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Illinois hunting and fishing

A tasty rite of spring

March 28, 2010 at 06:21 AM
Illinois hunting and fishing

Honey holes Local

Promising public lakes for crappie fishing near Peoria. 1. Spring Lake Prime early spring spot due to shallow water. South end has better numbers and sizes this year though there are keepers in the north end. 2. Emiquon Preserve No. 1 if crappie were easier to locate in this sea of hungry bass. If you find crappie, stay put and stack up 10-inchers (like the one pictured above). 3. Lake Storey Numbers always good but there are also more 9-inchers this year and occasional 2-pounders. 4. Evergreen Lake Starting April 1 anglers can keep 15 crappie of any size. Why? There are lots of black crappie here of 8.5-9.5 inches. 5. Duck Island If the Illinois River cooperates, this site can produce plenty of fat river crappie. Others: Little Sister Lake, Argyle Lake, Eureka Lake, Canton Lake and Banner Marsh. Illinois hunting and fishing


Top public lakes for crappie elsewhere in Illinois. 1. Crab Orchard Lake Hard to beat this shallow Williamson Co. lake for quality and numbers. 2. Kinkaid Lake Numerous fish over 3 pounds and good numbers in this southern Illinois sleeper. 3. Lake Shelbyville High water has helped spawns. Fishing was excellent last fall and should be again this year. 4. Rend Lake Fish the bushes in May for numbers and occasional 2-pounders. 5. Lake Taylorville Big numbers of fish over 10 inches. Others: Cedar Lake, Lake Vermilion, East Fork Lake, Coffeen Lake, Chain O Lakes and Shabbona Lake.

Water is warming and anglers across central Illinois are gearing up for one of the tastier rites of spring: prime crappie fishing.

Many argue that firm, white spring crappie filets taste better than the meat of any other Illinois fish.

One key to filling a bucket is to pattern papermouths.

While success is partly weather dependent, savvy anglers can target different lakes from now through early June to find the right conditions to catch crappie. Pay close attention to water depths and clarity, since both impact where fish will be.

Each year as water nears 55 degrees, the tasty panfish move shallow in preparation for the spawn. But as cold fronts move through, those fish will move from the shallows to deeper water numerous times.

Once water stabilizes at 62-68 degrees, crappie move en masse into the shallows around brush. At this time they are particularly vulnerable to anglers dabbling jigs or minnows nearby.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Kinkaid’s near-record

A few ounces are all that separated Mike Zimmer (above) from a state record. Fishing on March 15 at Kinkaid Lake, Zimmer caught a huge white crappie that weighed 4 pounds, 5 ounces and was 19 inches long with a 16-inch girth.

Zimmer was using a 12-foot crappie pole, a slip bobber and a Grizzly jig tipped with a minnow near flooded trees in 2-10 feet of water. His 25-fish limit also included slabs of 3-0 and 3-8.

Worth noting is that all Illinois crappie records were caught in the spring. The Illinois record white crappie of 4-7 was caught by Kevin Dennis in a private pond in Morgan County on April 8, 1973.

The record black crappie weighed 4-8 and was caught by John Hampton in Rend Lake on May 15, 1976. The record hybrid crappie went 4-8.3 and was caught by teenager Marcus Miller on May 14, 2008 out of a farm pond in Jefferson County.

Crappie-catching lures

When fishing for crappie it’s hard to outperform a lively minnow on a gold Aberdeen hook dangled under a balsa float.

But for ease of use, tube jigs like those pictured above are must-haves in any crappie angler’s arsenal. While everyone has a favorite color, a staple in most popular combinations is some shade of chartreuse or yellow.

As important as color is fishing with as light a jig as conditions allow. Go heavier on windy days but throw as light as 1/32nd-ounce leadheads on calm days.

Finally, the beauty of a tube jig is that it can be tipped with a minnow, waxworm or other live bait to become even more effective. Berkley’s smaller Gulp Alive minnows also work well and are easier to keep than minnows.

Tips for slabs

1. In late March and early April, target sunny shores for crappie. As water warms in late April and May, overcast days are often better.

2. Pre-spawn crappie congregate near rip-rap, in dark-bottom bays, on north sides of lakes and wherever warmer tributaries feed in.

3. If you catch a fish in the spring, work the area over thoroughly since crappie generally school at this time of year.

4. Water clarity is important to spawning crappie. So fish the clearest water you can find.

5. Crappie have tender mouths, so use a landing net on large fish to avoid the hook tearing free.

Illinois hunting and fishing


Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

That is one massive crappie. That’d be next to my bass on the wall.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/28 at 07:12 AM
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/28 at 07:34 AM

heres what they looked like before the peanut oil….

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/28 at 07:36 AM

Crappie tend to like spawning in murky coffee colored water.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/29 at 08:45 AM

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