he weatherman lied.
He said it would be a high near 50 and that the winds would die down. That was one day last week.
Then, he lied again when he said it was going to be “partly cloudy” with light sprinkles, clearing off with milder temperatures.
Being a weatherman is the only job on the planet where you can be wrong most of the time and still keep your job — for decades! Lies, lies, they were all lies!
OK, I’m done now, I’ll stop.
But seriously, what does a man, or woman, have to do to get a decent day here or there to get out on the water and enjoy a little fishing?
Sheeesh, man! It has been very few mornings this month, the “breakout” month for fishing, that I have not observed skim-ice on local ponds during my early morning travels.
Whereas we had water temperatures as high as 50 degrees back in February, we now have lower 40-degree water in most local lakes and ponds.
But despite all this torture, I have been able to get out here and there and make a few surprisingly good catches of crappies this month.
Along the way there has been a bunch of bluegills and a few largemouth bass, all falling victim to float and fly presentations with micro-jigs tipped with either a wax worm or a few maggots. Most of the fish have been in the smallish 9 to 10-inch range, but I have taken a number of quality slabs that ran from 12 to nearly 15 inches. I’ve kept one batch of “eaters” — 10- to 12-inch fish that were plenty for the wife and I for several meals.
All the others, including the larger fish, went back to make babies.
Catching crappies in the cold is certainly nothing new, and to those who are good panfish anglers they know that early season efforts often equals some of the best panfishing of the year, even if Old Man Winter is still hanging on for a 12-round split decision.
The sharpies on the Eastern Shore have been making excellent catches throughout those tidal estuaries and millponds for more than a month. Once the waters hit the low to mid-40-degree range both black and white crappies become active and feeding efforts increase. As the waters enter the high 50’s they will push shallow and be in a pre-spawn state. Once the water temperatures reach 64 to 66 degrees you can expect to find fish very shallow and actively bedding in your local waters.
At that time, they can be predictably found near brush, fallen logs, flooded timber and around beaver dams. The entire spawning progression can take a month or more, depending on springtime cold fronts, rain events or record warm spells that can push crappies shallow in a hurry.
But on my recent crappie adventures I didn’t have to worry about any of those “record warm spells.”
Rather, it was a test of endurance with extra gloves, hooded over jackets and, yes, a set of thermal long johns to keep me from shivering.
One of the best cold-water crappie options is the Berkley Gulp! inch long minnows. We have been threading them on a 1/64th ounce jighead and suspending them 5 to 6 feet below a bobber. Allowing the wind (yes, a cold wind) to drift them aids in covering water as crappies tend to school-up, cruise around and suspend during the late winter /early spring time frame. Our strikes are usually indicated by the bobber tilting slightly to one side, then slowly submerging out of sight. On windy days it can be difficult to keep a “bow” out of your line, making hooksets tough.
We minimize this by actually casting directly into the wind and retrieving the rig at the same speed of the wind drift. By keeping a reasonably tight line, you can have successful hooksets when the bobber disappears. Yes, the wind in your face is cold.
Oh, by the way, did I mention anything about a cold wind?
As I sit here typing this out, I checked on the weather for the next several days and it looks like snow is in the not too distant forecast. And, looks like some northwest winds, not “southerly breezes” are also in the mix. And I thought terms like “wind chill,” “arctic,” and “ice scraper” were recently banned from public mention, at least in and around the Mid-Atlantic region.
But one thing’s for sure: fresh crappie fillets from a cold water lake or pond make for a fish fry fit for a king.
Now that’s chillin’!