Jim Clues You In On the
Fantastic Stick Marsh Crappie Spawn
by Jim Porter
I have fished Weiss Lake in Alabama and Lake Okeechobee in Florida extensively for crappie. Both a superior crappie-producing 'factories'; that is for sure. But, the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 impoundment often puts them both to shame.
In past years, when there was limited grass in the impoundment, 3 pound crappie were normal and caught daily. Three or four times a year, we caught one at, or near, four pounds. It was a snap to catch a 50-fish limit in just a few hours. They were easy to locate and the vast school sizes made them easy to catch.
Then, the hydrilla and other grasses started to become abundant. As it spread throughout the impoundment, the fish were no longer limited to where they could find food and safety. They could roam just about anywhere and still have plenty of cover. So, the fish went into the grass and were both hard to find and hard to fish.
If you get to spend a good bit of time on the Marsh, you can overcome this dilemma. With a bit of time and experience, the big crappies can be located and pretty well caught whenever the angler desires. But, for the visitor, it is hard.
There is one exception to the 'hard' fishing statement and that is during the spring spawning period. Then, the fish become very aggressive in the protection of the spawning area and will not only hit a lure readily; they will come a good distance just to chase it away. That makes them, again, easy to find and even easier to catch.
The crappie spawning window usually runs from mid-February through about the end of March. A few stragglers still show up in April oozing eggs, and sometimes a few may be found as late as May. But, the 'hot' period is through the end of March. We often stumble upon the large spawning areas they have selected by sheer accident, when the aggressive panfish start to hit our bass lures. Rat-L-Traps, small crank plugs and spinnerbaits are readily chased by the spawning fish. Occasionally, they even manage to inhale a plastic worm sufficiently to become hooked.
The better areas in the impoundment have always been the south end of the Farm 13 side and the north side of the Stick Marsh. But, anywhere you can find grass and wood mixed, you are apt to find a large group laying their eggs and guarding the site. The key is to toss a 1/16-ounce jig until you run into them.
The crappie seems to stay in the spawning area for 7-10 days. A good part of that time is after the spawn and when the eggs and the fry are being guarded. If active bluegills start to suddenly take your jigs in the spawning area, you can bet the eggs have been laid and/or they have hatched. The bluegills readily eat the eggs and fry.
Remember that the laws have changed and the limit per angler is now 25 crappie per day. No one needs more than that number, so there is no excuse for exceeding the limit. In fact, with the Stick Marsh crappie averaging 1.3 pounds, there is really no need for anyone to keep more than 10 per trip.
We caught a small crappie the other day that was very interesting. It had been bitten by a predator at some point in its young life and gave new meaning to the phrase 'getting your butt bit off'. The picture shows just how much resiliency Mother Nature provides to Her creatures and how strong the instinct to survive can be.
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