chartreuse, and wise anglers will add a waxworm to the hook. The waxworm will draw even reluctant biters and likely double your catch. But again, move. Hit this bit of wood, then move to another and another. You should have all you want to clean in an hour or two.
Here's a final thought. You can find some dandy crappie in area lakes and in tributaries leading out of them, but for consistent catches of really big slabs Lake Erie is the spot. I've visited Middle Harbor five times over the past 10 years using a small boat to hand launch over grass, then paddle far over to the opposite shore, and caught crappie spawning there just twice.
But those two times yielded fish to 14 inches, while the other trips yielded just a channel cat or two. And marinas along the big lake, especially around Marblehead and East Harbor can provide some top crappie action if the marinas will let you fish. It's seek and ye shall find, and there'll be wasted trips, but if you win, you'll usually win big.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disabled hunters who meet certain medical criteria will be able to apply for a permit to hunt from a motor vehicle on selected state wildlife areas. The new permit system allows qualifying individuals to possess a loaded firearm on or in an electric powered all-purpose vehicle or motor vehicle. The vehicle must be at a complete stop with the motor off before a firearm can be discharged. When the vehicle is in motion, firearms on board must be unloaded. Access roads for permit holders are located in nine areas, among them Resthaven and Lake La Su An.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife recently removed the blue catfish from the state endangered species list, making it legal to catch and possess. Fishery biologists have concluded that blue catfish populations in the lower Ohio River were substantial enough to warrant down listing the blue cat from endangered. Sampling on the Markland and Meldahl pools of the Ohio River found good numbers of blue catfish between 40 and 42 pounds, with a few more than 50 pounds.
The Ohio Division of Watercraft is seeking public comments for revision of its long term strategic plan for recreational boating in Ohio. The town meetings will be conducted around the state beginning April 29. The meeting nearest our area will be held at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge from 7 to 9 p.m. May 14. The Refuge is on Ohio 2 near Oak Harbor.