Bob Harris - OUTDOORS and FREE - April 04, 2012
Fishing for Black Crappie in New Hampshire
(right photo: Myron Rust and a nice crappie he caught at Hopkinton Lake) (PRINT THIS ARTICLE)
Mention “crappie” to southerners and their ears perk up. They know that Pomoxis nigromaculatus is a scrappy fighter on light tackle. And whether you are fishing purely for sport or to put a few filets into the old frying pan, you can’t ask for a finer fish to catch. One that can be prepared using a variety of delicious recipes.
Pomoxis means “sharp Opercle” (gill cover) and nigromaculatus means “dark spotted”. Together, they simply refer to the “black crappie”. There are two species of crappie, the white and the black. To my knowledge, the black crappie is the only one of the two species found in the Northeast. I’m not sure where the name “crappie” came from. Perhaps some trout fishing purist, after catching several of them, exclaimed, “Oh crap! Not another one of those.”
In any case, the black crappie is a real fun fish. It is relatively easy to catch if you bother to familiarize yourself with some of their characteristics, food and habitat preferences. Although greater populations are found in the neighboring state of Massachusetts, these members of the “sunfish” family indeed offer a viable fishery for anglers here in New Hampshire waters.
Black crappie feed on a variety of food sources that are chiefly comprised of small crustaceans, insects, zooplankton and small fishes. The angler should remember that a crappie’s normal feeding habit is not one of “attack“. Instead, they suck in their prey, then close their mouth and swallow. They do not have the strong jaws or the teeth of other fish species and therefore, they are limited as to the size and type of prey they can take. Their food items must be small enough to be sucked in whole, without having to rearrange it before swallowing. If live bait (such as minnows) is used in fishing, they should be no longer than two inches in length. A half night crawler will also work.
Although the black crappie is normally smaller than the white crappie, believe it or not they can and do attain bass sizes. The current New Hampshire state record black crappie was taken February 9, 2000 in Bellamy Reservoir, in Madbury, N.H., by Tom Noyes. It measured 17.25 inches and weighed 2 pounds, 12.8 ounces.
The most productive fishing for black crappie in New Hampshire will be found in the more southern regions of the state. There are many ponds within the state where populations of black crappie are known to exist. These include: Scobie Pond (Londonderry); Clement Pond (Hopkington); Hopkinton Lake (Hopkinton); Monomonac Lake (Rindge); Milville Pond (Salem); Pennichuck Pond (Hollis), Glen Lake (Goffstown), Lake Massabesic (Manchester/Auburn) to name a few.There are some characteristics of the black crappie that, when known, can aid the angler in fishing for them. For example, they are a fish that suspend in confined, open water areas of bays, coves or the main body of a lake, near the mouth of coves and inlets. In lakes and ponds, they will suspend at various depths to take advantage of drifting masses of zooplankton (microscopic animal life). The depths at which some zooplankton suspend (like Daphnia, a water flea) is controlled by light intensity and crappies will make major location changes during the day in response to zooplankton movement.
In my frequent quest for black crappies, I have often encountered schools of crappies suspended just under the surface, either resting or sucking in masses of zooplankton. If you don’t have an LCR (Liquid Crystal Recorder) or a flasher type fish locator unit, one of the best times to find schools of crappie is during periods of “dead calm” water. When suspended just beneath the surface, the tips of their dorsal fins will barely stick up above the surface of the water. The effects looks very much like the bubbles left by nymphs that have reached the surface and are getting ready to fly off. Cast a jig into the middle of this mass and the surface will boil with crappies scattering in all directions. Of course, it is best to cast well beyond the mass, very slowly retrieving your lure back through it.
Crappies are also known to be light sensitive. In clear waters, they will often bite best at twilight or after dark and in deeper waters. In dark waters, they seem to bite consistently in shallower water throughout the day. Cloudy days often produce the best fishing throughout the entire day.
Wind conditions play an important part in crappie movement. Wind will force zooplanton to move, blowing large masses of it into coves and opposite shore areas. For instance, if a cove lies at the south end of a lake or pond and the wind has been blowing in that direction for a couple of days, it’s a good bet you’ll find crappies there.
When fishing for crappies, use light tackle and troll or retrieve lures and flies very slowly. A 6 ½ to 7 foot ultra-light spinning outfit, with the reel loaded with number 4 to 6 pound test line is ideal. The ultra-light rig will allow you to cast the very small lures and jigs required for the best crappie fishing results. Feathered maribou jigs, small spinner baits, Fuzz-E-Grubs, or other jigs in sizes 1/64, 1/32, 1/16 and 1/8th ounce weights are most effective. Effective colors for jigs and other lures are: white, yellow, yellow/black, chartreuse and silver.
Fly-fishing for crappies is a real challenge, particularly when they are suspended just under the surface. Dry flies in sizes 12 and 14, that are slowly moved on the surface will bring crappies rushing. There are any number of wet fly and nymph patterns that will also work well in sizes from 10 to 14. Streamers shouldn’t be overlooked either, tied in the favorite colors mentioned earlier. A real deadly fly is the maribou leech pattern tied in sizes 8 through 12. Both white and yellow colors work well.
Fishing for black crappies is fun, but not always easy. Whatever the season, the challenge of the black crappie awaits anglers in New Hampshire as well as their great taste as a meal. Give it a try. Good luck and tight lines.
Bob Harris can be reached at: outwriter2@Comcast.net