Of all the different species of fresh water fish, crappies are at or near the top. The reasons are many, including they are fun to catch — and great eating. To anyone who has caught a stringer of crappie, it is easy to understand their popularity. They are a fish for all anglers.
The method and equipment necessary to catch crappie are simple and inexpensive, and their statewide distribution makes them accessible to nearly all anglers.
Larry Harper, 68, Sedalia, has fished for crappie starting out when his father took him to the Lake of the Ozarks back one day when Harper was six years old.
"I have caught crappie in a lot of different places in the state including most of the large impoundments to small streams as well as farm ponds,” Harper said. “My tackle box is full of crappie lures like jigs, small spoons, spinners and hooks, bobbers and sinkers, which I use when I have live bait."
When Harper first started crappie fishing with his father, they didn't own a rod and reel. They used cane poles, braided line and usually live bait. They used nets for minnows and dug for worms. One Christmas he received an ultra-light rod and reel and that ended fishing with a cane pole. "Once I used a light rod and a homemade jig, I was hooked on artificial lures and I caught more fish,” Harper said. “Today I mostly use a small jig which imitates a minnow when fished properly. I have learned that using ultra-light rods with light reels are the best choice and make the detection of a light or short strike easier. I use monofilament line from 2-6 pound test line. Line exceeding six pound test should not be used."
Fishing with small jigs is the most universal lure used by crappie anglers. Although a variety of colors work, white, yellow and chartreuse seem to be the most consistent producers.
Many crappie anglers like Harper are finding out winter fishing can be good.
"Crappie fishing has become a year-around activity in Missouri,” Harper said. “Often times, in winter, crappie will be suspended just off the bottom and locating proper depth is important."
Local angler Dennis Hymer also fishes Stockton Lake more in the winter than in the other seasons. He said this past January crappie fishing was very good.
Harper noted you need to watch your line for the slightest movement because the fish aren't as aggressive as they are in the spring. A lot of crappie anglers who are waiting for the good crappie spawning run in April are missing out on some good winter fishing for these excellent-eating fish.
Crappies offer a big amount of enjoyment to area anglers, and when caught on lightweight equipment, they provide a scrappy fight.
It is little wonder why they are so popular with anglers.
White, a Stockton resident, has a versatile background in the outdoors as a participant and journalist. His column appears weekly.