Weeks remain before the opening day of the Minnesota walleye season. Anglers have a lot of time to pursue one of the state’s top-rated fish: the crappie.
Compared to the walleye, the crappie are far more popular by young and old. For most of us catching pan fish, the crappie was at our beginning. Etched in my mind were the days sitting in a 14-foot wooden boat with my father at the stern and myself midship, manning a set of oars. Dad would always start the trip with a pep talk on how to oar the boat properly – quiet, soft and slow – any deviation resulted in a scolding.
For a day of crappie fishing, standard equipment included a bucket of fathead minnows, a 14- to 16-foot cane pole with a length of fishing line tied to the tip, then extending to the end of the pole, a selection of feathered, sixteenth-ounce lead head jigs and two anchors – one at the bow and the other at the stern.
First, we would look in the shallow mud bottom bays. If no crappies were home, outside weed edges comprising reeds and stumps along the west and north shore came next.
If we got close,just in time to see a fleeting crappie dash out of our sight, our confidence would swell. Presentation is pretty simple. To cast, swing the cane pole in a pendulum motion a couple of times, let the bobber with the jig drop into a opening in the cover. Twitch it a few times, lift the bobber and jig in and out of the pocket and move on. My father was a simple fisherman, nothing fancy. He felt spring crappie success depended on first getting out on the water and second, to keep moving until you find them. I recall some days we found them, other times we didn’t.
Today the process for crappie success is the same but the gear is more sophisticated. Spinning rods that match the length of those old cane poles outfitted with light weight spinning reels are today’s normal. Plastic jig bodies have replaced feathered jigs tipped with fathead minnows. Electric trolling motors instead of a pair of oars, even automatic anchors and trolling motors with “spot lock” replacing the anchors we had at the bow and stern.
Hard as we tried to keep our hot spots secret, word always got out eventually.
My Dad, a believer that crappies in the spring are vulnerable to over harvest, made a rule to take a few for a meal then quit.
Recently, I asked a Minnesota DNR fisheries biologist if crappies can be fished down in the spring. His answer: “Yes, they can, especially if overharvested late winter and spring. It’s the way with crappies, population explodes for some unknown reason in some lakes, gets fished down and bounces back when proper shoreline spawning habitat is present.”
Crappies are everyone’s favorite fish and the time to pursue them is just beginning.