When it comes to panfish, there’s only been one so far that has given me the shakes. You know, the feeling of adrenaline and excitement that is only caused by a big fish? Although I’m talking about a panfish here, this one black crappie holds a memory that will forever stick in my mind. Maybe it’s because black crappie are my favourite amongst panfish, or because it was a fish that almost got away. Or maybe even the fact that it took me some effort to get this one to bite at all. In the end, any personal best creates a memory and motivation to catch an even bigger one! Here’s the story of my personal best black crappie, caught last spring.
I had found a small creek connected to a lake near my house that I was able to access only from shore. It was very narrow and too shallow in some areas for a boat to get into. Even a canoe or a kayak would be overkill for this creek. It was about 8 to 10 feet wide, winding, rugged, and about 3 - 4 feet deep at the very most. It was shallow, with a dark bottom, and surrounded by old reeds and brush. A beaver built a house there, so there were plenty of submerged sticks and trees in the area for fish to hold on. This made for a great environment for crappie to move in, eat, and spawn.
Now this wasn’t a super early season spot, as the crappie moved in here a little later than other areas I’d fished. It was still holding a lot of crappie though, and some bluegill and pumpkinseed as well. I’d caught loads of spring crappie up until this point, and was on the hunt for a personal best. This was the type of spot that it was best to creep up to as the fish could spot you and spook away pretty easily. One afternoon I was scoping out the creek, and spotted through the murky water a large crappie hovering around a stump. It looked like a nice fish from what I could tell, even through the stained water. I snuck up on this fish and worked a white 1-inch tube under a float right up to it. No interest. It took me what felt like forever (around 10 minutes) of trying various techniques and presentations until I was finally able to get this fish to bite. It seemed to prefer a slow-moving presentation. It was a big crappie!
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Normally I always have a net, as this spot especially had a really rugged shoreline that wasn’t always easy to land a fish. Of course the net was forgotten on this day. I hollered at my fishing partner when I hooked into the fish finally, and he ran over only to realize we had no net, but still tried to help me land this fish anyway. I didn’t want to crane this fish over the brush, but before I could give it much thought, Eric jumped into the cold spring water to grab my fish. . .and then he dropped it!
This is the point where we both felt sick and panicked at the thought that this giant crappie was lost. A second or two later we realized that lo and behold, the fish was still on! The brush on the shoreline kept the fish pinned and hooked for a few seconds until Eric reached down and grabbed it again. Phew! I think my shaking started long before this moment, but it was then when I could feel it the most. After some celebrating, we placed the fish in a bucket full of water briefly to get the camera ready for some pictures.
To date, this is the most exciting black crappie moment I’ve had and this fish measured at nearly 14 inches in length. I know they certainly get much bigger, but this is my current personal best. After a few quick photos, this fish was released to live on and breed on. Hopefully I’ll find it again this year, maybe even on the same stump. Hopefully it’s gained some length and a new personal best is in store for me!