Here in southern Illinois it is always a harbinger of springtime when the Dogwood trees begin to bloom.  The rest of the forest is full of dark grey shafts of wood rising toward the sun.  Upon them are the beginnings of green leaves.  They are enough so that one knows they are leaves, but not enough to provide the green mantel that will come in a few weeks. 

More importantly the sighting of blooming dogwoods means the crappies are on the beds.  Crappie season is here.  Out on Rend Lake, Crab Orchard Lake, Devils Kitchen Lake, and Lake of Egypt boat loads of crappie anglers suddenly appear.  These and other southern Illinois lakes are crappie hot spots during April and early May.

There are some basic tactics that help catching crappie this time of the year.    

It means long poles with ultra light reels and two-pound test line.  The long poles enable one to dip an offering into the flooded buckbrush for the big ones.  Spring is a time of rising water on these lakes.  They are watershed lakes. 

Jigs are popular offerings.  They can be tipped with a minnow (known locally as crappie minnows) or some brightly colored plastic bait.  White, chartreuse, and black are popular colors.  Hair jigs or marabou jigs are also popular.  One sixteenth or 1/32 ounce jigs are favorites.

Remember these are predator fish and they relate to structure.  Since they feed on insects and small fish it is important to not work your bait too quickly.  Work jigs slowly in a bouncing motion.  The idea is to imitate an injured food source.

It is recommended that one probe around any area of wood, rock, or concrete structure below the surface.  In some areas brush piles have been placed to attract fish.  Wooden stakes driven into the bottom in groups are good attractors.  If no structure is visible from the surface all is not lost.

Some people who put out brush piles hide them so as to have the honey hole to themselves and their friends.  A boat with electronics can locate these areas.  Late in the spring the crappie will visit submerged structure more frequently.  Early in the spring they tend to stay in the more shallow areas as they approach the spawning season.  Fish the shallow water early in the morning and later move to the deeper water.

 Anglers can the fish were biting and then quit.  Sometimes they quit because they get wise to the color of the jig.  Other times it is because they have moved a few feet away.  If fish quit biting suddenly move about 2 feet and try again.  Keep that up for a little while.  If that does not work go back to the original location and follow the same pattern with a different color jig.

 An old crappie killer technique is to use the scales as an attractant.  The angler scales one of the fish already caught and sprinkles the loose scales on the water.  He waits a minute or two.  Then begin working the jig in the same area.  The idea is that scales simulate bait fish and stimulates the crappie to begin feeding again.

 It is crappie and dogwood time in southern Illinois.  Let’s go fishing!



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  1. I am waiting for my line dancer to show up and try it out to see if the action on it is what they say it is.

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