Column: 'Tis the season for fishing to begin

Photo Provided
Jerry Uebelhor holds up a crappie that he caught during a fishing trip around this time last year.

By Larry LaGrange

I used to fish only for bass. Now I’ve wised up and realize that bluegill, crappie, and a few other species can be a lot of fun, which is what fishing is all about.

The second angling perk is that panfish make great table fare. You just can’t beat properly fried crappie or bluegill fillets. Makes me hungry just thinking about it. I just checked the freezer. Only one bag of fish left from last year. After a long Indiana winter, and they’re all long, it’s fishing season and time to restock my fish supply.

There’s something about watching a cork with a minnow below slowly slide under. You know when that happens that it’s a crappie or maybe a bass. I never get tired of seeing my cork disappear. That usually happens much more frequently with crappie than in typical bass fishing. One’s patience is tested when bass casting for hours has yielded few results.

From what I’ve read, crappie don’t go into semi-hibernation in the winter. That makes them a favorite target of ice fisherman and one of the first species to bite after the freeze thaws. I saw a bunch of boats on West Boggs Lake in January. Most were all slowly moving along, obviously spider rigging with multiple rods. I haven’t used this technique, but I it must work well, since various depths and lots of water can be covered systematically.

Several local guys go south for crappie early in the year. Alabama and Mississippi are popular destinations. In terms of record fish, Old Miss has a long-standing crappie record. A five pound, three ounce behemoth white was taken below Lake Enid dam in 1957. The black crappie record is five pounds even caught from a private lake in Missouri in 2006.

A crappie success story happened a year ago just about this time. Former JHS teacher Jerry Uebelhor and I were using minnows in a small private lake on a very windy but warm day. Boat control became difficult, and that usually means trouble for successful crappie fishing. Crappie are very relaxed, laid back critters. They like to look at an offering awhile before giving in and striking. That’s a general rule and there are exceptions, but usually the boat must be anchored and one must place his bait in the exact spot. Wind makes that difficult, but stiff breezes also stir fish activity. We had no success, until….

We got out of the wind in a small cove and tried a little brush pile that I’ve caught a few out of over the years. This time, zilch. The wind actually blew my boat into the brush, and that nixed any future chance we may have had there.

While we were more or less stuck, on a whim I tossed my minnow about 30 feet further down the bank into about 5 feet of open water. Pretty soon, down went the bobber, and I set the hook into a very nice 12-inch crappie.

I thought to myself how strange to catch a crappie in that spot, with no obvious cover around. I had never caught anything in that area before. I put on another minnow, tossed back to the spot, and pretty soon another nice crappie was joining the first in the livewell.

I told Jerry to come up to the front of the boat and that we could both fish this area. Maybe I was onto something. He eagerly complied. In about an hour, we boated 19 beautiful crappie from a spot about the size of a bathtub. A couple were in the 15-inch range. We quit fishing while they were still biting. That was enough for my friend to take home and clean.

Later I looked at this spot on a calm day when the water had cleared. There was something dark on the bottom but I couldn’t tell what it was. Maybe a big stump, maybe something else. Whatever it was, it was a crappie magnet on that spring day. Sometimes in fishing you just catch a break.

‘Tis the season. Best of luck to you — often that’s what it takes.

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