John’s Note: Productive crappie fishing doesn’t end when the spawn is over, but crappie fishing does change. Many nice slab fish still can be caught, if you know where to find them and how to catch them. A few weeks ago I was fishing with Billy Blakely of Bluebank Resort (www.bluebankresort.com, 877-258-3226) on Reelfoot Lake on the border of Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas.
“Let’s go duck hunting for crappie,” Blakely, a guide at Blue Bank, suggested about mid-morning of our day on the water at Reelfoot. I thought Blakely was having a heat stroke. I never had heard anyone say the words, “Duck hunting for crappie.” But as I was to learn only a few minutes later, this tactic might be one of the most-overlooked and productive hot-weather techniques I’d ever learned from crappie fishing. With four waterfowl refuges on Reelfoot, this body of water probably attracts and holds as many ducks as any waterfowl refuge in the country. Duck blinds are scattered all over the lake for hunters to use during the season. As we motored up to the first duck blind, Blakely explained, “As the sun gets bright, and the weather’s hot, the crappie here at Reelfoot are looking for shade, and so are the bait fish. Besides the shade, crappie are searching for underwater structure on which to hold. Permanent duck blinds are tied to posts and have a lot of brush on them. Each year wind and rain blow much of the brush that’s put on the duck blinds to hide hunters from ducks into the water, and it sinks down close to the bottom. Also on windy days, plenty of limbs and logs blow into the water and get stopped and sunk when they come in contact with a duck blind. Permanent duck blinds that have been here for years usually have a boat slip that’s covered. Then a hunter and his party can motor a boat into the boat shed, usually on the back side of the blind, and get in and out of the boat when they’re going to the blind to hunt and when leaving the blind after hunting. So, duck blinds attract and hold crappie, especially during the summer months.”
Blakely says he likes to shoot a 1/16- or a 1/24-ounce crappie jig into the boat slips on the backs of these duck blinds. Usually, he catches some pretty good crappie fishing that way. Blakely uses an ultralight B’n’M (www.bnmpoles.com) dock-shooting rod and 4-pound test line to shoot the duck blinds. He shoots his jig as far back into the boat slip on the back of the duck blind as he can shoot it. “The back of the boat slip is generally where you’ll find the most shade on a duck blind and is where crappie like to hold. However, I also shoot a jig around the poles that hold the duck blind in place, along the sides of the blind and down the middle of the blind.” If you get your feelings hurt when you get hung-up and break-off a jig, you won’t enjoy shooting duck blinds for crappie, because there’s usually an awful lot of debris – sticks, limbs and logs around and under the duck blind. But of course, that’s the kind of cover where crappie like to hold.
“Jack, find that duck,” Blakely told his son, Jack, who hunts and fishes with his dad every time he gets a chance. “I’ve been hearing it quack ever since we got close to this blind.” Jack’s young keen eyes spotted the hen mallard that neither Blakely nor I could see. “Dad, you’re not going to believe this. Look right on top of that blind about 8 feet out in front of you,” Jack said. Billy and I looked at the same time. Sure enough, a hen mallard was sitting on a clutch of eggs right on top of that duck blind. I never had seen a duck create a nest on top of a duck blind. However, because the blind was about 10-yards away from the bank and the hen mallard was well camouflaged in the brush on top of the blind, no land-based predator could get to her. Too, there was very little human traffic around the blind. This mallard could raise her chicks in safety. I asked, “Billy, what’s going to happen to those chicks when they hatch out of their eggs, and they need to get something to eat?” Blakely smiled and answered, “The mama duck will push them off the top of the blind, they’ll hit the water, and they’ll bob just like corks. Then she’ll lead them around the lake to shallow water where they can feed.” Hunting duck blinds for crappie during the summer months certainly paid off for us.
To learn much more about crappie fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and some print books, “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish & Hunt for Ducks,” “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter,” “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” “Catch Cold Water Crappie Now” and “Catch Crappie All Year: Fishing a Single Pole, Using No Boat and Farming Crappie” by clicking on each, or go to www.barnesandnoble.com.
To receive and download for free “The Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook,” by John and Denise Phillips that offers free recipes, go to http://johninthewild.com/free-books.