Joe Kaczmarczk turned slightly, hiding his hands, size six fish hook, an unfortunate fat head minnow, a carefully-selected specimen netted from a nearby minnow bucket.
It was one of those secret moments that top fishermen enjoy best, a chance to do something very effective and known only to the secretive one.
Kaczmarczk, better recognized as Big Joe for good reason, announced that some time during his considerable, if not all-consuming, interest in fishing, he had heard, seen, or somehow been instructed by some fabled TV angler that he would indeed catch more fish if he hooked his minnows a certain way.
Now I don’t know how secret something told by a TV guy could be, unless the TV guy has a very small audience, so I won’t spill the beans, but I will tell you that any minnow used by Big Joe is the next thing to be eaten by a larger fish and that the minnow won’t see it coming.
Like most avid anglers who are so anxious to wet their line a month or two before real fishing time comes, Big Joe was fishing for crappies, a simple fish to catch as they bunch up in early spring, a season that this year is well ahead of its normal arrival.
Now is the time and nearly anywhere in Ohio is the place. The trick is to find shoreline cover such as docks, downed timber, brush piles, and other structure and if there are crappies in that lake they will be there, waiting to be caught.
A good crappie is 10 to 12 inches and a really good crappie goes 13 inches. These big fish are called slabs. Minnows are the bait of choice but when the action gets real hot a small twister tail or light colored jog can be the ticket.
Crappies are soft mouth fish so smart anglers simply tighten their line to set the hook rather than tug at the fish which can rip the hook loose. Ohio fishing regulations limit crappie fishermen to fish nine inches or larger with a daily limit of 30 on many lakes and some rivers.
Crappies are blue collar and demand very little from the anglers who chase them. Light line, a bright colored bobber, and a simple snelled or not hook, is all there is to it.
Watch the dog woods. As the blossoms brighten, the fish are at their peak but won’t be for long. Cold water crappies are excellent at the table. Filleted, skinned, breaded and fried in a pan. It doesn’t get any better.
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