“In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” This line is from the poem, “Locksley Hall,” written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the 1800s. Obviously he never lived in the Ozarks during spring when many young men’s thoughts turn to fishing and turkey hunting.


“In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” This line is from the poem, “Locksley Hall,” written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the 1800s. Obviously he never lived in the Ozarks during spring when many young men’s thoughts turn to fishing and turkey hunting.

Bass and catfish occupy a huge percentage of the springtime angling hours at our lake but if you just consider the number of fish caught and consumed, “crappies are king in the spring”.

Anglers fish from the shoreline, docks, boats, and, until they are seen, sometimes even bridges. This tasty panfish has followers from the warm southern climates of Florida and Texas to the cool waters of mid-Canada. Along the way crappies collect local monikers like papermouths, strawberry bass, specks (Michigan), speckled perch, calico bass (New England), sac-au-lait (Louisiana) and Oswego bass – a nickname used for both black crappie and black bass.

Fishers use minnows, hooks, splitshot weights, slip bobbers, jigs and tiny crankbaits in their pursuit of the succulent fillets produced by both white and black crappie. And, right now the crappies are on the front end of their most aggressive feeding periods – the spawn.

Typically when the water temperature is from 50 to 55 degrees the males move shallow to create ‘nests’ where the females (hens if you’re from North Carolina) will ultimately lay thousands of eggs. At this temperature they can be found anywhere from 4 to 15 feet deep and are quite aggressive about biting jigs or minnows.

As the water temperatures warm toward the 60 degree mark, females suspend in front of the spawning area and may feed aggressively. At about 65 degrees the spawn is in full swing with fish bedding at the depth where light penetration ends. After the females spawn they move to deeper water and suspend to feed and recover.

Crappies are vulnerable during the entire spawning cycle; the obvious key is finding a concentration of fish and then triggering them with the right combination of speed and depth control.

Most of the lake is in the 50- to 55-degree pattern now. Proof of that is the Crappie Masters Tournament that was held here last weekend. Competitors struggled to find the larger females, most resorted to patterns that produced males and culled for the largest fish.

Big Fish of the tournament was caught by Ed Bryant and Andrew Renken (Laurie) at 1.71 pounds and Second Big Fish at 1.57 pounds was caught by the team of Justin and Dale Redd.
The team of Charles and Travis Bunting from Jefferson City took first place with seven crappies weighing 9.55 pounds. Their reward was a check for $4,000 and Mike Parrott, fishing alone and from Charlotte, N.C., took second place with 9.03 pounds winning $2,000. 

   
John Shannon (Warsaw) and Terry Sherrer (Sedalia) took third, John Moore and Pam Haselton (Gravois Mills) took eighth place, Larry Drunert and Rick Fajen (Warsaw) placed ninth, Robert Reeves (Camdenton) and Terry Blankenship (Osage Beach) took 10th place, John Boise and Ralph Niemeyer (Warsaw) placed 11th, and Greg and Matt Webster (Camdenton) placed 17th. 

The Buntings confessed to having a dificult time finding fish in practice so they went to places where that had produced in the past. They trolled all day with 14-foot long rods using 10-pound test Vicious line.

Most of their fish came from waters that were 6 to 9 feet deep, while trolling a double rig with a Southern Pro jig on the bottom with a minnow above the jig. Most of their fish came from the upper Osage arm of the lake.

Parrot also owned up to struggling during the pre-fish period; he trolled one spot all day after catching a good fish and seeing more on the graph. His fish were 15-feet deep in 16 feet of water.

One team even used a sea anchor to slow their boat speed because of the unusually high wind – a well known tactic among walleye and lake trout anglers. Based on their effectiveness on the tournament trail, lake area anglers might want to consider these trolling tactics using minnows, jigs or tiny crankbaits.  

A total of 61 teams fished and brought 392 crappies to the scales weighing 359 pounds. All fish were weighed at Captain Ron's and released alive using a Live Release Boat provided by Osage Outdoors in Laurie.

Whether lake area crappie anglers fish from the bank, a dock or a boat, they will likely want to prepare some fish for the skillet. The crappie’s fresh, delicate flavor can be preserved by keeping them alive or on ice until they can be filleted.

Filleting can be much easier and quicker with the aid of a tool made by Quick Fillet, it’s like having a third hand to hold the fish. Using two Quick Fillet Knolt options, I’ve been able to cut filleting time in half and do a much better job. See the tool, options and demonstration video at www.QuickFillet.com.