As hunting seasons close in the spring, Appalachian sportsmen and women should turn their attention to crappie, walleye spawns
Most of our hunting seasons are over, and spring gobbler season is still a month away. If you’re a year-round sportsman or woman, this means only one thing should be on your mind: fishing.
With that, I want to focus on two species, crappie and walleye. Now, Spring is usually a time I’m in our mountain streams trying to land some trout, but crappie and walleye hold two different spots in my heart.
I’ll begin with crappie.
This is a species I used to shoot for with my friends. I don’t remember if we were ever successful – we were good at catching largemouths and bluegill on the North Bend Lake – but we tried nonetheless. Since then, I’ve learned much more about crappie, including how delicious they are. The daily creel limit for crappie is 30, both white and black in aggregate, and with no minimum size limit you can load up on these if you hit a good stretch of water.
The best time to fish for crappie is the spawn, which takes part in the Spring when water temperatures hit 60 degrees or above. During this time, target shallow waters between 1-6 feet in depth. Earlier in the Spring, I’ve found the most success from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and as the season moves on they start biting sooner in the day. It may seem simplistic, but my favorite bait to use is pink or chartreuse crappie magnets with a silver jig head. I run a 6-foot Okuma Celilo ultralight spinning rod with an Okuma Avenger spinning reel. It’s the same setup I use for trout fishing and have great success with it.
As for cooking it, there’s nothing better than a fish fry. Enough said.
Next, I move on to my Achille’s heel: Walleye. I’ve caught a few before under Cheat Lake’s minimum length requirement, and that’s really it on our best local river. Granted, I’ve only fished one other water that holds nice walleye, the part of the Potomac River by Harpers Ferry. According to the Maryland DNR, this is part of the river that holds the highest concentration of the species. There, I was able to hook plenty but released all of them.
My favorite lures to use are Rapala shads, with my go-to being a jointed shad rap. I go for orange, yellow and red-colored lures since I don’t target super deep water, but do have different baits for different depths up to 15 feet. One bait I’m trying out at the suggestion of one of the guys at McFly Outdoors is a Rapala Husky Jerk Minnow when I stopped in Wednesday afternoon.
As for my rod and reel, I’ve never had a problem with my Abu Garcia Elite Max combo. It’s been great for both bass and walleye. As for the best time to cast line, walleye feed heavily low light conditions so get ready to spend your Spring mornings and evenings on the water. Target shallower areas during the spawn, which takes place when water temperatures are reaching the mid-40 to 50-degree range. Outside of the spawn, hit inlets and deep, slower water. If you don’t have a boat or raft, fishing at night is your best option.
As for cooking walleye, you’re on your own here. I’ve never eaten one, but there are plenty of recipes out there. I’d check out themeateater.com for some of their recipes.
Good luck out there, follow the rules and pack out your trash.
This story was originally published in The Dominion Post on March 18, 2021, and online March 17, 2021, by the author.