Howdy everyone! Rockfish are biting, lingcod are being caught, surfperch are on the beach, clams are being dug, shad and red-tailed perch are running on the Umpqua and bass and panfish are aggressively taking lures and bait everywhere. In short, it’s my favorite time of year.
There’s also crabbing, which has been a total hit or miss deal lately with the crabs congregating or “clutching” in sporadic groups both in the bay and in the ocean.
And last but not least, we had a three-day halibut opener but the weather wasn’t cooperative and we had minimal participation by anglers. Now I’m not saying there were not nice halibut caught because there were some nice 40- to 50-pound fish, but overall it was super slow. The next three-day opener will be May 24-26.
Today, I would like to talk about one of America’s favorite “starter fish,” the crappie. Just to be clear, it’s pronounced “Craw Pee” not, well, you know. The crappie is an aggressive little panfish that inhabits freshwater ponds, lakes, and rivers around North America. Untold thousands, maybe even millions of these fish have fallen prey over the centuries to young and old anglers alike with nothing more than a bobber, hook, and worm.
These days artificial baits, jigs, and small bass tubes are just as likely to be used. In fact, what are referred to around these parts as “steelhead jigs” are in other parts of the country known as “crappie jigs.” I always find that kind of funny from a marketing standpoint. We have two species of crappie in North America, the white crappie and the black crappie; while there is some difference in outward appearance they basically function the same.
The crappie exists in all 48 contiguous states due mostly to relocation by anglers looking to establish stocks in private ponds and the like. These fish love clear fresh water with overhead aquatic vegetation for cover and will feed on anything small enough to fit in their mouths that swims or crawls by or is unfortunate enough to fall into the water. In ponds prolific with crappie, you can often hear the “slapping” sound they make as they suck in prey from the surface. I use this sound to target them and cast a small plastic tube or nightcrawler into the area; this almost always results in a hook-up.
While these fish can and do feed during the day, it is at night and early morning when they are most active and in jurisdictions where it’s legal to do so a savvy angler can use an underwater light to draw in small invertebrates and fish and all the crappie that come in to feed on them.
This species can live up to seven years and at 2 to 4 years of age it,’s time for the crappie to start a little family of their own. Spawning occurs in early spring with the male using his body and tail to make a little depression in sand or mud. This crappie little “house” is usually located by cover, such as weeds, reeds, or deadfall and the female will lay about 40,000 eggs, which hatch in only a few days.
The young will remain in the nest for several days before wandering off on their own and unfortunately, some crappie parents will unwittingly devour their own young, much like politicians. This can be referred to a really “crappie” way to go.
Whether you are chasing lingcod in the sea or panfish in the ponds I hope to see you out there.