Crappie Spawn Winding Down; Bluegill/Redear Tips Offered
Written by Doug Wynn - Published on May 9, 2022
Hey Y’all from the Excel Storm Cat 230. My wishing the winds and rain would go away hasn’t happened. Maybe the summertime-like weather this week will run them off.
Phil Robertson of Duck Commander fame is known for saying “Happy! Happy! Happy!”. Those three words pretty well sum up my feelings when I started to see the big female crappie we have been catching mostly, or almost completely, devoid of eggs.
To me, that can only mean one thing. The circle of life has been completed and the next generation of big crappie have been set upon the aquatic world to thrive and grow into trophy crappie. Stable water levels and warming temperatures should bode very well for all the fish in our lakes to produce a great spawn.
We will see the fruits of this year’s spawn in three years. Mother Nature and TVA both contributed nicely. Afternoon surface temps over 70 are now the norm.
This past week has been one of my best in years. I was able to get to Barkley to scout some spots for future trips and found fish very scattered. Kentucky Lake has been the same.
Reports from other guides and friends seem to back up my observations. Covering huge amounts of water have been the key to good catches with multiple crappie over 15 inches.
As is normally the case, we pulled Pico crankbaits as well as some other brands. Colors have been all over the spectrum, many days changing several times to find that one pattern that the fish want.
I’ve been concentrating on the deeper contours just off the shallower spawning areas. The preferred depth on Barkley and Kentucky has been around 15 feet. Structure and deeper water nearby are a must.
I have not had one minute to fish for bluegills or redears but those fishermen who take time to cover lots of water while watching their side image locators have found hungry fish.
Reports of some bull male bluegills up to 10 inches have come directly from those lucky fishermen. As the full moon approaches, this fishery should be on fire. As I do every year, please keep what you can use and release the rest, including those big bloated female redears and bluegill that are the future of the fishery.
If redears were as plentiful as crappie I wouldn’t harp on that point. Many more folks are now catching redears who have never caught them before due to the actions of those in the past who caught, admired, photo’d, then release spawning females.
I had a person approach me this week with a photo of what he said was an 11-inch bluegill. He was excited until I showed him the physical difference in a bluegill and a redear. His trophy was an 11-inch male redear.
While still happy, his ego was slightly deflated. It was his first redear. While on that subject, please take the time to learn the difference in the species. It could save you a bunch of cash. The tale-tail namesake red mark on the very back upper side gill plate of the redear gives them away.
It is around the back part of the black spot on the gill plate. There is a limit of 20 redears on our lakes but no limit on bluegills.
Coming to the dock with a bucket full of redears mistaken for bluegills could be a costly error. While there is no limit on bluegills, I have seen folks with huge coolers full who were sick of cleaning them long before they finished. Consider letting those 6 inchers go for some kid to enjoy.
Check the sandy and gravel bottom areas in creeks. Many can be found on offshore bars and humps. 4 to 6 feet deep is where I start my search. Once found, you need to use stealth and long casts for redears using red worms, night crawlers, or crickets.
My favorite is a drop-shot rig with a popeye jig tipped with either a wax worm or piece of night crawler fished on bottom as slow as I can drag it. There will be zero mistaking the strike from a redear or big bluegill. Many folks still like the traditional bobber rig. Keep your bobber as small as possible. Those softball-sized bobbers dropped on their heads will normally guarantee them leaving the area.
Catfish have started showing up on our baits as have sauger. I’m so pleased to see so many small sauger. While they must be 14 inches long to keep, those cigars as we call them guarantee a bright future.
Maybe we can get back to the old days when sauger were a regular guest in livewells and on table. There is no fish in our lakes that are better table fare.
The catfish we are catching are loaded with eggs that look very mature so that spawn should soon hit high gear. Rocky and sandy areas near deep water will be where you need to look for them. While we are catching ours on cranks, catfish will eat about anything put in front of them.
Worms, cut bait, live minnows, or commercial stink baits fish just above the bottom will draw strikes. My Granddaddy always said a catfish bait must be ON the bottom. I’ve found I get just as many bites and way less hang-ups when my bait is close to, but not directly on the bottom.
I got to practice what I preach Saturday as I was getting ready to put my boat on the trailer. A call came into Sportsman’s Marina from those on a boat in distress on Jonathan just east of the bridge.
The ladies asked if I could help since their rental boats weren’t available. What I found was what I call a cabin cruiser dangerously close to the windy bank after they lost power. Luckily, I had enough rope and power to pull them back to the public ramp north of the bridge.
Get off your butt and go fishing. School will soon be out, and the kids need a break from video games and sleeping till noon. There is nothing more satisfying than the happy smile of a kid holding up a fish for a photo. Catfish and bluegills thrill a kid of all ages.
Be careful out there. As school is out and vacations start, the boat traffic will increase. I’m constantly amazed at how few really know the fishery and boating rules. It is YOUR responsibility to know them and have your boat equipped with all the necessary safety equipment.
Wear your PFDs. I watched a show last night where a family lost their $400,000, brand new boat to sinking in 100 feet of water in a western lake. Thankfully they had their PFDs immediately available as the boat sunk in seconds. Those PFDs wouldn’t have helped them if they were in a storage compartment somewhere growing mildew.
Enjoy our lakes.
Welcome to our slice of Heaven!