Crappie time when redbuds bloom


G. Sam Piatt



This past Thursday, the fourth day of April, Creighton Stephens and I headed out for the upper reaches of Grayson Lake to find out if the crappie would cooperate.

We didn’t expect much action, for the water temperature was still at 49 degrees. Crappie prefer the temperature to be near the upper50s before they move to the shoreline to begin the spawn.

Another sure indication of crappie time is when the redbuds and the dogwoods begin to bloom. We saw just a slight purple tinge in the redbuds along the shoreline.

We were rushing it a bit.

There’s a boat ramp up where Caney Creek runs in. It meanders nearly a mile down to its junction with the Little Sandy River. It’s been nearly 40 years ago now that the river was dammed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seven or eight miles south of Grayson, creating a long slender lake covering about 1,200 surface acres.

We found enough water to launch the boat, but we wondered for awhile if the creek would be deep enough to make it to the river. With the outboard raised as high as it would go and still pump a stream of water, we left a wake of mud and sand down the first one-third of the channel.

But we made it. We turned right up the river, which is not much more than 12 feet deep and 30 yards wide. We soon tied off to a snag projecting up from an underwater brush pile. We baited up and sent live minnows down.

We had almost immediate action. As is usually the case when Creighton and I fish together, he had four crappie in the live well before I caught my first one.

I can attest to what a wonderful thrill it is to see the bobber go under, the rod tip go down, and feel the throb of the first fish of spring.

In my humble opinion, People who don’t fish are missing out on one of the great pleasures of life.

Crappie are one of the finest eating fishes on the planet. And so easy to fix. I break two eggs in a bowl and beat them with a fork. I dip the fillets into the egg batter, drop them into a bag of flour and meal, and drop them into a skillet of hot grease. Two or three minutes on each side and the golden-brown fillets are ready for the platter.

On Grayson Lake, the daily limit for crappie, black or white, is 20, with no size limit. We tossed back quite a few we judged were too small to keep.

Actually we kept only eight crappie. And three bass. The daily limit on bass is six with a minimum size limit of 15 inches.

That was enough for 22 fillets – enough for a mess but not enough to invite the neighbors in.

Not yet, anyway.

In Ohio, Paint Creek and Rocky Fork lakes offer good early spring crappie fishing.

Ohio River feeder streams such as Turkey Creek, Tygarts Creek, Ohio Brush Creek and Kinniconick Creek are also good spots for crappie.

Continued warm weather will start the redbuds and dogwoods to blooming, and that’s a sure sign of crappie time.

The best bait is live minnows, dropped straight down from the boat around underwater brush, with just a tiny splitshot attached to the line a foot above the hook to take the lure down.

Artificials that work include a neon lime curly-tailed rubber grub on a small jig. Other good colors include red/white. red/chartreuse, white, pink or chartreuse tube jigs.

EQUIPMENT

Some crappie fishermen prefer using a seven- or eight-foot – even a 12-foot – cane pole, especially in areas so close in as to make casting difficult. Nowadays, though, most jigging poles are made of fiberglass or graphite.

A combination light-action pole and a spinning reel (open-faced) equipped with 4- to 8-pound line is used by most crappie anglers who fish with rod and reel. Others prefer the closed face spincast reels with the push-button release.

If you’re a minnow fisherman, a small box, even a 3-pound coffee can, to accommodate a selection of hooks, bobbers and split-shot sinkers – and an extra spool of line – is all you’ll need.

Other area lakes where good populations of crappie are found include Greenbo, Yatesville and Cave Run.

In Ohio, Paint Creek and Rocky Fork lakes offer good early spring crappie fishing.

Ohio River feeder streams such as Turkey Creek, Tygarts Creek, Ohio Brush Creek and Kinniconick Creek are also good spots for crappie.

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G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at gsamwriter@twc.com or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at gsamwriter@twc.com or 606-932-3619.