by Keith Sarasin (c) 2001
Black crappie, also called slabs, are usually small fish that can be taken in large numbers. The size of these fish goes from about three inches up to around ten, with a few that are twelve inches or over.
The fish shown here was eleven and a quarter inches long and weighed in at one point six pounds. It was caught using a fly- rod with a black and red streamer fly.
What to look for.
Look for shallow, protected areas along the shore with gravel bottoms and some small baitfish, like minnows. Also try shaded spots around docks or along the shore of rivers. If the current is not very strong you should be able to find them close to docks or shoreline.
Finding sunken logs or docks can be a productive spot, as well as large rocks that can provide shelter as well as a place to hide.
I like the method of baiting with a small minnow and a light split-shot. Place the split-shot on the bottom of the line and the hook about one foot above. Lower the line into the water and stop at one-foot intervals, the first one being about two feet under the surface of the water. Wait a few moments to see if the crappie are at this depth; if not drop down another foot and try again. Quite often they will suspend off bottom at different levels and you must find the depth where they are holding. After you get the first crappie, place a small piece of rubber tubing on the line at this depth and place a float on the line. Now you can return to the same place each time you drop the line back in the water. A piece of the rubber skirt material from a spinner will work for this; it also works well for a float stop. If the bites are slow, try lowering the bait a little until you come on to the main school of crappie.
Another way to fish for these is to use a small jig with a grub on it and try jigging this at the depth you have found the fish holding. Sometimes a bobber or float can be used with this presentation using any movement of the water to cause the grub to wiggle. Sometimes the ripple on the surface is enough action to do the job.
Using a fly above the jig will help to attract crappie to the minnow or grub also, but dont be surprised if they take the fly one day and not the next.
Cleaning these tasty little guys is a small job with large rewards.
The stomach cavity is very small and a slight incision is made from the anal fin to the head. Next, cut around the head just below the gills. Put the fish on its side and place the knife behind the gill and cut down until you hit the back bone. Now turn the blade toward the tail and slice along the body 'til you reach the tail. Flip the fillet over and continue to slice the skin off. Repeat on the other side. Next, turn the fillet so the ribs are facing up and with the tip of your knife cut the rib cage out. Wash the fillets just before cooking.
If you want to keep the skin on then you must scale the fish before you clean or fillet. The easiest way to do this with smaller fish is to tack a bottle cap (beer bottle works best) to a short stick. Now you only have to rub back and forth on the sides and back to remove the scales without the worry of cutting through the skin.
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