As Crappie anglers, we constantly find ourselves at the mercy of Mother Nature, and for the most part we are able to handle what she throws at us. We are able to purchase gear that helps us deal with the rain, heat, snow or cold. Wind on the other hand, that's a bit different. Yes, we have clothing that keeps it off of us, but it does nothing for keeping the Lakes from getting kicked up, and let's face it, fishing in whitecaps while trying to work jigs over brushpiles is just a pain in the rear end, not to mention dangerous.
One way to get around this problem is by staying off of the Lakes altogether, and fishing the feeder creeks and rivers. They offer plenty of fishing opportunities, with good numbers of Bass, Crappie, and Catfish, as well as being a great place to get out of the wind. The numerous laydowns offer plenty of places to drop a jig and pull Slab sized Crappie out of the tree tops. The dirty, nutrient rich water that runs through them always provide you with healthy fish to spend your day chasing. For the most part, they average ten feet in depth and will usually have well defined drops along the banks that fall off sharply.
The spawn was fun, and here in Kansas, anglers of all ages were quick to make the most of it. But now that it's over, isn't a reason to put your Crappie gear away, maybe you just need to add a few things to your gear list. Night fishing in the right areas can be just as productive, and on some nights, even better than the spawn. Even though I fish from a boat, there are plenty of places for bank anglers to take advantage of the night bite. The key to it all is being in the right places at the right times with the right equipment.
During early Spring and through the Spawn the best places tend to be the backs of the coves or mudflats near deeper water. They tend to be the first places to warm up in the early season as well as where the pre-spawn fish will start staging. I recently took a couple out on a night trip to Lake Perry here in Kansas. Using a propane lantern hanging off the Driftmaster rod holders to light up the area around a brushpile in 3 to 4 ft of water, on the high side of a ledge that rolled off into 12 ft or so, we put 18 nice, pre-spawn Crappie in the boat in just over 2 hours. Be sure to watch the video below and you will get an idea of how it all comes together.
As the dog days of Summer set in, fishing for Crappies at night offers numerous benefits over daytime fishing to anglers of all ages. Your not dealing with day boaters, jet skis, or roasting under a blazing sun. Summer gives me some of my most productive fishing trips of the year, with one or two hundred fish nights possible. I will target coves with standing timber in eight to sixteen feet of water. I have found over the years it's best to hang them from a tree that is somewhat close to the water, after thirty minutes or so it will start stacking up the food chain, with plankton showing up first, followed by Bluegill, Crappies, Catfish and so on. Once the bait ball builds up and gamefish begin feeding, that feeding frenzy will basically run all night long until the rising sun washes out your lantern light.
When the leaves start to change colors with the onset of Fall, it's time to start working deeper water. Generally I will set up on steep rocky banks where the old river channels run close to the shoreline, or rip rap close to deep water such as on the dam or on a Marina jetty. I still fish the same pattern I use the rest of the year with a minnow on a slip bobber, I just fish it a little bit deeper, around 15 ft or so. It all depends on what your Electronics are showing you, but as a general rule, try to put your minnow about a foot or two below the depth the shad are holding at, the game fish will be set up right below them and that will put your bait right in the Crappies strike zone. This pattern will hold through the end of Fall until it starts getting to cold to be out there at night. No matter what time of year you go out on a night trip, safety needs to be a high priority, always let someone know where you will be, what ramp your using, and when to expect you back. The Lake is a very different place in the dark than during the day, and highly recommend using a guide on your first few trips out.
On a recent trip to Parsons, Kansas for a 3 day fishing trip targeting two and a half pound, plus sized Crappie, I was eager to get settled in and down to business. I had heard from several people that S.E Kansas hides some real trophy sized Slabs and couldn't wait to try and get my hands on one. On our first day we talked to several people that were on the bank and all of them had some really good sized fish,...but only a few, nobody had caught more than five, but the fish they had were absolute giants.
Sometimes as fisherman we like to think all the latest toys we buy is the key between fish pictures and sunset pictures. In a world of side scan and 360 sonar, trolling motors linked to satellites whizzing around the planet, and six digit price tags on fishing boats, it's almost unthinkable that waiting on a slip bobber with a minnow is the best way to go. Who do these fish think they are ?...making me sit here and wait on a bobber to go down like some fisherman from 1940. All the magazines say I should be able to cast this new lure, or that new jig, or maybe that new jig on a slip bobber,..and if none of that works, surely trolling cranks behind those fancy new planer boards will trigger a strike,..right ? ...Nope !
Trust me ,..we tried it all, and the only thing giving up the fish was minnows on corks, just randomly cast over the open water that was just out from the spawning banks. We managed to get a few fish in the boat, some in the fifteen inch range, but nothing close to the quality of fish known to be in that body of water.
After finally admitting defeat, on our way back to the ramp we stopped to talk to a local Angler that was hanging out on a dock, sitting on top of his beer cooler and listening to some tunes on an old radio. He told us the key to that Lake is patience. Sometimes you just take what ya got, go the the lake and just fish. Using poles that looked like catfish rods, and what looked like 6500 series Ambassadors reels, he pulled in his stringer to show us 2 of his better fish, both of which would be wall hangers by any Lakes standards. After lifting our jaws off the deck and putting our eyeballs back in our heads, we both kinda came to the same conclusion....sometimes the old way really is the best way, sit there soaking minnows and wait on that cork to go down.
Burlington Construction Inc. is in the middle of completing some much needed repairs and upgrades to the ramp and docks at Eisenhower State Park. To celebrate this occasion Burlington Construction Inc is doing a camping giveaway, be sure to follow the instructions in their link for a chance to win.