My daughter Raina and I were trolling for trout up at Collins Lake last week and I noticed one rod had bent over and looked like it was dragging something bigger than a Rapala through the water.
Although that rod did not show any of the frantic action that comes from a hooked trout, I could tell something was on it. Raina reeled it in a found a chunky crappie on the end.
I was not really surprised since I’ve landed several while trolling there in the past. We threw it in the well for some weekend fish sandwiches.
Crappie are members of the sunfish family and can reach up to 4 pounds.
My dad loved to fish for them. When I was a kid we did night time trips during spawning time where we would sit in his boat catching dozens of them with a minnow under a bobber.
Whenever I talk to guys about bass fishing around here, someone will invariably ask if I caught any crappie. Crappie fanatics are almost as enthusiastic as salmon fishermen.
There are dozens of websites devoted to the pursuit of these pan fish, and the catalogs from Bass Pro have pages full of crappie jigs and spinners.
Both black and white crappie are found in lakes all across the country. I’ve caught them in areas as diverse as East Texas, Northern New Mexico, and the central valley lakes of California.
Clear Lake holds the state record for white crappie (4-pounds-1-ounce) and New Hogan holds the record for the black variation (4-pounds-8-ounces). Lake Camanche, Bullards Bar, Berryessa, New Melones and Oroville all have good populations of these fish, and I’ve caught several at Camp Far West and Collins.
They tend to feed close to the surface in the early morning and then move into the shade around submerged trees later in the day. They will bite almost anything: minnows, worms, crawdads, small jigs and spinners. They are found in schools, which makes it possible to sit in one area and bag a bunch.
The daily limit in California is 25 fish, which seems pretty high. There has been some talk of lowering this limit to keep lakes from getting over-fished.
Reminder: Now is the time to get the boat into the shop if you need any kind of service. Do not wait until April or May, or you can expect to be waiting for weeks to get it back.