“I think I may need the net for this one,” my friend Jeff Fager said as his rod doubled over from the strain of a hefty fish. That’s always a good sign when enjoying springtime crappie action.
Fager, my 14-year-old nephew Cole Stephenson and I recently returned from four days fishing expansive Kentucky Lake.
During the month of April, legions of anglers have one particular species of fish on their mind — crappies! Most people target them for their characteristic as great table fare. But others, while not denying the popular panfish’s value as great food, note that crappies are one of the best all-around game fish available to spring-time anglers.
By the way, you can call them papermouths, specs, calico bass or crappies (pronounced croppy). But please don’t call them what you might do in an outhouse. They deserve a little more respect!
Sure, other sought-after sport fish like walleyes may grow larger. There is no doubt smallmouth bass fight harder. But for non-stop action, especially during this time of year, you would be hard pressed to find anything that would beat a spring crappie outing.
The months of April and May are tops. It is not uncommon to catch dozens of fish, some which may exceed 12 inches, in just a few short hours. Then there is always the possibility of hauling in a true trophy weighing in excess of several pounds.
Although any crappie stretching over 1 foot in length is considered more than respectable, they occasionally eclipse average weights. Indiana’s state record, taken by Willis Halcomb in 1994 from a private pond, measured in excess of 20 inches, straining the scales at 4 pounds, 11 ounces.
Fortunately for us living in the Hoosier state, finding a place to hook a limit of tasty slabs is not that difficult. Crappies can be found almost anywhere. Although some of our state’s hugest crappies were taken from private ponds, the most consistent stringers of these succulent fish come from massive schools in some of our state’s major lakes. Patoka and Monroe lakes are tops. But other reservoirs like Salamonie, Geist and Mississinewa give up their fair share of fish as well. Other crappie hotspots include lakes Freeman, Maxinkuckee and Wawasee, not to mention the hundreds of glacial lakes that dot the northeast quarter of Indiana.