A few days ago, I was graciously invited to fish with a few friends who were survivors of our years in a school in Hixson. These guys are dedicated crappie fishermen who often tell me stories of freezers full of sliced fillets.
I jumped at the chance to fish with these guys for several reasons. It’s always a good thing for a small reunion, a chance to find out who’s doing what and how many big babies are running around, or how many big dollars have been put on such a wall.
But there were more devious motives for my accepting their most generous offer to accompany this dedicated duo.
In the back of my mind, there was lingering doubt about the reports of “some of the biggest shit we’ve ever seen”, and all questionable credibility aside, I felt I needed to see this phenomenon. rare by myself.
My buddy, who hosted us on his boat, has a long and colorful story of stretching the truth and I strongly suspected the “biggest slabs in recorded history!” part of the invitation. Most importantly, I wanted to see how they were accomplishing such a feat on our local waters. My recent attempts to fill the freezer, as usual, seemed to be a bit short.
We launched into the light of day, and for once I felt like we had all of Chickamauga to ourselves. That good feeling that there were no crowds, no skiers, or the frenetic traffic of Sea-Do, and that the guys fish for money weren’t spending in their muscle boats at over 60 MPH has makes leaving early in the morning an immediate and rare success in my mind.
My friends are the kind of fishermen who get up early to bake good homemade cookies with deer sausage stuffing, still warm in foil. Another thing that’s getting harder and harder to find these days is a fishing partner who gets up early to provide homemade cookies.
I know a lot of people who no longer visit the lake in our backyard on weekends due to the heavy traffic and high waves. We had it to ourselves.
As the cool morning progressed, I attended an “old-fashioned” crappie fishing lesson as most of us learned about 60 years ago. Slip floats, split shot, # 6 gold hooks (custom bent at the right angle) and a keen minnow.
“Old school”; no need $ 2,000.00 fish finder, no trolling motor with directional computer / GPS assist devices, no need to calculate micro MPH trolling speeds, no racks filled with long fishing rods; just throw and watch a bobber.
“Old School” as we did with the Zebco 303s long ago when we could walk to a downed tree in the lake and don a bunch of fish for the proud walk back home like the trophy hunters of old.
A time when the neighbors, sitting on the afternoon porch, would jump out of their chairs and longingly gaze at the big stringers, and say things like if you drop a few here. I’ve been craving a good mess of fish all winter. We shared our bounty when possible with good neighbors.
It was the time when crappie felling was predicted by the tree species at the start of flowering. My particular tree “optimal time for crappie fish” bloomed in yellow and my mom called it a Forsythia. My budding expert fishing buddies swore by the willow and some have predicted that the dogwood blossoms are peak crappie spawning times.
Today, it looks like Bradford Pears are pretty decent indicators of pre-spawning Crappie action.
Somehow I can’t seem to remember Bradford Pears 60 years ago.
As we occasionally tossed a crappie into the fishpond, we relived the deer hunts, misses and misses of last fall. We showed each other pictures and discussed when it is best to stop hunting and start hunting Crappie. December has been said to be the best month to start crappie fishing early in the morning. Duck hunting was no longer declared necessary in December around this lake and any decent shooter should have three or four deer in the freezer by the end of November,
As the morning progressed, we discussed how May was the time to step up to the paddling pool and where this particular chase had found big bass in the seven-plus-pound class.
Once again, this effort to catch some big bass started in the pre-daylight weeds before the crowds got out of bed. I noted a comment that people from all over the country had targeted Chickamauga as a top-notch fishing hole, creating more competition than we’ve ever seen, or for that matter, needs. . I guess being marketed as a “world class” fishing hole is just another one of those negative things that come with stardom.
It seems to me that going back to what worked years ago isn’t necessarily a bad thing. High-tech is ok if you can justify it; but maybe we don’t really need all of this technology as much as we think when trying to fill a freezer with fillets.
Corn; on a fresh, recent morning, “Old School” and good homemade cookies revisited were pretty much what the good doctor ordered.
Thanks to good friends and revisiting an “Old School” lesson, crappie is as good as a pancake Crappie fillets can be fried.