Mitch Glenn, owner of Pico Lures, is in the Christmas spirit with this nice cold-water slab. (Photo: Tim Huffman)
Making Christmas Memories
by Tim Huffman
Every person reading this likely has special memories of Christmas. Perhaps a special gift, a special experience or special people – maybe all of the above. For fishermen, however, some of those memories may be unique. We asked some well-known anglers and outdoorsmen about their Christmas memories, along with a few of their favorite winter crappie tips.
“Christmas to New Years, my younger kids and I, along with a friend and his kids, go on a fishing vacation trip.”
Pat Kalmerton is a co-owner and operator of Wolf Pack Adventures in Wisconsin.
“To me, Christmas is all about family,” says Kalmerton. “It’s a time for family gatherings. As for memories, I started a new page with my younger kids. I missed the boat with my older kids because I was too busy working and gone a lot, so I didn’t spend the time outdoors with them that I should have. Now, Christmas to New Years, my younger kids and I, along with a friend and his kids, go on a fishing vacation trip. We spend the time ice fishing catching crappie and other species, we run around the ice and we slide down the hills, anything to have fun. So, it’s a time for family, kids and making memories.”
Kalmerton says, “In December and January we are covering the backwaters of the Wisconsin River and Mississippi River to catch crappie and other species under the ice. The great thing about the ice is it can be tapped by anyone. You don’t have to have a boat. You don’t have to hit deep water like you do in the summer because crappies will be on shallower flats and edges. A snowmobile or ATV helps just to get away from the crowd, but you don’t have to have one.
“This is a great time to fish under the ice. The best depths are usually 8 to 12 feet of water here in Wisconsin. Fishing is easier than when they are in open water.”
Jordan Isaacs is a professional angler and guide from Missouri. His favorite holiday memory?
“My dad is gone now, but we used to fish all year. It would be cold around the holidays, and he would wake me and say, ‘Let’s go crappie fishing.’ Sometimes there would be snow everywhere. I would think ‘No way,’ because I didn’t want to go and be out in the cold. But we went and he taught me how to slow finesse crappie during this time of year. We made a lot of memories together in the cold.
“Christmas is still a time we have a lot of family events. Two big get-togethers are with my wife’s family and mine. We also like the shows and lights in Branson this time of year. But what does Christmas really mean to me? It’s the birthday of my Lord and Savior.”
Isaacs said Christmas season is a good time to catch crappie.
“I do catch a lot of fish this time of year. Tactics are like fall fishing in that we look for crappie on wood cover and rocks. Our water is shallower up here on the upper end of Bull Shoals, 20 to 30 feet, so fish aren’t too deep. The biggest difference for fishing in cold water compared to warmer, is to slow down. I compare crappie to myself because I don’t want to be chasing food around when I feel like I’m freezing, and neither do crappie. Therefore, the slower and closer you put a bait to them, the more fish you will catch.”
Gary Dollahon, owner of Dollahon PR firm based in Oklahoma, is a marketing guru in the outdoor industry.
“Christmas to me is a time of remembrance and a time for family. We moved from New Mexico 35 years ago, so many of my favorite memories now are our gatherings with siblings, nephews, nieces, and other family members. We gather at someone’s house each year to catch up on time missed together.
“My memories are also of fishing during the holidays. I like cold weather fishing so the holidays, from Thanksgiving through mid-January, is a perfect time.
“My first type of fishing is docks. Ft. Gibson Lake is close and where I have a boat slip, so I get there often. Cover has been placed by dock owners – me and others. The cover is where crappie will hold and can be caught. Cypress Cove has a lot of docks including heated ones. I’ll use four-pound-test line and one of the Bobby Garland Itty Bit series, like a Slab Hunt’R.”
Dollahon continues, “Points and ledges are a favorite of mine because I like deep structure. Points and break lines in 19 to 25 feet are good. I fish sections of creeks that are in or close to major creek bends or other areas where there is shad all day long. There will be several species available to catch in these areas so it can be very fun. For crappie, I use a double-jig rig with a Bobby Garland Baby Shad and Minnow Minder. This winter it will include the new Mayfly, too.”
Richard Simms is the Editor of CrappieNOW Magazine, a former game warden and longtime freelance outdoor writer from Tennessee.
“Except for the Smoky Mountains in far East Tennessee, we don’t see much snow in the Volunteer State,” said Simms. “Some winters, especially in recent years, we never see a dusting or even a single flake of snow. That’s probably why my most memorable Christmas was in 1964 when we woke up Christmas morning to a massive snowfall, at least by Tennessee standards.
“My Dad was a professional artist and photographer. I am very fortunate he documented the day. This picture epitomizes my favorite Christmas memory as my mom, my sister and I took in the glorious white Christmas.
“My Dad was primarily a hunter, so I didn’t fish a lot in those days,” said Simms. “But now I’ll occasionally find myself chasing winter crappie on the Tennessee River. My greatest success in the winter has come when the river current is flowing strong, forcing crappie to gather in large schools in the calm eddies along steep bluffs and rock outcroppings. Sometimes it takes a while to find just the right spot, but when you do it can be non-stop action.”
Whether your Christmas memories are of faith, family, fishing, or a combination of these, now is the time to get out and create new ones.
Read more Christmas memories in this month’s “The Great Outdoors” by Larry Whiteley.
Tim Huffman is CrappieNOW Senior Writer. Check out his 2022 book, Crappie Annual & Product Guide, available at his website, www.monstercrappie.com