Don't Fret, Crappie Spawn Isn't Over
Written by Doug Wynn - Published on May 3, 2022
Hey from the Excel Storm Cat 230. Will this March wind ever leave? I’m way past tired of wind. Most days it’s not a matter of where you want to fish but where you CAN fish.
The water temperatures ae finally getting to the level that the crappie are beginning to spawn. I have my fingers crossed that with steady water levels, we can have a great spawn this year. From the numbers of very small crappie that we are catching, the future of KY and Barkley lakes is looking up.
Another great spawn on top of what appears to have been a decent spawn last year, we should soon be able to forget those large population gaps that occur when a spawn is lost.
I’ve got to give a big shout out to the KY Fish and Game folks. Several years ago they started giving their blessings to allowing folks like myself to put biodegradable items like stake beds and brush piles into the lakes.
Many states don’t allow this practice but all one has to do is turn on a side-image fish finder to see the results. We are blessed with so much habitat to attract fish, provide cover for both fish and the fry of all the gamefish, and give us fishermen a place to get away from the crowds most of the time.
Modern electronics pretty much eliminate secret spots. The old days of dropping a brush pile in the lake then trying to make secret code markings on trees on the bank or triangulating the structure are thankfully past.
I remember well having a lake map in my lap while waiting for those red lines to appear above the bottom on my flasher units so I could drop a marker buoy on what I hoped was a brush pile.
I had somebody ask me the other day, “Why is Jonathan Creek not as crowded as it used to be?” “It used to look like you could walk from bank to bank, stepping in boats all the way across!” My answer was multiple. We now have other great fishing lakes within a day’s drive of most big cities.
The internet has caused many people to reconsider their fishing destinations due to constant bombarding of text and pictures of the kinds of fish many folks dream of. The net has also taken the words of somebody who has a bad fishing trip wherever as the sign this or that lake is dead.
To me, a big reason we don’t see the armada of boats we used to is due to modern fishing electronics, folks no longer have to float around aimlessly with a couple of rods baited with minnows, HOPING for a strike. Those same folks can now use their electronics to seek out fishing opportunities AWAY from the crowd.
A guy approached me a few days ago at Sportsman’s Marina. The first words out of his mouth were “It’s over!” I asked what is over? “The spawn.”
He had spent the last couple of days with his boat concealed in the thickest cover he could find in shallow water, watching multiple bobbers float around all day. The results had been disappointing so in his mind, the spawn was over.
I asked him if he had a side-image unit on his nice boat. He said of course. I asked if he knew how to use it. Of Course! I asked if he had taken the time to use that expensive toy to check out some deeper cover that I knew were holding fish? OH NO!
That would take away from his fishing time. Watching bobbers bounce unnoticed. I shook my head and walked away after wishing him the best but also telling him I had just cleaned a bunch of client crappie that the females all still contained eggs.
The crappie are moving toward shallow water but keep in mind they will stairstep their way to the shallow spawning areas then stairstep their way back from shallow to deep water. Each of those steps will be in relation to some sort of cover or depth change like a ledge drop off.
We caught crappie last week in 20 feet of water and 5 feet of water. I was trolling a variety of baits but mostly Pico INT cranks and the Pico Squarebill shallow runner cranks.
The wind was making it hard to control the boat at very slow speeds and the 1.5-1.8mph I pull the cranks helps me control the boat and maintain forward momentum. As the water clears, I’ve been using more natural patterns like chrome or shad patterns but there will always be at least one Mudbug.
I guess it is supposed to be close to a crawfish but to me it looks very much like a small bluegill or creek minnow. Either way, it has been our best pattern this spring. We’re also starting to see catfish and large sauger showing up on our crankbaits.
With the steady water levels, we are seeing very much less litter like leaves and pine needles in the water column. I can’t stress enough how important it is to check your baits often for debris. A fish may not be the most intelligent creature, but they are smart enough to know that bait covered by a leave is not something they want to eat.
I got over to Barkley yesterday and other than some surface trash, the water was in great shape and the crappie cooperated. I was saddened to see the tornado destruction and rebuilding in Eddy Creek.
Kentucky Lake has gotten most of the press after December 10th but the tornado left a half-mile wide path of just dirt from the mouth of Eddy Creek northeast over Hwy 93 and back over Eddy Creek near I-24. I have fond memories of that area from my childhood and know very few people who were directly affected but it still hurts to see their pain.
I’m getting reports of bluegill and redear moving shallow. A friend caught a 2.2-pound redear on Barkley last weekend on a whole nightcrawler fished on a chunk rock area. May 16 is full moon and the few days before and just after the full moon of May is typically the peak time to be chasing bluegills and redears.
My favorite tactic is casting using a drop-shot rig with a Popeye jig tipped with a wax worm. I fish it as slowly as I can right on bottom. Redears require stealth and quiet PLUS long casts.
The recreational boats are starting to show up in mass. Keep an eye on them. It is amazing how oblivious many boaters can be to their surroundings when pulling a tube or skier. Watch out for them making unexpected turns and stops.
I found out Monday that I’m not immune to boat trouble. I had purchased $100 of non-ethanol gas from a station near my home. We got about 10 miles from the ramp in late afternoon when I discovered water in my gas.
Modern outboards won’t run on water, as much as I wish they did. A quick drain of my fuel filter cleared it up, but many would not have been as prepared as I was. With ethanol fuel, water is a serious problem if not treated with ethanol treatment like Stabil.
My water separator filter saved us a long troll back to the ramp or hopefully find a Good Samaritan. You can bet my filter will be drained on a regular basis.
Be careful out there. Boating season is upon us, but we must stay mindful of hazards all around us. Wear your PFDs when the boat is at plane speeds. Please keep in mind, those inflatable PFDs don’t count as a PFD unless it is being worn. You get checked on the water, the officer could very well remind you of that.
Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I’m so glad I have my Mom and Mother-in-law with us. Let’s remember all the Moms. Past and present.
Welcome to our slice of Heaven.