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CRAPPIE A POPULAR SUMMER ALTERNATIVE FOR BASS PROS

Posted 8/23/2012

Not long after he retired from law enforcement and moved to Toledo Bend Reservoir to continue his bass fishing career, Yamaha Pro Dave Mansue realized the huge lake on the Texas/Louisiana border has another species he enjoys catching just as much, the crappie. Although generally smaller than bass, crappie are considered one of the best-tasting of all freshwater fish, and Mansue goes after them regularly to keep his freezer stocked.

 “Crappie are not only good to eat, but they’re also a great little sportfish and a lot of fun to catch,” he points out. “I know a lot of die-hard bass fishermen, including many of the top tournament pros in the country, frequently take a day out from bass fishing and just relax catching crappie. 

 “Crappie are not solitary fish, so when you catch one, you know you’ve found a school. That makes them a great species to teach youngsters about fishing, too, because nothing excites a new fisherman more than actually catching any type of fish. Whenever anyone asks me to teach them about fishing, I usually start with crappie because they are so much fun to catch.”

 Two species, Pomoxis anularis (white crappie), and Pomoxis nigromaculatus (black crappie), are found in lakes throughout much of North America, and in different regions of the country the fish are known by a variety of nicknames, including papermouth (because of their soft, easily torn mouths); specks (Michigan); sac-au-lait (Louisiana); and Oswego bass (Wisconsin). Although fish in the four to five pound range are caught occasionally, most range between one and two pounds.

 “Crappie can be caught a lot of different ways, too,” continues the Yamaha Pro, “which just adds to their popularity. In the hot summer, when the fish are usually holding around open water cover like stumps and standing timber 20- to 30-feet deep, I prefer to fish small plastic jigs on lead jigheads weighing just 1/16-ounce. I use a limber spinning rod with six-pound fluorocarbon line, and set the hook gently to avoid tearing the lure right out of their mouths.

 “Because crappie feed primarily on smaller fish, I also like to catch them on live minnows fished under a float, too. I use a small hook with a 1/16-ounce lead weight clamped on the line about a foot above the hook, and adjust the float up or down the line until I get the minnow at the right depth.”

 Because crappie are schooling fish, they’re easily located with modern boat electronics, and getting a bait or a lure to the proper depth is easy. The key, emphasizes Mansue, is fishing slightly above the fish rather than below them, since crappie do not swim down to hit a lure or a minnow.

 “Fishing above a school of crappie is also nice because it means you really don’t have to fish in the cover itself and risk snagging your hook the way you do with bass,” he points out. “Crappie will swim up out of a brush pile or jumble of stumps to hit a bait. Most crappie fishing is done either vertically or just a short distance from a school of fish, so if you’re not getting any strikes, it’s normally because you’re not fishing at the right depth.”

 Crappie can be fried, baked, broiled, and even smoked, and most crappie fishermen have their own favorite recipes. Mansue frequently smokes his boneless crappie filets on a stove-top smoker, but he also likes to dip them in a cornmeal and buttermilk batter and fry them. The meat is white and flaky, so dropping them into hot oil in a deep cooker is usually easier than frying in a pan. 

 “No matter how you prepare them, most anglers agree crappie are among their favorite fish to eat,” concludes the Yamaha Pro, “and because they’re sporty and easy to catch, they’re an ideal summer substitute when you want to go fun fishing.”