Wednesday, April 30, 2014

4/26/2014 Rocky Fork Lake Crappie

Saturday I decided to take a trip to Rocky Fork Lake to see how the crappie were biting. Typically this time of year the crappie fishing at Rocky Fork can be phenomenal. The wind was predicted to be in the 15-20mph range for a good part of the day so I knew I would need to seek shelter in coves. This wasn't a problem as this was exactly where I expected the crappie to be, in shallow coves preparing to spawn or already spawning. I decided I would target a fairly large cove with deep water near by. I was unsure if the crappie were still in a transition period between their deep winter holes and the shallow coves or if they were already spawning in those coves so I wanted to have the option to move deeper if needed.

After picking up some minnows I got on the water around 1pm and headed to the cove I wanted to fish. The water temperature was 63 degrees. I had two floats and a shallow crankbait tied on. I planned to use one minnow float and the crankbait as a search bait until I found fish. I started fishing in 2-3ft of water on the wind blown side of the cove. I would anchor for 10 minutes, throw out a minnow float, and cast my crankbait around. By my third anchor, I had arrived at the best looking spot yet as there was some decent submerged wood to fish around. It was slightly deeper at around 4-5ft. My float was set 2ft deep. I cast my float near the wood and began working the crankbait parallel to the bank. After a few casts of the crankbait I got my first crappie of the day and it was a 9" keeper. It was good to know that there was crappie in this cove because where there is one, there should be many more. Seconds later my float disapeared. I pulled up a very nice crappie and quickly lifted it into my Nucanoe. It was a 13.25" 1lb 2oz Fish Ohio size crappie. This was when I found out that my GoPro had died so I had to settle for selfies and timer pics with my point and shoot camera.
13.25" 1lb 2oz Crappie
I was thrilled as crappie over 13" have been hard to come by in my experience at Rocky Fork. I don't go to Rocky Fork for trophy crappie, but for the great population of 9-12" keeper size. I was keeping crappie and after some debate I decided to let this big girl go. She was full of eggs so it appeared the crappie were still in pre spawn mode. A few crankbait casts and a couple 9" keeper crappie on the minnow float later and I decided to switch to duel floats. Another 30 minutes went by and I had maybe 5 keeper crappie and had only caught one crappie that was under 9" and it was probably 8.9" at that. So size was very favorable for harvesting crappie. It wasn't a quick bite but every fish being keeper size kept my interest. Another 15 minutes went by without any bites when finally a float quickly submerged. I started reeling and slowly lifted the rod tip to feel something with a little weight behind it. I typically don't set hooks on crappie as it has proven less effective in my experience. After a short battle I pulled yet another trophy crappie in. I thought to myself, "man, this is bigger than the first one!". This one measured in at 14.75" and weighed 1lb 7oz, also full of eggs.
14.75" 1lb 7oz Crappie
14.75" 1lb 7oz Crappie
I failed to catch another fish for another 15 minutes at this spot so I decided to move on down the bank. For the majority of the day I did this, catching a couple keepers at most spots I anchored. Numbers weren't great but nearly every fish was between 9-11". By the time I made it to the mouth of the cove I had 14 keeper crappie and had only caught 3 that were under 9". I had only purchased 3 dozen minnows so at this point I was getting pretty low, I predicted I had no more than a dozen left. I decided to head out into the main lake to search for another cove that I thought was holding crappie. After I short trip out into the lake I discovered that nearly every cove had a boat in it no doubt doing the same that I was doing. So I quickly headed back to the cove I started in to reclaim my spot before somebody else took it.

I headed back to the spot where I caught the two trophy crappie. In an hour I managed to catch 2 more keepers before I ran out of minnows. At this point it was about an hour from sunset. I thought, "might as well extend a great day on the water as long as I can". So I tied on a 3" wobblehead worm paired with a 1/32oz jig head in hopes that I might catch a bass or even some more crappie. Wobbleheads have proven to be a very versatile bait, catching anything from bluegill to 4lb largemouth bass. After I few casts with the wobblehead I landed my first bass, a solid 12". I worked my way around to the mouth of the cove once again and continued on around the opposite side. I had not fished this side as it was not the wind blown side and I felt it was somewhat featureless. A couple casts in and I got my second 12" bass of the evening. These bass were very shallow in less than 2ft of water near the bank and running towards me when they took my bait. Another 30ft down the bank I hook into something decent, at least for the light crappie rod and reel I was using. I immediately seen a sizable bass leap into the air. After a couple drag ripping surges I landed the pig. It was a very healthy 17.25" 2lbs 11oz.
17.25" 2lb 11oz Largemouth Bass
17.25" 2lb 11oz Largemouth Bass
My technique for working the wobblehead is a few light twitches and then letting it sink to the bottom. Many times the bass will take the worm on the drop when you don't have tension on the line.

Another 30 ft down the bank I hook into another decent fish. I thought it was another bass but a little smaller than the last one. This one wasn't jumping and as it got close I seen that it was another big crappie. This one went 13.5" and 15oz.
13.5" 15oz Crappie
At this point it was getting too dark to see where I was casting and I had reached the back of the cove so I called it quits.

On the day I caught 3 Fish Ohio crappie and a respectable largemouth. A day I won't soon forget. I ended up harvesting 16 crappie.

On a side note I did some mushroom hunting with great success this week. It has become something of a tradition now to have an annual crappie and morel mushroom feast every year.
No less than 15 mushrooms in this picture including a cluster of 7.
200+ morel mushrooms

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