By Josh Gowan
This may be the best part of spring yet, cool mornings and warm, sunny afternoons, the fish are biting and the Mosquitos are not (although we all know that is short-lived), and BBQ grills are lighting up in every neighborhood. The weather-folks missed the mark this past weekend, but in our favor for once! I managed to squeeze in a little fishing between yard work and visiting long-lost relatives I haven’t seen since the crappie tournament season began.
My personal report comes from a lake most of you have probably never heard of, Lake Girardeau in the rolling hills northeast of Jackson, Mo. This 900 acre lake is beautiful, and while the MDC has been trying for years to establish a healthy crappie population, we’ve never really found them (although we don’t spend much time looking), and usually hit the lake a few times a year to chase big, bedding bluegill and redear. Perry Jackson and I have caught quite a few big bream in the past from the few beds we know of, but generally spend half of the time pinpointing them as they are out in open water.
This past spring Perry bought a Humminbird 999 with side imaging, and the new technology in the boat eliminated having to “fan-cast” to find the fish. We drove in the general vicinity of the beds with the side-scan looking 40 feet on either side of the boat, and after one pass had marker buoys on two beds, there might had well of been a blinking arrow sign that said “Bream Beds Here”! We caught around 30 in the few hours our wives allotted us for fishing (this was a family weekend after all) and kept 12 really big ones to fry whole with the crappie we had thawing out at home. Seabaugh’s Bait and Tackle in Jackson provided the crickets, half of which I liberated while attempting to sling them a bit too far!
The full moon finally triggered a full-on spawn at Reelfoot, with a lot of folks catching spawned-out females and males guarding the eggs around trees. Apparently the late, hard winter pushed the fish back a month, which is not uncommon with the conditions we’ve had. The question to the lack of small white crappie is still up to debate, but we most likely lost a few years of spawning with the tumultuous lake levels, and with our crappie only living to 6 years old, it doesn’t take much to have a profound effect on total numbers. The northernmost swamp in the country is nothing if not resilient, and we should see the numbers return over the next few years.
Wappapello Lake in southeast Missouri hosted their crappie club’s annual “Jack and Jill Tournament”, and Karen and David Tropf took 1st Place with 6.94 pounds in their 7 fish. My buddy Slabber Dave Maddox and his lovely wife Lynae won 2nd with 6.29 lbs. and Sharon and James Chism took 3rd with 6.06 lbs. 1st Place “Big Fish” was Kara and Joe Guiling with a 1.33 pound crappie and 2nd Place “Big Fish” was Donna and Gerry VanMatre with a 1.28 pounder. Dave said he trolled minnows close to the bottom right out from the brush where the fish had been spawning. He said his fish where good and would have weighed quite a bit more but they had spawned out.
The Reelfoot Crappie Club will be having their tournament this coming Saturday, and to sign up you need to be at Reelfoot Outdoors before the 6:30 start time. I will not be able to make it, because I have to set up and sell fishing what-nots at the 100 Mile Yard Sale… I know, but I do it every year, and not only is it a good source of expendable income for a poor fisherman, I have a lot of repeat customers whose wives drag them all over the Bootheel, and without me being there to sell them a fishing pole or a boat seat, I’m not sure they’d make it! I’ll be on Timber Lane off Highway 25 just inside the Jackson city limits if you’re dragged through there!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com