The Fraser Valley's Lonesome Crappie
It has always seemed strange to me that black
crappie, a game fish held in high esteem
throughout most of North America, is looked
upon with such disfavor by British Columbian
anglers. If it isn't a trout or salmon, it's
obviously a trash fish. Oh well.
By George Will
Crappies are aliens. After their introduction
into Washington state waters back in the 1930s,
they swam north and discovered the lower Fraser
River's shallow backwaters and tributaries were
much to their liking. They have since found their
way into virtually every shallow lake in the region.
My first encounter occurred when I started fishing
Whonnock Lake. I was casting a Mickey Finn into
small holes in the shoreline vegetation, hoping
to entice one of the hog cutthroat I'd been told
inhabited the lake. At one point my fly was suddenly
engulfed, but by a very untroutlike fish. At first
I thought it was a decent-sized smallmouth bass
(of which there aren't any in Whonnock), but quickly
realized it was a huge crappie. I measured it at
15" (38 cm) against my net. To hell with the cutts!
Before that day ended my arms were like wet dishrags
from catching similar-sized fish, but rest assured
that enough were retained to provide a meal. They
are delicious eating, and most eastern anglers rank
them over walleye for flavor and texture.
I kept returning to Whonnock and started fishing
seriously for crappies. Yellow was the main color
that attracted them, and I eventually developed a
killer bucktail pattern I called the Crappie Basher.
On the shank of a No. 10, 3x long hook, wrap medium
silver Mylar. For the wing, tie on a small clump of
yellow hair, a small clump of white, then another
of yellow. I prefer polar bear but anything seems
to work. Build up a fairly large head of red thread.
Crappie are schooling fish, so if you find one you
find them all. They really like the weedy margins
of lakes, but I have also found them suspended
mid-water, especially during their spring-spawning
period. At that time a fast sinking line and a
yellow or chartreuse jig-fly works well.
Because anglers rarely bother them, there are
some truly enormous crappie populations in many
Fraser Valley lakes. I recall days when I hooked
one on every cast for hours on end, and some
reached mind-boggling sizes. One day while my
Dad and I were fishing a Pitt River backwater,
we got into a pod of monsters. Several were over
15" (38 cm), and one nudging 20" (50 cm) went at
least 4 Ib (1.8 kg), maybe more. That's rightóclose
to the International Game Fish Association world
record of 4 Ib 8 oz (2.1 kg)!
Here's another twist. Until recently, there wasn't
even a limit on crappie - they didn't even rate a
mention in the fishing regs. The limit is still
quite liberal (20 per day), but they remain virtually
ignored. Hey! I don't mind. Whenever I return to the
Vancouver area for a visit, I think it's great having
a fishery like that almost exclusively to myself. But
I'd appreciate it if you'd keep it under your hat. ~ George Will
Credits: From Fly Fishing Canada,
published by Johnson Gorman Publishers, Calgary, Alberta.
We appreciate use permission.
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