I was about to panic.
I love the spring in Idaho. If you’re an outdoorsman how can you not love it?
Bear hunting, turkey hunting, mushroom hunting, whistle pig hunting and crappie fishing is in full swing.
And I was stuck over in South Dakota for six and a half weeks — and then came down with COVID-19.
I’m probably exaggerating a little but it was cold and somewhat snowy up until I flew back home. I got to Idaho and everything was green. I felt like I’d lost one and a half months of my life. One day it was still somewhat winter and then suddenly I woke up in Idaho and we were on the tail end of spring. If I missed crappie fishing, I’d die! Katy and I had gone crappie fishing before I’d left but it had been about two weeks too early so we’d only caught a few.
So, I was afraid the crappie had already spawned and moved out but I had to run try ‘em. My daughter Kolby had just healed up from COVID-19 so she said she wanted to go with me. I had a few hours of writing to take care of and since it was Memorial Day I told her we’d leave at noon and hopefully the crowds would have thinned out a little by then and we’d fish until dark. Turned out to be a good call.
Due to minor complications we didn’t arrive at the lake until 3:30 p.m. Things started off a little slow. We were catching enough to be happy and at this rate would end up with a decent mess of fish but we had to get things sped up so we jumped and tried one of my old reliable hot spots.
We pulled up to my hot spot but no bueno. I always slaughtered the crappie there but something had happened. OK, back west I had a few spots, we’ll go hit them.
I have a little jon boat with a trolling motor so we don’t move too fast so we were fishing as we moved to our new location. There is a flat spot that I never fish because it’s no good but for some reason we hit it. We got a decent one. In all my articles I tell everyone if they catch one to stop and jig because crappie are schooling fish. Where you get one there’s more. So, I decided to follow my own advice even though it looked like a dead spot.
We caught a couple more. Then it got hot. I don’t know if we had found a spot packed with crappie or they had moved in as the sun went down but it was crazy. The last hour we literally had a hit every cast.
Usually when we start fishing, I’ll put a different colored jig on every now and then and we’ll go with whichever color they’re hitting best. The last few years we’ve been doing good on black/white or red/white tube jigs so that’s what I put on Kolby’s line. I decided to put on a Lake Fork Trophy Lures 2 1/4-inch Sickle Tail Baby Shad. After 45 minutes, I’d caught six and Koko had only caught one or two. I told her we were switching hers to a Lake fork jig. Right away she started smoking them too.
Also, usually I’ll put a couple of split shots six inches above the jig. When I changed Koko’s jig, I removed her split shots. Lake Fork makes the best plastics. They have slots cut in the tail so any movement causes the jig to quiver realistically.
Here’s what was working for us. They were spawning so we’d cast right up close to the shoreline. We’d lift our rod tip and then reel in slowly as we let it back down. You don’t want to reel too fast.
Crappie are called “papermouths” for a reason. They have really soft mouths that can easily rip out so be gentle when working them. Don’t set the hook. Just lift your rod tip and reel steadily to keep pressure on.
The bigger (heavier) they are, the more likely they’ll rip off when hauling them into the boat. So I net all of mine. I haven’t documented it but I bet you’ll lose 15 to 20% if you try to lift them in so that’s why I use a net.
Kolby and I both wondered, did the fishing get hot because the sun was going down or had we just missed this little crappie stronghold when we went by the first time? I don’t know but I think we’re going back again near dusk and try to do a repeat.
If you haven’t been out crappie fishing this spring, then you better get out fast and get in on the fun!
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.