Friday, May 07, 2021

Crazy for crappies!

| April 29, 2021 12:00 AM

Over the last few years, I have really become obsessed with black crappies.

While I have caught a few white crappie during my targeted crappie trips, the black crappie is more abundant, at least in the waters I fish.

Spring spawners, like many other panfish, crappies start to spawn as water temps really warm up, and up north this can come even as late as mid-June.

That magical 60-degree mark is when things really get interesting, and if you have yellow perch in the same lake, these two fish can dominate your spring fishing.

A word of caution though, as the largest males can be very aggressive in protecting the spawning areas, they can also be subject to over harvest, which is why many areas have special restrictions during the spawn.

Most spawning areas are in very shallow water and you can see the nests as well as the fish protecting them.

Once this happens, I will find something else to do, but that month or so leading up to the actual spawn can be very very good fishing.

This is the period we will soon find ourselves in here in the North Country. While Northwest Montana may not be very well known as crappie country, there are more and more popping up all around us.

Most of these populations are results of the infamous “bucket biology”, but in many of these waters, they have been there since the first bass plants several decades ago.

Bluegills as well are in these same waters and their spawning periods are very close as well.

As with many of the other non-native species present around Region 1, there tends to be controversy.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, at least in the past, has come right out and said they are invasive and “management” of non-native invasive species in Montana quite often means eradication, as indicated by this year’s specific mention of crappie in the regs, and the “No Limit” designation.

So, for those anglers that value the crappie, that responsibility of monitoring and managing the populations from overharvest falls directly on us.

I’m not going to go into detail about all the places to go catch crappie in the valley.

Do a little research and that info is available. There are several well-known crappie waters, and many that are less known, part of the fun is finding them and exploring them.

Crappie love cover, especially during the spawning periods, but will also seek out the deepest basins, especially during winter.

When it comes to ice fishing, the crappie is one of the most popular winter fisheries.

As I write this article, I am at one of many destination crappie fisheries in the U.S., Reelfoot Lake in Northwest Tennessee.

I had to travel to North Carolina for some family visitation and this lake has been on my bucket list for a long time.

The March through May time period is one of the most popular times to fish the southern crappie lakes and there are a lot of really nice fish being caught here.

It has really challenged me personally as the techniques are a bit different than I am used to in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota!

Most folks think of big fish destinations when planning a distant fishing trip. Mexico, Alaska, Canada, etc., etc.

Those of you that follow this column know, I travel all the time to go fishing, and it doesn’t matter what I am chasing at long as they are biting and there is fun to be had!

Chasing crappie in challenging environments is very much a ton of fun.

I will follow up next time with some results!

(We have been getting some great bites on Flathead Lake for lake trout and our summer calendar is filling up FAST. If you have company coming this summer, and a fishing trip is in your plans, do not hesitate to schedule it now and get on our calendars.)

I’ll see you on the water!