By Josh Gowan
I believe I may change the title of this column to “Heartlander Abroad”, and maybe start using a moniker or pen name like, I don’t know, “Hunter Fishman”?
What do you think? You can’t really expect me to stay home during the spring, so I’m kind of always “abroad” anyway. I do have a local report this week though, so stay tuned.
As you can imagine, I don’t see much of my family this time of year outside of my wife and son, with all the traveling and working and whatnot. My mother and step-dad, Charlotte and Perry Jackson, are always generous hosts up in Jackson, MO, so we figured we should take a weekend and go visit. Completely unbeknownst to me, Perry planned a fishing trip for us over in the Land of Lincoln, and I thought it would be rude to refuse!
Fishermen often ask me how to go to new lakes and be successful, and I always tell them the same thing, start by researching as much as you can.
While Kinkaid is not a new lake to me, I probably only fish it 4-5 times per year. My research started by calling my buddy Kyle Schoenherr, tournament fisherman and owner/operator of All Season’s Guide Service in Southern Illinois. Although Kyle hadn’t been on the lake lately, he knew the crappie were moving up to spawn, and his only concern was if the lake had cleared up since last week’s rains. Kinkaid is a clear-water lake, and when clear-water lakes get muddy it gets very difficult make crappie bite.
We put in “up the creek” at Johnsonville Ramp and the water looked like chocolate milk. I told Perry that if we headed farther up it would eventually clear up, so up the creek we went, making sure that we had a paddle just in case.
We eventually found the mudline and green water a country mile or two upriver, but there were no fish in sight.
With today’s electronics finding crappie is much easier, and finding places without crappie is even easier than that. Perry has a Humminbird 999 with Side Imaging, and the creek was obviously empty. We traversed the narrow waterway until coming to a dead end at a massive beaver dam, and after fishing the dam extensively decided to head back to the chocolate milk and try our luck. After passing the point where we turned upriver initially, it didn’t take long for the depthfinder to light up. The crappie were stacked on the ledges in 10-15 foot of water, but making them eat was a different story! I believe that had we been in my boat with a bucket of minnows we could have put the spider-rig on them and caught a decent mess, but with just plastics and holding a few poles it was tough. We did manage to scratch out enough to clean whole and enjoy some fried crappie tails along with the filets we left to thaw out just in case!
Kinkaid, along with all lakes in the lower Midwest are on the precipice of the spawn, and a few consecutive nights in the 60’s should see the crappie bite bust wide open at the end of a jig pole. Everyone down south is already catching males on the bed, which means the females aren’t far behind.
Reelfoot Lake looks to have rebounded nicely from last year’s tough spring. All lakes are cyclical, and shallow basin lakes like Reelfoot are much more prone to experiencing widespread effects from poor spawning years. Crappie at Reelfoot and below only live to be 5-6 years old, so having two poor spawns due to weather in the last 6 years took its toll. That being said, a female crappie lays 250,000 eggs, so it doesn’t take much to turn it around.
Many anglers caught big, white crappie spider-rigging on the south end of the lake over the weekend. The numbers weren’t huge, but solid, and the size of the fish was really impressive. The common theme was to fish in 10-15 foot of water, 2-5 foot down, and go slow. I’ll be out after them soon.
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine.
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