Archive for March 2015


White Crappie

Biologists have studied crappie for years, including where they grow the largest.  A study done in South Dakota of both white and black crappie found that they grow the slowest in small impoundments and the largest in big water such as natural lakes.

Although they grow the largest in natural lakes they density of the fish population was lower.

Some other factors influencing growth are water quality and other environmental factors.  Some of those factors are the age of the body of water, water turbidly and siltation.

Crappies tend to grow faster in clearer, less turbid, newer lakes with steep-sided shorelines.

Studies have found that crappies grow best during the months of July and August.  Two year old crappie completed 71% of their length growth during these months.  This seems coupled with the post spawn feeding.  These months were also the time when the fish moved around the most.  It is assumed they were moving in search of forage.

Consistently catching big crappie requires some flexibility and study on the part of the angler.  Most anglers have a set method of catching them and tend to stay with it even if the fish are not biting.  It is more important to vary the presentation until the fish find what they are seeking for dinner.  If jigs are not working then try tipping them with a minnow.  If one color is not working well, then try another.

It is beneficial to maintain a diary of your trips on the water.  Note the lake level, water temperature, water clarity, wind direction and weather conditions.  All these factors affect fishing for crappies.  You can add the depth at which you find the fish, location on the lake, bait or lure used and presentation that is most effective.

Learn to use your electronics.  Read the instructions and practice, practice, practice.  Used properly they paint a picture of the area beneath the surface.

Transpose information from the electronics to your GPS or a topographical map.  The later often shows creek channels, island humps, and water depth, all effective in finding fish.  Notes on these things tend to be helpful as the fish repeat their habits at different times during the year.

Crappie fishermen need and want to study their quarry.  If fish are in a certain spot, we need to ask why it is the case.  What is it that attracts them to this spot at this time of year?  Certain times of the year, for instance during the spawn, they are found in certain situations.  Knowing this, anglers have an edge on the fish.

Finding big crappie is not impossible.  It just takes some work and a willingness to move from unproductive water.  The old adage that 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water seems to ring true with crappies.




One of the most frustrating aspects of crankbait fishing is losing them. Crankbaits are one of the more expensive terminal tackle components. Production costs force the prices a little higher each year. They are effective lures and valued by the angler. Here are five ways to cut down on the number of crankbaits you lose each season.

NUMBER ONE is a common method used by river anglers who lose of a lot of tackle on submerged trees, rocks and other objects. Simply remove the forward treble hook on a crankbait.

Most crankbaits tend to run with the forward end slightly lower than the back. With the treble hook removed, the body of the lure will bounce off submerged objects taking with it the rear hook.

NUMBER TWO is when you hang up. The most obvious way to get unstuck is to pull the bait lose from whatever has snagged it. Failing that, pop the line.

Hold the rod in one hand. With the other, pull some slack in the line between the reel and the first rod guide. Allow the line to pop tight. The jarring of the line sometimes will move the lure backward freeing it from the submerged object. Repeat several times until the lure works loose.

NUMBER THREE AND FOUR involve the use of products on the market under several trade names. The first is an extendable rod that has a spiral coil at the end. The tool extends to about 8 feet. The spiral portion captures the line and then slides down it to the lure. It captures the lure and breaks it loose.

The next is a heavy weight on the end of a strong line. Fasten it to the fishing line and allow the weight to slide down the captured lure. The then pull the strong rope back to you as it pulls the lure and fishing line free.

NUMBER FIVE is the Ultimate LureSaver Titanium R/S System. It is a big name for a very small product. The system allows you to pull lures free instantly without having to move the boat or move along the shore to another location. It allows retrieval without disturbing the fish.

The device is made of Titanium and replaces the split rings that hold the hooks. When the lure hangs up, the angler simply wraps the line around his hand and pulls steadily. The LureSaver opens, releasing the hook from the lure. It then closes again and you get everything back except the hook. Back at the boat, just replace the hook and your back in business.

Because the LureSaver is made of Titanium, it has a lot of memory and always returns to its original shape. The quick replacement of hooks allows for more time spent fishing instead of repairing tackle or messing with trying to get the lure up from the entanglement. It does not have any effect on the action of the lure.

A neat thing about this product is that it allows you to fish structure, rocky bottoms, brush piles and weeds without the fear of losing valuable crankbaits. It also cuts down on the amount of line and lure trash that is left in the water.

This product should be available in most tackle stores and bait shops. If you need help in finding it, contact the company at their website of



Ohio Backwater Striper 1

Reel screeching runs from a big brawny fish breaks tackle.   Hybrids and Stripers of the Ohio River are a difficult challenge.  Anglers in western Kentucky find these transplants pay big dividends in fishing action.

