Bob Harris - OUTDOORS and FREE- June 06, 2012
- Crappie Fishing in New Hampshire -
Right Photo: Myron Rust, of North Attleboro, Mass. displays a nice black crappie he caught in Lake Massabesic.
Oh no! Fishing in New Hampshire certainly isn’t “crappie”. Don’t be misled by the title. For a number of years, friends and I have found black crappie fishing to be fun and challenging. The crappie is actually a member of the sunfish family and can be found in all the continental states, including here in the Granite State. It is known by many different names, typically based on geographic location, such as paper mouth, goggleye, and calico bass to name just a few. There are two species of crappie, the white and the black. However, only the black crappie is found in New England waters.
The body of the black crappie is deep and strongly laterally compressed. Its forehead is depressed markedly, resulting in a noticeably turned-up snout. There are seven or eight spines on the dorsal fin and five to seven (usually six) in the anal fin. It is a very attractive silvery fish with numerous black or black-green mottling marks scattered over its body and fins. Black crappie inhabit quiet, weedy waters of lakes, ponds and streams. They spawn in the spring of the year when water temperatures reach 58 to 64 degrees. Adults generally vary between 5 and 12 inches in length and weigh less than a pound. However, one to two pounders, that measure as long as 16 or more inches, are common in many New Hampshire waters. Their food is comprised largely of small crustaceans, insects and small fish.
The black crappie was originally illegally introduced into a few waters in the southern part of New Hampshire many years ago. Until recent years, it was never considered to be a game fish in the Granite State and was treated as just another panfish. However, over time, our Fish and Game Department came to realize just how popular the black crappie was with anglers in the state. They then began a program of introducing black crappie into many other suitable waters around New Hampshire. Today, our state is blessed with a number of water bodies containing this highly fun to catch and delicious to eat fish, including Glen Lake in Goffstown. Black crappies now exist in the waters of eight of our ten counties: Belknap, Carroll, Cheshire, Coos, Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford.
Compared to waters in southern and western states, our average crappies are smaller in size. But, we do have large ones ranging from 12 to 17 inches in length, depending upon the waters habitat and food sources available to them and the amount of fishing pressure exerted upon the population. My largest taken was a 16 inch crappie, caught in Turtletown Pond, in Concord. The current New Hampshire state record black crappie was taken by Tom Noyes, in the Bellamy Reservoir, in Madbury, during February, 2000. It was 17 inches long and weighed 2 pounds, 12.8 ounces, proving that they are also a fun fish to catch in the winter.
Until recently, there were no creel limits on crappie. There is now a 25 fish limit on them, only if your catch are all crappies, otherwise your daily total can be no more than 50 fish combined The limit applies to all nongame fish: yellow perch, white perch, sunfish, bluegill, horned pout, etc.
Big water bodies, such as Lake Massages (Auburn and Manchester), Pawtuckaway Lake (Nottingham) and Lake Winnipesaukee (Laconia) are but three large lakes where a hook-up with a large size crappie is possible. And, there are many smaller water bodies that contain large crappies, such as Turtletown Pond, in Concord. I enjoy trolling for them.. The advantage being that you can cover a greater area of water rather than staying in one spot or fishing from shore. A depth-finder is a great help in locating crappie activity as well as indicating the depth at which they are active. If a school is encountered, stop your boat and try jigging or casting to them. When they stop biting or move off, then begin trolling again.
Crappies are light sensitive. When the sun hit’s the water, they will drop down to a depth of from 5 to 10 or 12 feet deep, depending upon the water clarity. As the sun gets higher in the sky, they may retreat to a depth of 25 feet or more. When the sun begins to set, they will move back up toward the surface. But, again, water clarity will make a difference. Another crappie behavior to remember is that they will come up but won’t dive down for bait or lures. Therefore, it is important to fish at whatever level they are swimming at or slightly above them.
What to use for catching black crappies? Live baits such as worms, night crawlers, and small minnows work. There are also any number of jigs and lures that will catch crappie. My favorites are the rubber curly-tailed jigs with various colors of jig-heads and tails. These come in a variety of weights and sizes. I prefer the one and one half and two inch tails with jig-head weights in 1/16, 1/32 and 1/8th ounce sizes. When considering a jig selection, consider the sun light factors and the time of day you’ll be fishing. Bright day, bright lure. Dark day, darker lure. Having a variety of colors to choose from is best. Keep trying until you find the color combination that produces the best action for you at that time and place.
For those who enjoy fly-fishing, New Hampshire’s black crappies can readily be caught on flies. Again, the trolling method will prevail, using full-sinking fly lines. If a notable school of fish is found, by all means stop and enjoy casting to them. Recommended fly patterns to use are wets, nymphs and streamers. Single hook streamers in size 10 and 8 work well. These should be of bait-fish patterns as well as attractor patterns. Streamers like the Gray Ghost, Black-nosed Dace, Mickey Finn, Black Ghost, Meredith Special, Beadhead Olive Crystal Bugger and the Beadhead Chartreuse Crystal Bugger are some good choices.
To learn more about what waters in the state containing black crappie populations, readers should obtain a copy of the 2012 New Hampshire Freshwater Fishing Digest which is now in a nice magazine format. Pages 36, 37 and 38 contain colored pictures of all our fish species. The black crappie is at the bottom of page 37. This excellent publication is available in many sport shops handling fishing items or you can obtain it free from: Public Affairs Division, N.H. Fish and Game Department, 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, N.H. 03301 or call them at: (603) 271-3211.
Black crappies are one of the finest eating fish you could have on your plate. In my book, it ranks number one followed by white perch and yellow perch. I like them deep fried in cracker crumbs or cornmeal. Admittedly, I do release more fish then I ever take home to eat.
Bob Harris can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com