Normally I do good crappie fishing until the end of May, maybe the first week of June, but the last few years I have been doing well on up until early September. This year, though, it may be slipping back into the old routine. Katy and I went the last week of June and only caught 45. Then the first week of July we only got 12 to 15 fish. But two were big bluegills, and my wife, Katy, got one nice bass.
But we did lose a little time because of boat troubles. The trolling motor on the jon boat gave up the ghost, and we had to paddle back all the way across the lake. Luckily, there was zero wind. I haven’t had to paddle that much since I canoed the Mississippi with the Quapaw Canoe Co. a few years back. Because of the lack of wind which you normally have to deal with on the C. J. Strike Reservoir, it wasn’t really bad at all. We made it across in record time before the wind started kicking up.
The crappie we are catching now are on the smaller side. And as is usually the case, the more the spring/summer progresses, the smaller they get. I assume because fishermen have culled through the larger fish ,but it could also be that the bigger fish have moved out deeper.
I fish and hunt all day but you’ll do better as a general rule on all outdoor activities at daylight/dusk. Fish and animals have their own schedules. If you want to be successful, you will be there when they’re moving. If you want to sleep in and come out after brunch, you can — just don’t expect them to wait on you. For instance we’re going Kokanee fishing on Monday with the Lucky Tackle Co. We’re meeting in Boise at 5:30 a.m. I just throw in this advice for all of the little yuppie fishermen who think they can be successful outdoors by strolling out from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
There are a lot of methods you can employ to be successful catching crappie, but we catch hundreds of crappies with the plain ole tube jig. How windy it is which will determine how big of a jig head I will use. I say this because if I am blowing along pretty fast, my jig won’t get down to where I want it to be. But with that said, I use a smaller jig no matter what and just add a small split shot if necessary.
Big jigs sink too fast, and I hang up and I don’t catch as many fish as I do with smaller jig heads. For whatever reason, I catch a lot more fish using a smaller jig head. I can’t tell you if the smaller weight stays in the zone where the fish are or if it just floats more naturally. I just know that it works. Instead of carrying bigger jigs for when it is super windy, I just clip on a small split shot or two.
One thing that I have started using the last few years is Crappie Nibbles. This year I switched to Pautzke Fireball Crappie Nibbles. Using nibbles will increase your hits big time. I discovered this by mistake. A couple of years ago, I ran over to do a two-day crappie trip. Unbelievable. I forgot my tackle box. Luckily, I had taken a handful of rods and everyone was rigged up with jigs from the last trip. More unbelievable is that I never lost a set-up. I had a bottle of Crappie Nibbles I’d found and used them. I caught more fish than ever before and have used them ever since.
As far as jig color. It seems to change every year or two as to what works best. Of course a lot of it is determined by the sunshine or lack thereof. So always carry multiple colors. And at the start of the day, have everyone using a different color until you determine which color works best. If the bite slows down, try a different color.
And lastly, you will be catching large numbers of fish, so you’ll want an electric fillet knife. I just got a Waring Commercial Electric Knife, which is sweet because it is cordless. That means I can fillet fish with an electric knife on overnighters.
So as we close, even though most people consider the spring crappie fishing season to be over, don’t quite give up yet. I plan on milking it for a little longer.
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.