Around the picnic table we went, paper plate in hand, rain pattering on the canvas fly hung from tree to tree, helping ourselves to fried potatoes, baked beans, Boyd Nobel’s corn fritters, and then to the platter of golden brown, fried crappie fillets.
Be careful, they’re so tender your fork might break them and you’d lose a piece.
If you’ve ever fixed a meal under the trees in a campground then I’m sure you’ve noticed how everything tastes so much better when it’s cooked over a camp stove outdoors? The fish fry that evening in Twin Knobs Campground on Cave Run Lake made enduring a steady rain while catching crappie earlier in the day all worthwhile.
Crappie are fun to catch, and there’s no fish better when it comes to eating qualities. Even though there was rain on our shoulders on part of each of our five days fishing, the Cave Run Crappie Crew had fun every day of the week on the annual spring venture on the 8,200-acre lake, located 10 miles west of Morehead.
The crappie — both black and white — they caught on that outing were very nice 10- and 12-inch fish; now and then a 14-incher.
Boyd Nobel lives the farthest away among the Old Crappie Gang. He drove his pickup camper, pulling his boat, up from Corbin. The other five there were C.G. Barker of Olive Hill, “Bud Light” Langford, the lone buckeye, of the Cincinnati area, and Larry McGlone, Lew Dunn and Herb Maggard, all of the Ashland area.
Missing from that year’s camp was Gary Lee and Charlie Flannery, also from the Ashland area. Both were under the weather.
My son, Kendall, who had a birthday May 1, and I had trailered my boat down that day to fish with the Gang. Kendall wanted to fish exclusively for the muskie that Cave Run Lake is famous for. I wanted to fish for crappie.
(We always wish the good fishing fellowship we enjoy could go on forever. But that’s not how life is. Sad to report, Boyd Nobel died three years ago, Lew Dunn died earlier this year, and my beloved son, Kendall, was killed near the end of December 2014 when a truck struck his SUV on U.S. 23 in South Shore.)
Kendall and I compromised our wants on that trip. Actually, in the spot where we — or, I should say, the Old Crappie Gang – finally located the crappie, he could fling plugs right and left for muskie while I fished minnows and jigs straight down from the boat for crappie.
Crappie should have been moving to the shallows along the shoreline to make their beds and spawn.
But with the cooling rains, and the lake on the rise, they hadn’t shown up there. They were located on the flats, over the weed beds, in about seven feet of water and as much as 100 yards from the bank.
And they were hungry. The catchers battled them up on live minnows, fished either straight down or with a sliding bobber set to stop at 7 feet. They also hit on small lead jigheads adorned with small, rubber, curly-tailed grubs.
Crappie have always been a favorite of anglers of all ages and experiences, and it seems to me it’s getting more so lately. Volumes have been written about how to locate, catch, clean and prepare the crappie for the table.
My friend and fellow writer, Keith Sutton, who I and Soc Clay worked with covering a crappie tournament on Reelfoot Lake, published a book titled, “The Crappie Book: Basics and Beyond.” It has all the information you’ll need to become a successful and happy crappie angler. The book came out 10 years ago and should still be in print. You can Google “Keith Sutton, Crappie Book” to find out.
Most everyone knows how difficult it is to remove a tick, from your pet or even from yourself. Once they get that head embedded and taste your blood, they’d rather lose their head than let go. Ruby Vanzant of Tennessee thinks she may have found the solution to the problem. She writes:
“Sam, this was sent to me and I thought it well worth sending on.
For tick removal: Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for 15 to 20 seconds. The tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away.”
Harumph, cough, cough! This next letter falls into the category of tooting your own horn, or letting someone toot it for you. You can forgive me this one time?
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your column about fishing with “Hobo.” It’s some of the best writing I’ve encountered lately, and I hope you have in mind a book which would include it. Thanks for making my day.”
—- Suzi Major, Cincinnati
If you can’t be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.