The Fall bite will be wrapping up soon as we transition on into the starving times. With some of the weather we have had around Kansas lately it isn't any secret that Winter is just right around the corner. We all know what that means, some of the best Crappie fishing of the year is just right around the corner too. Once the water temps start dipping into the forties they will start moving to the Wintering spots. The Slabs that have been on schooling shad all Summer roving the open expanses of the Main Lakes will begin stacking up on ledges and brush in numbers that can climb into the hundreds. Like everything in life, the bigger the reward, the greater the risk, and Winter Crappie fishing is no different. There are a few extra precautions you need to take before venturing out in the cold.
The first thing you need to do is go over your boat with a fine toothed comb. Drain and replace the fluid in your lower unit. If it has water in it you will have to replace your lower unit seals. Oil floats, and any water in your gear case is going to freeze up on you. Best case scenario when that happens is you won't be able to shift it into gear until the engine exhaust heats it up enough to thaw it out. Worst case is you have so much water in it that it freezes up and actually cracks your lower unit housing or trashes the gears and bearings due to lack of oil. After every trip you take you have to fire the outboard up and let them idle for a few seconds in the parking lot to clear the impeller housing and purge the water jacket. If you don't you run the risk of the water in the impeller housing freezing up and blowing the seal, that will cause water to end up in your gear case as well. And before it ends up in the comments on the group Facebook page, We are well aware that none of that is in the owners manual. Most likely because they assume your boat was Winterized and stored away or because they don't mind selling a few extra lower units to the parts and maintenance shops.
Some underwater video of a Wintertime school of Kansas Crappie
Some other things to make sure you do is make sure your PFD is up to the job. If you haven't checked the Co2 cartridge all year now is a good time to go on and do that. Flailing around in water with temps hovering just above freezing isn't the time you want to discover it isn't working. I myself just wear a regular zip up kind under my Parka. The parka keeps it out of the way of my line and such plus it helps keep you warm, and you don't have to worry about a bad Co2 cartridge. One more thing you should do is stick your phone in a ziploc bag and keep it in your pocket. If you fall in and can't make it back to the boat you will have a dry, working phone to call 911, if you don't your a dead man, that phone is gone the second it gets wet. If you can, try to avoid going out alone. Try to find a buddy to tag along in case something happens. If you do end up going out by yourself you need to make sure somebody knows exactly where you are headed in detail. What Lake, ramp, area you plan to fish and when to expect you back. Also, try to avoid wearing your hunting gear unless it is your Blaze Orange. In the event the worst actually happens and people have to come looking for you it tends to help make things a bit easier if you stick out like a sore thumb as opposed to blending in to the reeds and brush along the shoreline. You also need to have a complete second change of clothes stored in a dry bag in the boat. Just trust me when I say it's a good idea unless a seven mile run back to the truck for them after a dip in 41 degree water with a 38 degree air temp just sounds like an awesome time to you.
You need to be aware that you are completely on your own in the Winter, I can't possibly stress this fact enough, KDWPT will pull their boats out of the Marinas and have them Winterized and stored on land for the Winter as well as the USACE Park Rangers. The Marinas are working half days if they are even open at all. If your out by yourself and something goes wrong, No one is there to save you. The water temps in the Winter will kill you long before the Sheriff or Fire & Rescue could get a boat in the water and reach your location so play it safe. As long as you do it right, there is no reason you can't go out and safely enjoy the Winter bite, you will be glad you did. It really is some of the best Crappie fishing of the year.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the R3 issue, but there are still a few that have no idea what it means...R3 is for Recruitment, Retention, and what they call Re-Activating former outdoor enthusiasts. Here in Kansas, it is mainly the hunting side of the house that is in trouble, not so much for the fishing side. Although I didn't get to deep into the numbers for the entire nation, it looks to me like that is probably true for most of the Country.
Unless you live under a rock, you have noticed that fishing as a whole is blowing up across the country, Now with 3 different National Level Crappie Tournament Trails, with Crappie Masters, American Crappie Trail,
and Crappie USA, not to mention the new MLF Bass Tournaments,...and the insane amounts of money and TV exposure they get.
Anyway, back to Kansas and why hunting as we know it is a fight that has already been all but lost. There are several reasons such as modern opinions and trends towards guns, animal rights, and so on, as well as other social and economic factors, some of them occurring before many of us were even born. The rural areas of the State are going to continue to decline due to residents leaving for the bigger cities or just leaving the State altogether, while the major population centers such as Kansas City, Topeka, Wichita and such will grow slowly over time from the residents relocating from rural Kansas to the city in search of jobs and so on, but even with the population of the State projected to grow, it will be at a snails pace compared to the rest of the Nation according to the Studies I have read on the issue....if you look at fishing lisc. sales from 2015 to 2018....it will reflect the slow but steady snails pace growth the population studies predicted... I will leave links to those below.