The striper is a saltwater relative of the white bass.  It resembles the white but is more elongated and less compressed with a nearly straight back.  The color of the striper is a dark greenish to bluish on top with sometimes a brassy tinge that becomes lighter on the sides.  The underside is silvery.  Most prominent are the seven to eight narrow stripes along the sides going lengthwise from which they gain their name.  Generally they reach a weight of about 5 pounds by their third year.  Fish in the 20 plus range are common.

The introduction in the 1960′s of striper fry into Lake Barkley created a fishery that is flourishing.  It was part of a number of such stockings across Kentucky and parts of Tennessee.  Some larger fish went into Kentucky Lake.   Over time they moved out of the lake and down river into the Ohio River.  Additional stocking by the Kentucky fisheries people added to the population.

Feeding on gizzard shad they provide a service to the other populations of game fish in the area.  They feed on the larger shad which the bass and catfish ignore.

Stable water levels are important to striper fishing success.  Both Kentucky and Barkley Lakes vary in water level beginning in April through September.  The Tennessee Valley Authority controls the levels.  Although water levels can vary from day to day generally they are stable from October through March.

Over the years stripers have made their way through the Kentucky dams at the north end of the lakes and established strong populations in the downstream waters especially those below Smithland Dam.

Although stripers spend most of the year roaming deep open water in pursuit of shad, they seem to be more concentrated in the spring.  Stable water conditions coupled with spawning shad cause the stripers to move to the more shallow water and dam tailwaters.  Anglers move in and cast both lures and live bait into the fast moving waters.

Heavy bass gear will handle these fish.  A medium or heavy rod and bait cast reel with 15 plus pound monofilament line will work well.  A 7-foot rod with a flexible tip is a good choice.  The flexible tip allows fish to grab the bait without meeting with a lot of resistance before they are safely hooked.

Live bait, either shad or skipjack are productive bait.  The rockfish’s voracious eating habits allow it to gobble up the bait before the angler is even aware of the strike.  A 2/0 to 4/0 Kahle or circle style hooks hold the live bait.

Some rockfish take topwater lures such as the Cordell Redfins trolled in the early morning hours.  Later in the day one can move up close to the dams and locks and cast large jigging spoons and Shad imitations.  Large jigs (l ounce) with plastic bodies in pearl or white colors seem to work well.

Electronics locate large schools of fish as they chase the shad.  Once a school is located anglers probe it by jigging, trolling lures or with live bait on downriggers.  The jigging is more exciting and productive.

Downstream from the dams or locks, rip rap banks are most productive.  The gizzard and threadfin shad are attracted to the plankton and algae between the rocks.  The stripers follow them in and feast on the shad.

Another good downstream location is the sheltered side of islands.  Small islands deflect current.  As the bait fish move into eddies to rest, the stripers will be waiting for them.  Some stripers are found on the upstream end of islands but not as many as will be found downstream.  Generally stripers are anywhere that there is a current break and a good food supply.

Fishing for stripers is an exciting sport and if you decide to keep a couple, they are excellent eating.



Carlyle Tailwater 1

Three species of “bass” inhabit the tailwater below the Carlyle Dam.  The three are Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and White Bass.

The 26,000-acre impoundment that is Carlyle Lake is on Illinois 127 and US 50 at the midway point between Interstate 64 and Interstate 57 in Clinton County.  The city of Carlyle is located at the south end of the lake near the dam.  The 15-mile long lake is 3.5 miles wide.  The deepest part is 40-feet deep.

The most popular fishing location for shore anglers is the tailwater area below the dam.  Often anglers are almost elbow to elbow along the shoreline on both sides.  The least fishing pressure comes during the week.  Weekends are busy virtually all year.

With a regular stocking of fingerlings of largemouth, a number of very successful bass tournaments have returned to the waterway.  It is host to the High School State Championships in the spring.

Although the best bass fishing is in the oxbow lakes, adjacent to the river current, largemouth bass are in the entire waterway.  They like the abundant woody cover to avoid the current.  Local anglers report commonly catching fish in the 3 to 5 pound class.

Habitat development by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has brought the smallmouth back from the brink of elimination.  The best locations to find them are north of the Carlyle area but some fish are finding their way down to the tailwater below Carlyle Dam.  Fish in the 2-4 pound range are usually in areas with rock or gravel bottoms.  Look for them in the slower water.

The lake areas are usually home for the white bass.  But in the spring the greatest numbers of fish make spawning runs up river from below the dam until their path is blocked by it.  Anglers often catch fish in the 10 to 15 inch class.  Look for them in the gravel bottom areas with the swift running water of the tailwater.

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