Crappies and Current
Hit the creeks for springtime Slabs
Crappies are delicious. No denying it. I have a buddy who calls them "donuts with fins". Now I don't know if they are the best tasting fish you could possibly catch, but I wouldn't want to argue against them. All I know for sure is that there aren't any leftovers during any crappie fish fry I've been around, and spring time is my favorite time to catch them.
The crappies are on the move. This doesn't happen in a day or even several days. Spring crappie movement often takes weeks, and what many people do not realize is that this movement often continues into streams and rivers that dump into the main basin. In streams these fish congregate in specific areas and fisherman can capitalize on this opportunity.
Bridges are cool, but there are better options
By the time mid-April rolls around, crappies have often dispersed into these streams as far upstream as they are going to get. This leads to the highest number of crappies the river will see all year, and is the best time for fisherman to catch them.
These fish stack up in relatively predictable locations. You are looking for large pockets of calm water. Some are well known, others are more subtle. The easiest spots to find are bridges. If you drive over a river, they are pretty hard to miss after all. The bridge pillons, especially ones with timber shoved against the upstream side, have pockets of slack water behind them. Crappies relate to this. However, because of the easy access, these spots often get fished down quickly.
A different strategy that can be more effective, but also more work, is to float the river and find large, dense brushpiles in deeper water. Deeper water is relative. If the stream is mostly one to two feet deep, then any water over three feet would be considered a hole. Anything over five feet deep is considered a deep hole. Look for deep holes with lots of timber in the water that reduces current. Find these locations and you may find crappies resting and feeding on the small fish and insect larvae that call these places home.
Not only is this a great way to find unpressured, concentrated fish, but it also allows you to cover more water. Think about it, if you are fishing a spot and catch most of the active fish, all you have to do is pull anchor and look for another brushpile. Often the more water you cover, the more fish you catch. In the smallest of streams crappies sometimes run up, you may be unable to find a boat ramp. For these instances, I find a kayak or small jonboat to be an effective tool for surveying water. If you have neither, strapping on a pair hiking shoes can yield spectacular results.
Keep it simple for bait and tackle
And I mean it. When putting miles under your shoes, it is important to pack light. Crappies are hungry and typically do not need much coaxing to bite a well placed lure. A minnow under a bobber is effective as long as you do not mind the occasional tangle with a fiesty catfish. Small jigs with plastic twisters, swimbaits, or tubes also catch their share of fish. My personal favorite is a 1/8th or 1/16th ounce marabou jig. Experiment with a few colors to find the best ones.
Keep tackle simple too. Any ultra-light or light action spinning rod matched with four to six pound line will get the job done just fine. If you want to make sure you land those catfish that eat your minnow, bump up to eight or ten pound line, and you can add a few channel cats to the frying pan too.
Spring is here and the fish are biting. Find a small stream that dumps into a lake or reservoir with a good crappie population. If you catch a mess of them, keep enough for a meal or two and let a few go for future generations. Better yet, take a kid fishing and show them what conservation looks like in person. Whatever you do, enjoy your time outdoors.