Anglers brave weather for crappies

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fisherman holding crappie
Crappies are often the first bite of the season and the preferred catch for members of the Ohio Crappie Club. (Submitted photo)

The Northeast Ohio Crappie Club held its first of several scheduled 2016 season crappie tournaments on West Branch Reservoir on a blustery, make that miserable, Sunday in early April.

Ignoring slippery ramps and unseasonably raw sub-freezing temperatures, a full roster of club members and freelance, two-man teams entered the contest, determined to see if they could dig out a limit of eight good crappies for weigh-in later in the afternoon.

Seven of the 19 teams dropped full, eight fish-limits on the scales with a winning limit weighing in at six pounds and 11.4 ounces.

Brrr! Club head and tournament organizer Dan Elko said he was pleasantly surprised to see so many teams at the pre-dawn registration considering the 15 degree temperature and strong winds. Nevertheless, the crappie bite was strong early but dropped off dramatically by mid-day. Right after noon, with snowflakes falling, crappies began cooperating again so that team anglers, numb fingers and all, could find some larger fish.

Good environment

Elko said that 2,500-acre West Branch holds plenty of good crappies and features tons of good structure where they can be found. He said that the spring search for hungry crappies should start in places like the Jay Lake area, where water temperatures warm before other areas in the big lake. Warm water attracts fish and that is the clue that leads to good spring fishing.

Jay Lake was actually a popular private lake near State Route 5 until the mid-1960s when West Branch was flooded. Old Jay Lake, now simply a back water bay, is located behind, or north of the campground.

About the club

Elko said that the Northeast Ohio Crappie Club is all about bringing crappie fishermen together in a friendly, sharing way with a competitive series of events. This is the sixth season for the club and interest in membership and affordable competition continues to grow. This tournament was sponsored by Ravenna Marine.

One-half of the registered anglers were able to weigh a limit of eight crappies over 9 inches in length. Honors and cash were awarded to the fisherman who caught the largest fish, a true trophy-size slab crappie weighing 1.96 pounds.

Next up for the club is a one-day, members-only scheduled for April 16 at Mosquito Lake in Trumbull County. Find out more about the Northeast Ohio Crappie Club online at northeastohiocrappieclub.com.

About crappies

Crappies come in two types: white crappies and black crappies. Some localized nicknames for crappies are slabs, specks and tissue mouths, referring of course, to the fact that especially large crappies resemble slabs, deeply colored black crappies are ticked or speckled, and all crappies have very thin and easily torn mouths. White crappies are often larger than black crappies, which are most often a bit chunkier or thicker.

The crappie bite is best in the early spring and they often found near about any type of structure such as downed tree tops, stumps and docks.

Spring-caught crappies are great for eating as the fillets of larger fish are firm and tasty. As the water warms, crappie fillets become softer and stronger in taste.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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