Story & photos by Ron Presley
Sharing crappie-fishing adventures is a tradition passed down from generation to generation in many families.
I have a passion for fishing. I can’t help it. It started early in life when my dad would take me fishing. I could never sleep the night before as blissful anticipation stirred my mind. The thought of that red and white bobber disappearing under the water, the bend of the rod and the fight to the finish, all seemed real. Then the startling sound of a clanging alarm clock at 3 o’clock in the morning shocked me from my slumber and signaled that it was time to go.
Early to rise was a tenant of fishing with Dad. He was an avid angler with a primary goal of putting fish on the dinner table. He thought you had to be there early. If it was legal, we kept it. I observed that as head of the household it was his duty to find and catch the fish, but someone else would clean them. I often got the chore, but more times than not, it was my mother. The workload does not seem to be distributed that way in my later life. My wife catches as many crappies as I do, but she doesn’t clean any.
Preparation in those early days was to scrape the scales, cut off the head and clean out the innards, Next the fish was rolled in a mix of secret spices, salt, pepper, cornmeal and flour, and tossed into the skillet. Mom always seemed to produce the perfect golden brown offerings, served with cold slaw and cornbread. The family eagerly and carefully worked around the bones with out complaint.
As with other things in modern life, eating now has to be convenient. Crappie crispies (a name affectionately given to delicious fried crappie by my wife) are more likely to be filleted before hitting the grease and being cooked to a golden brown. The visual presentation, the smell and the side dishes remain the same, but the bones have disappeared from the dinner table.
As much as those meals were enjoyed and as good as fried crappies are on the dinner table, there was much more to those early fishing trips than the end result of a fine fish dinner.
As I get older I enjoy being on the water for no other reason than to relax. I take those solo journeys often and enjoy every minute, whether I put a crappie in the boat or not. However, I have come to understand that I have far more fun and enjoyment when I have a fishing partner on board.
Part of the pleasure may be to my ego as I show someone how to catch crappie, but more is to my heart and soul when I make a bond that will last a lifetime. Sharing is part of the fun. I love catching crappie myself, but seeing other people on the boat, catching fish, adds to my satisfaction.
Catching a nice crappie elicits natural joy. It’s hard to hold back, so just go with the flow.
Sometimes that partner is my grandson. He is more of a saltwater guy by preference, but because we’ve been going fishing together since he was three, he will give any kind of fishing a try. The pleasure of seeing him learn about fishing and catching fish over the years can’t really be but into words.
In another sign of the modern age, he willingly and eagerly puts his catch back for someone else to enjoy at another time. Catch-Photo-Release is a way of life with him. I believe I have done my work well and he will be an angler for life, and a protector of the resource. I hope you have similar success with the kids, grandkids and other kids that you take fishing.
I also find pleasure in fishing with adults, whether they are anglers or not. In fact, sometimes it can be great fun taking a non-angler and teaching him/her the ropes. You can tell that they are novice if they pick up a spinning rod upside down and crank backwards to retrieve the line. For me, fishing with a newbie is an opportunity to correctly introduce someone to one of man’s oldest sports. They have a lot to learn and I have a lot to give. Mostly I want them to enjoy it as I do.
When new anglers experience the fun of engagement with the fish and the environment they transform before your eyes. They become more relaxed, more focused and more committed to the task at hand, catching another crappie. You can take credit for that transformation. For most people it will last a lifetime.
Beyond the satisfaction gained by showing a newbie how to catch crappie and seeing the joy on his face when he does, having someone on the boat with you has other benefits and pleasures. People are basically social animals and largely enjoy human interactions. In my mind there is no better place to engage in conversations about fishing, work, family, politics or what ever, than in a pristine setting of God’s great outdoors. It’s good for you, it’s good for them, and it is a win-win situation. It might even be good for the environment if one more person is brought to understand that the outdoors experience might not be available to our kids and grandkids without proper care and respect.
A bothersome bite or a fish on the line will periodically interrupt the conversation (Unless you don’t put any bait on the hook). However, when a hookup happens the anglers become a team. Just ask any pro crappie angler about the importance of team work in crappie fishing. Working together often makes the difference between winning and losing in competitive fishing. The team, you and your fishing partner, can land the fish together and claim a joint victory. Lifelong friendships are created this way.
More teamwork is needed to accomplish a successful photo op. In this case it is a good idea for each person with a camera to share operating instructions with the other so everyone can operate either of the cameras. Just take your time, strike an appealing pose and make some memories. Viewing the photos later always increases my pleasure of an already enjoyable activity and can be revisited in times to come.
Maybe the best part of fishing with a buddy is sharing the thrill of feeling a fish on the line. Usually there is a hoot or a holler. It’s a natural thing, it happens. That kind of natural excitement never gets old and should be relished and shared. The bite is the culmination of the challenge to find fish and the beginning of the anticipation of landing them.
As I have heard so many of my crappie angling buddies say, “We live for the thump.” That thump is the crappie striking the bait. It is likely, that once your fishing partner feels the “thump” he/she will be hooked and you have done your job.
Just as the solo trips are relaxing and satisfying, a trip with a partner is multiplied many times over. It is like a chain reaction, growing and spreading from neighbor to neighbor and family to family. The simple fishing trip may even generate a neighborhood fish fry.
I enjoy all my time on the water, but I enjoy it more when I am fishing with someone else.
Fishing With Kids
Successful fishing with kids requires special attention and planning. The goal should be more fish versus big fish. Kids need to be active and engaged to enjoy the experience. Here are a few tips from seasoned crappie pros to make a fishing trip with kids successful.
Tim Eberle, Margate, Florida: If I didn’t have time to scout the day before I would check the lily pads and local spawning areas if the spawn is still happening. I would also check with local anglers and bait stores to see where fish have been caught lately.
James and Barb Reedy, Charleston, Missouri: Barb says to be sure you take them to a “honey hole” where you are almost certain to catch some kind of fish. Jim suggests that the perfect place is a local farm pond that’s loaded with bluegill. Insure success by taking plenty of crickets. Action is the secret!
Whitey Outlaw, Saint Mathews, South Carolina: It depends on the season, but I would fish around stumps, ledges, brush piles and stake beds depending on time of year. Remember when taking a kid fishing, let them catch the fish and have fun with them. If you don’t do that they won’t want to go back!
Matt Morgan, Noblesville, Indiana: With the weather warming and temps getting the fish in the mood to move to the bank, I would look for visible cover like stumps, tree tops, and docks to pinpoint crappie. Concentrate on water depths of 1- to 6-feet using an 8-foot B’n’M jig pole with 6-pound line. The key to taking the kids fishing is getting them to catch the fish. Keep it simple with a cork and bare hook, baited with a minnow. That will allow them to detect a bite easily and also put some fish in the boat. It probably won’t be the biggest fish in the lake, but that is secondary as long as the young ones catch fish.
Don and Toni Collins, Mt. Dora, Florida: Always use minnows with kids. Rig a spinning outfit with a cork and two small split-shot about 6-inches above a #2 hook. Choose a lake where there is a dock or a fishable shoreline. Hook the minnow from the bottom lip thru the top lip. Cast out and let the minnow swim around until that crappie hits. If you’re fishing out of a boat, fish in about 3- to 5-feet of water with the same set-up. Keep the minnow close to cattails or lily pads for best results.