Adirondack Sportswoman: Fishing for Crappies
“That is one big bucket of crap!” I rolled my eyes, smiling to humor my husband. “Holy crap!” He exclaims again, bringing in another one.
“This sure is a crappie day,” I can’t resist joining in. It’s hard not to be in a good mood on this kind of an evening. The sun had just slipped behind the nearest mountain and the air finally cooled off. There was just enough of a breeze to ward off most of the bugs. The rare blue sky was a welcome sight from the usual gray rain we’ve experienced a lot of this spring. It was a wonderful evening, especially because of the ever growing bucket of ‘crap.’
Ok, I’ve had too much fun with word play here. It’s as bad as a kid is with the word ‘poop.’ But for some reason, one of the yummiest freshwater fish around is called a ‘crappie.’ I’ve written about the joys of perch jigging, and how delicious they are. Well another lovely pan fish that is part of the sunfish family is the crappie, and in the springtime the crappie bite can be exciting and nonstop.
On this fine evening, it was almost too easy, so I decided I wanted the extra challenge. I pulled out my fly fishing rod. “Nice cast!” Rog exclaimed as I managed to get my line out an adequate distance. I’ve learned that the more I think and worry about my cast, the worse I do. My casting has since steadily improved!
It wasn’t hard to get one on my fly. But keeping them on was at first a challenge, as I’m still learning how to reel in a fish on a fly rod, making sure to keep the line tight. Crappie are harder than most fish, because they have a delicate, papery thin mouth that is difficult to hook. I lost the first few but then caught on pretty quickly. Once again that soothing, rhythmic casting of the line had me relaxing and further enjoying an already splendid evening. Roger and our friend Michael continued to excitedly haul in these cool looking little fish, one after another. Their enthusiasm was no less each time. It’s such a great feeling to know that in just a couple hours, we can catch enough fish to supply almost a week’s worth of meals. I could eat these fish just about every day too!
We usually use a small simple lure called a gitzit, sometimes with a piece of a worm attached. On a night like this, the extra worm doesn’t make much of a difference. They bite no matter what. We like to keep it moving, though not too fast, bopping the line as we reel it in. We discovered later on in the evening that a small jointed rapalla was just as hot, especially for some slightly bigger crappie that were able to grab on to a bigger lure like that.
I never even heard of a crappie until I met Roger. Back while we were dating I caught one and he had to tell me what the heck I had on my hook. They are neat looking with black and shimmery gold speckles. They have a small head, high forehead with close-set eyes and a small, papery, thin mouth. They taste similar to a perch, light, lacking any sort of a ‘fishy’ flavor like a trout or salmon might.
They don’t usually get any bigger than 18 inches, averaging 9-10. Other names they are known by include strawberry bass, paper mouth, calico bass, or speckled perch. Interestingly I’ve heard most of these names at various times, assuming they were different kinds of fish.
For years now I’ve wondered about the origin of the name ‘crappie’ but never bothered to investigate until now. It is amazing the stuff you learn when you show an interest! I’ve heard them called crappie for the past five years but the official correct pronunciation is actually ‘kropie’ or ‘croppie.’ The word crappie derives from the French Canadian word ‘crapet.’ While that makes for kind of a boring reason for such an interesting name, at least we can still have fun with it!
After ‘mastering’ the fly rod for the evening, I switched to a jointed rapalla, catching some nice sized crappie. Roger steered our canoe towards some promising lily pads. I cast along the edge of them and felt a fish on. It felt small at first, until my rod bent double and my drag kicked in. I knew this was no crappie. The typical shrieking commenced and Roger got the net out. Five minutes later I was proudly displaying my four pound bass, marveling at the intensity of the fight. Bass season wasn’t for another few weeks so back into the water he went. But the memory, of course it will stay with me always!
I sit here writing this article with a belly full of crappie (and a baby, I might add!). Yes, that still sounds funny to me and probably always will. I can’t wait to take our little daughter to our favorite crappie and bass pond. What better place to teach a little one the joys of fishing for crap?!