Crappie are gregarious, social creatures - and so are the anglers who pursue them.
Take Albert Moody, for instance. The Augusta car salesman spends his off days at Clarks Hill - usually moored along a creek channel where he knows crappie are lurking.
"How 'bout it, good buddy," he drawls into his boat radio to a friend anchored nearby. "You got the Ayatollah of the Fishing Hole-Ah!"
Crappie are abundant, tasty and easy to catch - especially in early spring when they begin to bed. At the right time, action is non-stop.
"Some days you can load a boat really fast," Moody said, hurling a tiny jig toward flooded brush in about six feet of water.
The lure, weighted with a bobber three feet above it, was twitched gently during retrieve. Within seconds, the line tightened and the ultralight rod bent into a sharp arc as a fat crappie tugged in frantic circles.
"This time of year we're starting to get them up in the shallows," he said. "Some of the bigger ones are still in deeper water, though."
Because crappie are so prolific, Georgia allows a liberal 30-fish limit. Although they are tasty, some anglers simply catch them for release.
"It's a lot of fun," Moody said. "We like to get up here on weekdays, get three or four boats out together, and cut up and catch fish all day long."
How is it done?
"I always buy the smallest minnows I can find if I'm bait fishing," Moody said. "It seems odd but the smallest minnows catch the biggest crappie."
Crappie feed on zooplankton, small aquatic insects and insect larvae that live near submerged structures. Larger fish feed on very tiny minnows and the immature fry of species like bass and bluegill.
Lures are also popular and effective. Moody's favorite is a small doll fly with the paint scraped off the lead head to give it a bland, metallic appearance. Tiny jigs and spinners also are effective.
Jim Murphy of Augusta operates a fishing guide service with his dad, Billy, and twin brother Brad. Crappies are popular with clients this time of year.
"We were out last week and caught 90," he said. "During late winter and early spring, and sometimes all the way into June, crappie fishing is really good."
The Murphys, who operate Double Trouble Fishing Guides, sink trees at various depths to insure they can always find fish. Crappie are migratory and move to different depths based on water temperature and oxygen.
"Usually, about this time of year, they make their first runs to the beds," Murphy said. "So far maybe 30 percent of the fish have gone up. The bigger ones are still out in deeper water - about 30 feet."
As the weather warms, he predicted, larger crappie will begin moving to bedding areas, too. "I'd say between this weekend and the next full moon, they'll be in full move to the beds."
Crappie are nest-builders and most catchable while bedding. They typically bed in deeper water than other members of the sunfish family and often construct 35 or more beds in a "colony."
"Usually, if you can catch one or two in a spot, just stay put and sometimes you can catch 50," Murphy said. "With the limits like they are, if you have four people in the boat, you can catch 120."
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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