Asian carp and crappie time

By G. Sam Piatt - Contributing Columnist



Asian carp now inhabit the Ohio River in large numbers from the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville downstream to the Mississippi River. None have been documented on our stretch of the river, but no doubt they’re coming.

These foreign invaders reproduce at rates that boggle the mind, and grow in size with alarming speed. They now dominate the Illinois River.

One species of Asian carp, the silver carp, are spooked by vibrations from outboard motors so that great numbers of them jump completely out of the water, landing in boats and sometimes injuring boaters who are struck by them.

Kentucky is stepping up its campaign to educate anglers about Asian carp, which are spread from one water to another by accident. Young Asian carp look like native baitfish, such as shad. Fishermen catch their baitfish in nets and take them to other waters, tossing back what’s not used at the end of the day without realizing they may be releasing Asian carp.

“No responsible fisherman wants these fish in their lakes and reservoirs,” said the director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

New education efforts include posters and wallet-sized cards warning anglers of how quickly Asian carp can dominate a body of water and crowd out the native species.

The posters show the difference between Asian carp and native shad and skipjack herring.

“We’re starting an awareness campaign. It’s against the law to move Asian carp,” the official said.

One thing anglers can do is to use baitfish in the same waters where they have collected them. Don’t catch shad, which may include young Asian carp, in the Ohio River and release them in, say, Turkey Creek Lake or Greenbo Lake. They can doom bodies of water that size.


“Hold on to April; never let her pass!

Another year before she comes again

To bring us wind as clean as polished glass

And apple blossoms in soft, silver rain.”

—Jesse Stuart

April is a month that moves poets to sing.

And also brings us crappie in the spring.

Another April has come and gone and now, in the middle of May, crappie are holding close to the bank as they produce another crop of offspring.

Crappie are making their pre-spawn move to the shallows and ready to strike minnows and small jigs danced in front of their noses.

Water temperature is one of the primary keys in understanding the factors that trigger crappie spawning. Most experts say 56 degrees is the temperature at which it begins. The peak of the spawn, though, may not occur until the temperature a foot or so below the surface reaches 60 degrees.

A second key involves where to fish. Crappie will nest in shallow coves protected from wind and wave action. They’ll use the same spawning grounds year after year. The place where you’ve caught them in past springs is the place to visit again.

Most of the nests will be in one to five feet of water and usually around underwater brush or sunken logs.

Many crappie taken during the nesting period strike the bait not because they’re hungry. They do it to protect the eggs – and later the young fry – from predators.

But while smaller males are first preparing nest sites, you might find the larger crappies – the “slabs” – in water as much as 15 feet deep. It’s a good idea to drop a minnow straight down from the boat into these areas out and away from the nests.


Some crappie fishermen still 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 are used by most crappie anglers who fish with rod and reel. Others prefer the closed face spincast.


By G. Sam Piatt

Contributing Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.