Crappie fishing; more than it's cracked up to be

By: George deVilbiss, Special to Gold Country News Service
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I recently received an email from a reader asking about crappie fishing at Camp Far West, a fishery that can be good. While the reader received a personal reply, the information may also be enjoyed by other readers as well. Many anglers turn up their noses at crappie. It’s not a glamorous fish and while most put it in the category of a sunfish, it actually belongs to the bass family. About the only time crappie makes itself available is when it moves into the shallows, around structure, for its annual spawn. When the crappie begin biting at Camp Far West, it is a well-kept secret. Essentially you have to go, and go, and go until you get into a bite. You’ll do better with minnows than any other offering, but if you wind up getting into an extremely hot, furious bite and run out of minnows, have some crappie jigs available. If you use a bobber, use it on a slip-bobber rig so that you can adjust your depth or free-line without a bobber. We’ll generally run one rig each way apiece. The trick is you need to drop down right into the structure and because of that, your minnow will swim into it. Look to hang up and lose some gear. Use no more than six-pound-test line with a split shot weight to hold the minnow down. If the crappie aren’t biting, you can also get into bass. One time on the north side of Camp Far West, my wife nailed an 11-pound striped bass. Because of light line, we had to chase that fish for nearly half an hour. Most crappie will run about a pound and a half. But there are larger crappie to be had. My largest at Camp Far West was nearly four pounds. And crappie are extremely barometer sensitive. It will take a few days of warm weather with a steady or rising barometer to get them to settle down and get into spawning mode, to move into the shallows from whatever depths they roam in otherwise. The best fishing time is in the morning up until around 10 a.m. as well as late in the afternoon. If it gets dark, have a floating light and drop your minnows down into the light. No, they’re not a glamorous fish, but they are extremely good eating, and a big stringerload make for a wonderful fish fry. A lot of other lakes also have crappie. Indian Valley Reservoir has a tremendous population but they are tiny. The water was so clear when we fished for them that you could see swarms of them attack the jigs. Clear Lake has crappie but I’ve heard that over the years they have also become highly stunted. The fishing structure at Lake Camanche can be good, and fishing both structure and around the docks at Lake Amador a good stringerload can be found. Lake Berryessa, Black Butte Reservoir and New Melones also have good crappie populations. After you catch your fish, there are a great many devices on store shelves for scaling fish, but don’t buy them. All you need is what you have at home. A tablespoon works better than anything I’ve ever found. Turned down, beginning at the tail, make little jabbing motions and the scales peel right off from tail to the gill plate very easily and without scales flying everywhere. Try it. It works. Lake Camanche: Crappie were just beginning to make a good showing before the big storms moved in again. With warming weather and a rising barometer, it’s going to really bust loose in the next few days. Those dunking minnows will do best, but mini jigs will take their share. Try around Riverview Camp, the South Camanche Arm, Oregon Gulch and even the North Shore harbor. Just off the point at North shore where the there’s a large arm going east, there’s a lot of underwater structure and I’ve done well there. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, contact George directly at GeorgesColumn@AOL.COM