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Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring is best time to catch crappie

Paul Cooper of West Lafayette, IN, holds a nice crappie that hit a minnow.

Crappie fishing is fun year-round. Anytime you get the opportunity, crappie can provide fishing action and good eating at the table.
These fish, also known be many other names such as spects,  calico bass, speckled perch, and numerous other local and regional names, can be caught most anytime They even can be taken through the ice during winter months. However, spring and fall usually are the best times to catch these tasty fish.
Warming spring waters trigger heavy feeding among fish, and the crappie spawn when water temperatures reach 52-60 degrees. 
Under normal circumstances, crappie in different lakes and streams will spawn at slightly different times, primarily dependent on water temperature and other conditions. Crappie will spawn earlier at Kentucky Lake than they will at Hovey Lake, Patoka Reservoir, or the embayments off the Ohio River.
The spawn also will end earlier at Kentucky Lake and other southern Bluegrass state lakes. When the spawn is nearly over at Kentucky Lake and fish are moving back into deeper waters, the spawn in shallow water in lakes further north may continue for a short time . No one can guarantee what Mother Nature and fish will do.
Just ahead of the spawn, the females move into shallow water near shoreline cover and lay their eggs. Then they will move to deeper water, often close to the nearest dropoff. It is possible to find some females there feeding. The males stay in the shallow water to guard the eggs.
Once the spawn is over, the crappie will move into deeper water and scatter, but they still can be caught. It just isn't as easy as during the spawning period. Schools of big crappie (slabs) also can be caught during the fall feeding period, just ahead of the start of winter weather.
Crappie generally swim in schools. Where you find one, you'll usually find more. They are found throughout most of Kentucky and Indiana, and in fact throughout most of the U.S. They usually are found around some type of cover.
Specs average 6-11 inches in length. However in certain lakes with a good food supply, they may run up to 17 or even 18 inches long. A fish weighing a half pound to a pound is considered a good fish.
Catching crappie on light weight tackle is fun, and using light line (two to six-pounds) also is the most productive. The lighter the line and the smaller the lure, usually is key to good crappie fishing. I usually only go with six-pound test line when I'm fishing around brush.
What lure or bait is best is a matter of personal preference. So is the color. However, it probably is wise to experiment to see what is working. Some days it seems the crappie like jigs, and other days they prefer minnows, and sometimes I tip a jig with a minnow. Small Road-Runner lures work well as do small Mister Twisters. I have one friend who never uses anything but blue and white jigs, and he puts lots of crappie in the live well.
While most crappie anglers use spinning reels on long poles (seven to 10 feet), a cane pole can do the job. A bobber above the bait works well, but some people prefer to tight line and depend on the feel of the fish biting to know when to set the hook.
As with all fishing, what technique you are comfortable with and works best for you, is the one to use.
This time of spring, a plate of fried crappie and morel mushrooms is hard to beat.

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