Other that a feeble attempt right around ice out, it seems panfish have been forgotten this spring. So last night it was off to Appleton to see if we could find where the crappie were hanging out. Since past experience suggested they seem to turn on towards dusk, Bob and I agreed to meet around six thirty. Unsettled weather later in the day seemed like a good sign. We arrived to a brief shower after which things calmed down completely.
We geared up and the float tubes were in the water.
This spot is below a dam on the Mississippi River (Canadian version) where a nice bay forms. Smallmouth bass are most common closer to the flowing current alongside the dam but there are a number of places where crappie congregate in the spring. Other fish include bluegills, perch, pike, pickerel and largemouth bass – so lots of variety. Conditions go from virtually weedless at ice out to a jungle in short order. And it was clear that growth was well on making it impossible to fish some of last year’s crappie holes. Water levels are probably at mid summer levels (low) which didnt’ help either.
We quickly found fish but they were mostly out of season smallmouth bass so I moved around in search of crappie. While initially that proved less than successful, there were several willing bluegills who showed interest in my Palmered Chenille Bugger. I was introduced to this pattern last year and it has become one of my favourite searching flies. Its an easy pattern to tie and works well for panfish, bass and trout. I tie them using white, black, olive and root beer palmered chenille. Tonight the root beer seemed to be the ticket.
The fly’s bead head gives it a bit of weight so that even on a floating line it drops below the surface pretty quickly. Fishing it on a floating worked best as it would get down but by slow, steady stripping kept it from getting caught up in the weeds. The bluegills seemed to be attracted to it. They were fat and brightly coloured and always entertaining when they hit the fly. I mentioned the various fish species earlier but now can add one more to the list – bullhead catfish. After a few bluegills it was a bit of a surprise to see a small catfish at the end of the line. My first on a fly but no picture since he slipped off the barbless hook as soon as I got him up to the float tube.
Towards eight o’clock as the sun set lower the crappie seemed to become more interested in my flies – or maybe I just managed to figure out where they were located. They weren’t there on every cast but things did pick up somewhat. Past experience has included some crappie in the 12 inch range but tonight they big boys seemed to be on a diet.