John Cherry Rockfish Rodeo on the Tar postponed

Crappie diagram
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Crappie diagram

Crappie Range Map

Tight Lines

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Flooding conditions on the Tar River at Tarboro has caused organizers to postpone the John Cherry Rockfish Rodeo on the Tar until Saturday, April 28. This is more about boat and angler safety than fish availability. The river was high, rough, dangerous and very unpredictable. Though disappointing to everyone, it is certainly the right call by tournament organizers. Safety first, always!

As far as I know, everything stays the same, just pushed back to Saturday, April 28. Captain's meeting will be at 7 p.m.Friday evening at Town Landing and tournament fishing commences on Saturday. If you need more information, stop by Roberson & Dupree Shoe Store on Main Street in Tarboro, or call tournament chairman Jimmy Dupree Jr. at 252-883-9999.

Oh crappie, the JC Rockfish Rodeo has been postponed. Okay. Let's talk crappie. Definitely a popular springtime fish pursued far and wide in NC waters.

Crappie. What an inglorious, undignified name for a fish. The name crappie is apparently a derivative of the French-Canadian word "crapet" which is used to describe various and sundry species of the sunfish family. Ironically, contrary to its name, crappie is a visually pretty fish with its spots, specks, and black and white markings.

An extremely popular North American freshwater fish, the black crappie and white crappie, are a highly regarded pan fish considered by many to be the best tasting freshwater fish available. Unappetizing and unappealing as it may sound, "Let's eat a mess of crappie," is a dinner bell that gets rung frequently among Eastern North Carolina anglers. The verbiage may not titillate the taste buds and/or stimulate the appetite, but the tasty fish more than compensates for the ugly inappropriate name.

Like most fish, crappie has a host of names: papermouths, speckled bass, specks, strawberry bass, speckled perch, crappie bass, and calico bass, which was what I first heard them called over 50 years ago in Maryland. My personal favorite nickname is slabs. That is most descriptive for me.

Fifty years ago, in Montgomery County, Maryland, I found a very productive crappie lake. High school friend, Tony Cardona, who is a doctor in south Florida these days, was my crappie fishing buddy. We wore them out numerous times dangling small minnows in their scaly face. A dairy farm was nearby and I remember cows standing at a fence mooing and watching us catch fish.

Only about 25 minutes from the big city, it was about as "country" as you could get in that greater Washington, D.C. area. Wasn't I amazed and disappointed to go looking for that lake many years later, only to find a shopping mall smack-dab where my productive crappie lake used to be. Using a little play on words, I would call that "crappy progress."

Two types of crappie, white and black, can be found in NC reservoirs, rivers in the coastal plain, ponds, and lakes. The black crappie is found more frequently in Eastern North Carolina. Minimum size regulations vary in specific waters, so it would be smart to check local minimum rules before you go. Daily creel limit is 20 per person per day, any combination of black and white.

The N.C. state record white crappie is 3-pounds, 15-ounces, while the heftier black crappie is 4-pounds, 15-ounces. World records are 5-pounds for a black crappie and 5–pounds, 3-ounces for the white species.

The 1,859-acre Tar River Reservoir, inside Rocky Mount's city limits is well known to be an excellent crappie fishery. Kirk Rundle, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission fisheries biologist said, "If I wanted to break a state record, I'd fish Tar River Reservoir and hope to land a big white crappie." THAT is a pretty good, credible endorsement from a man that most likely knows what he is talking about.

Natural and man-made brush piles are always productive crappie hang-outs. With modern boat electronics, finding structure and crappie dens is not the guesswork it was in the past. The experienced crappie anglers like to throw out a marker buoy when they locate an ideal spot. Rule of thumb has always been finding one crappie and you will find a dozen or more in the same locale. Not always true, but I have heard that said all my fishing life.

Next to bass baits, crappie baits are many, and you will find a ton of different types, styles and colors. The joke is that the lure manufacturers make these colorful, interesting looking baits to "hook" the fisherman, not necessarily the fish. It used to be small minnows were the go-to-bait, and for some it still is, but experienced crappie anglers have discovered color does make a difference on most days. Jig heads and soft plastic trailers in every color in the rainbow are available wherever crappie baits are sold online and in retail stores. Chartreuse has long been a favorite of bass and crappie fisherman. Most serious anglers are familiar with the adage, "If it ain't chartreuse, it ain't no use."

Several years ago, Wifey (Linda) and I enjoyed an interesting crappie outing on Falls Lake with Triangle-area crappie fishing guide and well-known crappie expert Freddie Sinclair. He calls his method Tight-lining and involves a weighted jig with small minnow attached. Sinclair pays out 10 to 15 feet of 6-pound test line, fishing an array of up to eight crappie poles 12- to 16-feet long.

Sinclair operates his trolling motor to go painstakingly slow at .5 to .8 mph. This slow movement puts the lines almost straight down. If the fish are in more shallow waters he reels in some line and trolls a little faster. The man is a crappie champion that regularly wins crappie tournaments and consistently puts his charters on the fish.

Some refer to the multi-rod trolling method as spider-rigging, where the rods are spread out like spokes on a wheel. Some use different baits at different depths to find a cluster of fish. When you hit a school, multiple rods are bending, and anglers are moving helter-skelter to get while the getting is good.

The bottom line is that crappie is a plentiful freshwater fish in Eastern North Carolina. They are relatively easy to catch and usually provide plenty of action for novice or expert. Crappie is a great fish to seek with children that need action to captivate and keep their interest. You don't need an expensive boat and/or pricey equipment to catch crappie. Most local bait shops can fix you up with proper equipment, live bait, and/or appropriate artificial lures, and if you ask real nice, they most likely will point you in the right direction for crappie success.

No article about crappie fishing would be complete without a mention how to prepare this tasty dish. Ask 10 crappie anglers and you will probably get 10 different ways to cook them. Tossed in corn meal and deep fried seems to be the gold standard in crappie food prep.

Funny name, but a great, fun fish to catch and eat. Now, get out and get you a mess of crappie!

Spring Fishing Success? Good for you! Give us all the exciting details at carolinaangler@gmail.com. Large file full-size, high resolution fishy pix float our boat.

See you on the water, my friend.