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It's nearly crappie time

The Practical Outdoorsmam

April 01, 2009
What a winter we had! Two years ago, I was writing about catching crappie in mid-February. Now, it's near the end of March, and the water temperature is just now reaching the low 50s, when the crappie begin to approach the shallow water for their annual spawning season. By the time this article appears, the spawn should be in full swing.

A week ago Sunday, I fished with Leland Ables and his dad, Melvin, and kept 18 crappie and one bonus four-pound bass that, when I hooked it, I was hoping was a BIG crappie. Once it got close enough to the boat, I saw that it was just a bass — just a four-pounder.

Last Monday, fishing with Leland and Chris Schroeder, we found 54-degree water, but didn't connect with any concentration of fish until the afternoon. We kept 24 crappie and put back at least that many. Ables caught a bass that weighed about three pounds and returned it to the lake.

It seemed the larger fish came from close to the bank, although we caught a number just off the face of the dam in six to eight feet of water.

We were fishing Lake John Hay in Salem and had lots of company. The parking area was full of vehicles, and there was a boat in any direction you looked. Some were bass fishing, but I believe the majority were fishing for crappie.

We were fishing minnows under bobbers, and the best depth, at least on these two days, was four feet. That will change as the water warms and the fish venture into shallower water. Many times I've caught them fishing just a foot deep.

The male crappie are the first to hit the banks as they search for suitable nesting areas. All the fish we caught were males.

The egg-laden females typically hold deeper until the water warms up to 58 to 62 degrees and are not only hard to find, but don't seem to be in a feeding mood. Once they venture to the banks to spawn is when you'll catch these larger fish.

Unsettled weather bringing a cold front with rain and wind can push them off the bank till warm days return. So, at times it's "on again, off again" during the early spring season. The smaller lakes are probably your best bet right now as they warm faster than larger ones like Patoka, although Patoka could turn at any time.

Another good bet for this time of year is fishing for sauger at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville. I recently caught some good stringers.

A 1/4-ounce jig with a chartreuse twister tail and a live minnow behind that is all you need to catch these tasty critters.

So, put your gear together and get out on the water. There's not a better time to catch them than right now. Good luck!

Bergman can be contacted at proutdoors@aol.com.

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