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Notes From the Dockside: Another crappie venture

It is getting to be spring and I start getting the idea that I need to go crappie fishing. This happens to me every year so I give my neighbor, Tom a call.

"Hey Tom," I say. "I think the crappies should be biting by now. You want to go."

Without hesitation he says "sure." I think Tom is suffering from a bit of cabin fever after the long winter or else he just wants to see what new craziness I have cooked up. A more prudent person might decline my invitation. My track record on these early season crappie ventures has not been good. It does seem that Tom has been on most of them with me so he should know by now what he is getting into.

Most of the time the weather has been lousy, which doesn't help. People may have been in shorts and T-shirts for several days before but as soon as I call Tom for our crappie venture the weather normally changes for the worse.

On top of that, crappie are a fickle fish. One day for no apparent reason they will be hitting like crazy and the next day you go back under the same circumstances and there is nothing. There is no obvious reason as to why things changed but they have.

Tom has been on so many of these crappie ventures that I think he just expects the worst and it normally happens.

The lakes we fish have lots of crappie in them. I hear all sorts of stories of good fishing which gets me all excited which prompts me to call Tom.

Tom and I have subjected ourselves to some horrible early spring weather and at times have chased from lake to lake to little avail. Now we do normally catch a crappie or two which is just enough to verify that the crappies had been hitting or are going to start biting any day now but are just not hitting the day that we are fishing for them.

So another spring has arrived and the weather seems to be abnormally warm and pleasant. I have been hearing reports that the crappies are biting. I call Tom and he readily agrees to go again. Perhaps he just reasons that one of these days he and I will hit it right. But as to be expected, as soon as I call Tom the weather starts to look bad. My wife, The Bass Queen, checks the weather forecast. We should look for storms she tells me. What else would we expect.

I have been thinking about two lakes, Lake A and B. Lake A is where I want to go but it is a bigger lake and can get rough if the winds get bad. Since that seems like a real possibility I decide, in a rare display of common sense, to go to Lake B which is smaller and would not be as rough in bad weather. Both Tom and The Bass Queen are surprised by such prudence on my part and are genuinely surprised that I am capable of that.

So are going to Lake B. Tom and we are dressed for the worst. It is cool as we get to the lake but the weather seems unstable so the weather is bound to turn bad soon. We launch the boat and motor into a quiet little bay. We are casting small jigs with crappie minnows. Within the first few minutes I catch a big bluegill. Tom had expressed a desire that if we should catch enough panfish that he would like to take some home for a meal. 

A few minutes after that I catch a foot-long bass that I return to the water. Bass season is still some time away. I feel a another fish hit but it feels different and in a moment I see a silver crappie coming through the water.

This is more like it. The crappie joins the bluegill in the live well. Maybe this is our year.

The weather also turns extraordinarily agreeable. Can this be possible? The gray clouds give way to blue skies and puffy white clouds. It is actually getting hot and Tom and I start to take off layers of clothes. We put on sunglasses and sunscreen. This is absolutely unheard for us on one of these crappie ventures. I am starting to wonder with this nice weather if we should have gone to Lake A instead. That is the type of question that plagues us fishermen.

We work along the bank looking for crappies. But all that we are catching are foot long bass and small northern pike. They put up a good fight on our noodle like ultralight panfish rods but now is not the time for them.

It stays bright and sunny all afternoon long and we are getting worried about getting a sunburn. We keep catching bass and northerns but no crappies. We pass two other fishermen in a boat and ask how they are doing. 

They have nothing but the one guy tells us that he had heard that the crappies were hitting. We tell them we heard the same story.

Finally we decide to head in. It is late afternoon. The two guys in the other boat take our two fish and the rest of the minnows so nothing has been wasted.

On the way home I mention to Tom that I hope he doesn't become discouraged. "We did catch fish," he says. That is true I tell him. "And the weather was great," he adds. I agree with that as well. "Would you go again even though we didn't catch the crappies we wanted on this trip?" I ask. "Certainly," he says. There will be more crappie ventures.

Editor's Note: The Notes From The Dockside is an exclusive feature appearing in the Hudson Star-Observer on the first and third issues of each month.