July 6, 2020 12:06:58 PM
"Do not tell fish stories where the people know you. Particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish."
-- Mark Twain, pen name for Samuel L. Clemens, author of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"
Either fish or cut bait, means committing to doing something productive or step aside and stop wasting time. Summer is here, it's hot and muggy and we're still in the midst of a pandemic, but there's one productive activity that gets you outdoors and possibly nets food and fun for you and the family.
The Golden Triangle is blessed with lakes and ponds, gravel pits, creeks and rivers all offering opportunities to fish by a multitude of methods. The Tenn-Tom Waterway, especially at the Columbus "pool," though intended for commercial use, offers recreational boating and prime fishing. Fishing is best away from water traffic, into backwaters and tributaries where there are plenty of old stumps, grasses, breaks of shallow and deep along the old river runs -- areas especially conducive for crappie fishing.
I'm no fisherman, though I did try crappie fishing for a bit. I'm simply not good at it. It takes learning techniques by book or, better yet, a crappie fisherman, and lots of practice. Fortunately, there's a fisherman in the house providing all the crappie we and a few other families can eat. So, I cut bait and became productive by cooking crappie in a number of ways.
Here's a few fishing tips learned from "Fishing for Dummies" and the crappie fisherman. Water temperature is important for catching fish. Crappie thrive in water temperatures between 58 and 75. Summer crappie fishing is usually pretty good, though spring spawn is better. The spawn is only better because crappie spawn habitat is pretty predictable. They move into the shallows.
Crappie, unlike catfish, don't like moving water. Flood seasons are not optimal for crappie fishing, whereas summer fishing is more likeable. Areas with deadfall limbs, logs, rocks and anything obstructing waterflow attract crappie. Crappie fishing is slow and methodical.
You would think a beautiful sunny day with blue skies and white puffy clouds, mild temperatures and a breeze would be good fishing weather, but while it's a great day for baseball, it's often a poor fishing day. Fish seek shade from the sun where the water is a bit cooler. Shade offers some protection from overhead predators like hawks, eagles and osprey. Areas with grasses, bushes and tree overhangs attract insects which draw predator fish as well.
Learn to watch birds feeding along the waterways. Birds are indicators of fish. Area blue herons are excellent fishermen. As are alligators, and don't think there aren't any.
Fishing can be as simple as a bucket to sit on, a cane pole and live bait -- worms, minnows, or crickets. It can also be as sophisticated as electronics with gauges for water temperature, structure sighting, even fish swimming. Just remember, because you can see them doesn't mean you can catch them. That's the challenge.
"Fishing for Dummies" suggested a DIY temperature gauge: Buy an inexpensive but accurate outdoor thermometer and tie it to the end of a fishing line. Estimate about 10 feet of line and attach a bobber at the 10-foot point. Drop the thermometer in the water, let the thermometer sink, then take the reading. Adjust the depth with the bobber as necessary.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
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