Wild Times: It won’t be long!
About a week and a half ago, I was able to secure a ride in a boat on the Sabetha Pony Creek Lake. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon with the air temperature hovering around the 70 degree mark. The boat was out on somewhat of a test run and to check out the possibility of any crappie in the area moving up shallower to begin the spawning period.
I noticed that the water temperature was showing up on the depth finder at 61 degrees. Perhaps just a little cool yet for any real crappie action to begin.
There were about nine boats on the water that afternoon, and the consensus among the fishermen in the boats was that nothing — and I mean nothing — was biting. The only action that was taking place was about a million carp attempting to spawn along the east banks of the lake along the old creek channel.
All of the boats eventually made their way over to observe the gathering of the carp and to watch their antics. I had no idea there were that many carp in the lake, but from the looks of it there certainly are.
Once those crappie begin to spawn, I am sure the lake will be busy. There is nothing like a hot crappie bite to trigger the fishing fever in those who like to wet a line.
When do crappie spawn? Read a dozen articles and pieces of information on the temperature that crappie begin to spawn in, and you will get a dozen different desired water temperatures.
The old rule of thumb that I have always heard and been told is that the ideal temperature is 65 degrees.
Sounds good to me! If that is the case, then we can’t be too far away from the crappie beginning to move into the shallower water to begin the annual ritual. Obviously the cooler weather and the last three to four days of cold rain has not helped this situation at all.
I would like to point out the crappie that inhabit the Sabetha Pony Creek Lake are Black Crappie. There are two kinds of crappie, white and black. I prefer the black crappie to the white crappie just because of the beautiful color markings on the blacks.
If you are not sure which crappie you are holding in your hand count the spines on the dorsal fin. A black will have seven or eight spines, while the white will have five or six.
A white will also have vertical bars on the sides of its body. Black Crappie prefer clearer water, which Pony Creek definitely has. The other day, the water was nice and clear and you could see down about five feet with ease.
When that water warms up, a couple of degrees and it should in the next week, the male crappies will move into shallower water to begin building a nest.
Now, before you get your heart set on that happening I was talking to a crappie expert and he warned me that the higher water levels in the lakes and the up and down cooler water temperatures may have shut down the spawn for the year. I hope that is not the case for our area, but it could happen and thus that hot shallow bite may not take place this year.
If the spawn does occur, this is what will take place. The male will use his tail and body to sweep away an area on the bottom of the lake near the shoreline. The nest location will be in an area that has some kind of cover nearby such as standing timber or weeds that will offer some protection.
A female will then lay up to 40,000 eggs in the nest after the breeding process, and the male will guard the nest vigorously against predators. In a couple of days, the fish larvae will hatch and will remain in the nest area for several days before moving off into cover to begin the growing process.
It is during this nest guarding phase that male crappie are really aggressive and will strike out at anything that comes into the nest area. So, if your jig or lure happens to move past the nesting area you will more than likely get a hit from a very aggressive nest guardian.
The feeding females are also readily caught in the same area as well. As easy as crappie are to catch and as popular as they are for sport fishing and eating, the populations seem to be able to keep up with the number of fish harvested each year.
More fisheries are putting fish limits on bodies of water to take the pressure off of the populations. According to the fishing regulations printed up for Sabetha Pony Creek Lake, the limit on a daily basis for crappie is 20 fish and that is a perfect number. There is no sense getting greedy. We want this fishery to produce for years to come.