What that basically means if you think about it, is a further decline in hunting Lisc. sales for Ks.
I just don't see guys that grew up hunting the family farm and were forced to move to the city for work being that keen on hunting overcrowded public lands. Especially if you consider how expensive it is after gear, tags, clothing, butchering costs. I myself think that is the reason hunting is declining and fishing is growing. More hunters have come to realize fishing is a more affordable way to enjoy the outdoors and that they will always have easily accessed flood control lakes with ramps, unlike hunting land, with access becoming harder and harder to come by.
A brand new novice fisherman can get started for less than a hundred dollars. That will cover a fishing license, a Shakespeare Rod & Reel combo, a few lures and your in business....winner winner, fresh fish for dinner.
But for a brand new, novice hunter to get going.....he will be lucky if a hundred dollars will even cover just his boots, not to mention tags, permits, tree stand, the latest bow, the scent killer suit, the grunt calls, arrows, broadheads, ...starting to see where this is going ? In today's job market and economy, among the age bracket of younger Americans being looked at to fill the ranks,.who has money for all of that ? I can tell you who, a very select few that had well off parents,...not the commoner ,..Not after paying back college loans, a car, internet and cell phone bills, house payment, food and utilities and so on, not in this day and age.
The hunting industry chose to cater to the minority...Well to do White Guys with trophy wives that hunt in more makeup and diamonds than the local Evening news anchor, that exclude the average guy because he cant afford to drop a few grand every time a banquet or raffle comes up,..that want it all to themselves so that they can hunt for Trophies,... and ignored the majority, the Dads and Grandpas that hunted for food, and to spend time with the young ones over a bowl of deer chili or stew,.. those were the true few that held hunting the closest and taught it to the kids and grand kids. A greedy, money grubbing industry that made the average hunters feel alienated and inferior unless they had a private lease with 4 food plots and a sanctuary, with the latest and greatest of everything has squandered, perverted and ruined an entire hunting heritage and what it used to mean to be a hunter, The industry made that bed, and now it can't seem to accept the fact it's time to sleep in it.
A point made obvious when you still see guys pushing an age old recipe for disaster that has already been proven not to work trying to organize these R3 banquets and raffles. Your either a complete moron for not realizing by now a 15 year old boy is more concerned with girls and cars as opposed to hanging out with a bunch of old people at a banquet, or your a crook trying to use the 50-50 raffles to line your own pockets and manipulate connections with outdoor groups for your own ends.
There are some things that could turn it around such as stopping outfitters from leasing land. If they do not actually own the land out right, they should either not be allowed to offer guided hunts, OR... be REQUIRED BY LAW....to allow X amount of your Average, Resident..lisc holders per acre, per year, to hunt on it....why should a farmer let the State turn his farm into a walk in hunting area when he can make a killing from these Outfitters that run around trying to snap it all up. But that will never happen, and here is why, your politicians are part of the well off white guy crowd, and they won't hunt with the likes of you filthy commoners, they tend to hunt with guys that own hunting lodges with massive tracts of real estate and campaign contributions, you know what they say, money attracts money, so who's side do you really think your officials would be on if it came down to it, you commoners or the buddies they have with hunting lodges. It's sad to say...but hunting as we knew it is dead and gone, at this point just be happy you were alive to enjoy it before it was bought out.
Unlike the fishing industry, that aggressively focuses on the youth and beginner movement by organizations like BASS, BFL and FLW that pushes Highschool and College level tournament series on a nationwide level, as well as the Regional BASS, BFl, and FLW Trails for beginning adult tournament anglers, even us, tiny little ole KCC is bringing a beginner division to our own trail next year.....but the Hunting industry has done nothing of the sort, instead opting for things like pointing a finger at the kids and saying they are lazy and would rather play video games.
Nice cop out I guess, but as a guy that led some of those " lazy teenagers" , through two different Combat tours in Iraq, I can tell you first hand the youth of this Nation are capable of some very amazing things when they are given guidance, direction, and a fighting chance. They will step up and fill those ranks if they had a good reason to do so. The kids didn't fail the hunting industry, the industry has failed the kids.
I guess if there is anything to take away from this, we as Anglers have to make sure we don't let the things the hunting side of the house has done come over to the fishing side. It should never be about the size of the fish, but all about the size of the smile it brings, especially if it is on the face of a child. Also, just because your in a Bass boat doesn't mean your better than the guy in the jon boat...it's only money....it may buy boats...but it won't catch fish. Finally and most importantly, Whether in person or on social media...be respectful and supportive, the survival of our sport depends on Encouragement,... not Discouragement. I know I am not the only guy that was ever told if you can't say something nice...like...good fish, or nice haul....keep your mouth shut and say nothing at all.