Category Archives: Crappie

The Last Fish of the Year.

New Years Day, and the wind is gusting upwards of 20mph, which does not bode well for the fly caster. None the less, knowing my chances of getting out on the water tomorrow, after I’ve gone twelve rounds with the impending festivities that lie ahead, I went to the water anyway. I could use the practice while I can still feel my legs.

 

The wind did make my casting life a little more difficult, and it was the icy cold kind of wind that slips up your sleeve, but when the gusts would let up, and I could find a second to feel the sun, it was another unseasonably warm day, especially for the last day of the year. The water was capped and frothing from being whipped up by the westerlies, but most of the fish were indifferent. The Bass stayed out of sight, and eventually out of mind, but my Zap Bug was in the water only briefly before the little bluegills started eating it at regular intervals. This is not abnormal,not surprising. The surprises of the day were that the Calico were nowhere to be found. They are usually abundant here, and it was them I was fishing for. Also of surprise was that I was also catching a good number of Golden Shiners, basically a big minnow, but to describe it like that does it a disservice. It glitters in a silvery gold, it’s red dorsal fin in stark contrast, and it fights a lot harder than calico, bluegill, and sometimes, even bass. I only learned this now, having caught a grand total of one of these fish in all my time fishing here, and today, I find five. They are a heavily schooling fish, and I can only assume the school was in shallows and therefore in reach of my cast; an unusual phenomenon here, but a welcome one.

 

 

I hadn’t set out to have a day of reflection; a mental log book of a fisherman’s year, but thats the way it goes sometimes. I thought of all the memories made on the water this year, all those willing fish. The Bluefish blitzes off of Fenwick Island over summer, where we reeled them in one after the other. The big flounder I caught from the beach at the state park. The countless bass, pickerel, bluegill, and calico from my local grounds. The occasional trout from Newtons Pond. No Striped Bass, so far. They are late. But this is another reason for optimism for the coming year, as if a fisherman approaching spring needs such a thing. My bet is that the striper will arrive early on in the new year, and if I’m right, it could be a January to remember. I plan on spending some parts of that month knee -deep in trout streams, too. So much ahead.

 

 

As the afternoon drew to a close, all too early as we often complain at this time of year, a final tug on the line produced a tiny calico, among the smallest I’ve seen. I admired him briefly, let him know he would never be a big fish if he let clumsy fisherman like me catch him so easily, and sent him back to the deep. And that is how the reliable calico, savior of winter, become the last fish of this fisherman’s year.

 

My Best wishes for a Happy New Year!!

-Neil @ Fly & Gin

 

 

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Filed under Bluefish, Bluegill, Calico Bass, Crappie, Fishing, Fishy Water, Flounder, Fly, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Pickerel, Seasons, Striped Bass, Sussex County Ponds, Winter

Give ’em Green.

Walking through the woods on a thick layer of crunching brown leaves last week, in the dying light of a rather unproductive afternoon of fishing, I came across two men at the make-shift boat ramp, red faced and soaked to the waist, attempting to remove their small Jon boat from the lake. It was particularly cold, but I was dry and well layered, and had been fishing from the shore in the lee of a small stand of woods that had kept me comfortable. These two exhausted looking gentleman had been skating across the lakes surface, in direct contact with the elements, and now were standing in lake water looking ever more as if they were about to croak. I walked down to the boat ramp and grabbed a free line and helped muscle the boat toward the waiting trailer. Without a word, one of the men, his beard collecting ice crystals, waded out of the water and around me, and into the truck. He lurched the trailer from the drink, and the boat transitioned from vessel to cargo.

The man climbed out from the truck and smiled at me, offering his hand, which was icy to the touch. Catching his breath, he thanked me for helping, and then looked at me with wide eyes, and said. “Chartreuse. It’s Chartreuse this  year. Bass, Crappie, whatever. Try Chartreuse”.

Of course, I knew what he meant. He had noticed my fly rod and the brown and olive colored woolly in the hook keeper. He was a spinning reel fisherman, but this was his home water, and he knew what the fish were biting at any given time, fly or Rapala, it didn’t matter. The way he relayed that information, though, made me think perhaps he didn’t give it away very often or very easily.

The next day, I once again found myself with time to fish. I considered my options, and decided that I’d go back to that same lake, and try some form of chartreuse fly on the frozen man’s advice. I looked in my fly boxes, and realized I didn’t even have anything in that color, other than a couple of poppers that weren’t the best choice for winter fishing when the fish are low and slow. With the truck warming up in the driveway, I sat down at my vice and very quickly tied up some flies; the kind I though might be of use. A small woolly worm, and a couple of my own creations I like to call zap bugs. Simple affairs; some pearl and chartreuse chenille wrapped around a size 8 hook, and tail tipped with a small, but sturdy piece of hackle. I find that, if tied well, this fly can stay on the surface and be fished dry, or can be retrieved and fished as a small streamer. In fact, I’ve often found that the transition from floating to the diving and swimming action it produces when retrieved is when most of the strikes take place.

I had ignored chartreuse, as the search of my fly boxes proved. I’d been relying on more natural colors of browns and olives, and the occasional white in my tying and fishing. Complacency.

I would soon learn that this was an oversight, as I went on to catch enough fish to lose count of, and four species; Bluegill, Calico Bass, Largemouth Bass and a Golden Shiner, a big minnow I’d never taken on a fly rod before.

Not big fish, but fish none the less, and that’s the point in the end. For a dark, cold day in late december, this was a treat.

The moral of this tale? Don’t forget to change something when what you’re doing isn’t working; advice I knew, yet foolishly neglected. If your local freshwater isn’t giving up fish, chartreuse and white with a sparkle have been the ticket for me. You can tie up flies in any number of ways with any number of materials and have a good day catching fish.

Oh, and always help a man with his boat……

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Filed under Bluegill, Bug, Calico Bass, Crappie, DIY, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Places, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Winter, Woolly Bugger

Dawn Patrol.

Theres no escaping it; winter is creeping in, but is doing so under the cover of darkness when most are asleep, and therefore blissfully unaware. With a scattered few exceptions, the days continue to reach unseasonably warm temperatures. But here on the water, just before 6 a.m, steam rises from the mirrored surface and the fly line freezes fast against the guides. I’m alone here, as I expected. Even in summer, this water isn’t the crowded type. But now, in December, the quiet of the morning is almost unnerving; the still of the clear water reflecting the rising sun, the trees, but none of the disturbances that give away feeding fish.

At this time of year, the angler that prefers to sleep late can still be rewarded. The fish tend to wait until the afternoon, when the water temperature is increased by a degree or so, to feed. The rules of summer, with early morning angling taking precedence,  are not in effect, although it still seems that dusk provides action.

I ruin the glassy water with an opening cast, cursing my lost gloves and frozen fingers, and begin to search the deeper channels for bass or a holdover trout. Instead, after an hour without any signs of life, I feel a soft pull on the line. I set the hook, and bring in a savior of winter; the Calico Bass.

“Savior of Winter” is a pleasant name for a fish that has many ugly names that it does not deserve. I call it a savior for the simple reason that; even after a pond, lake or river has iced over, this fish will still be available and active for fisherman to catch, all the way through the winter months. They do not strike hard, nor do they put up a gallant fight, but they are handsome with their specked tail and silvery-green flanks. Locally, and in the majority of the states, this fish lives under the ugly name of Black Crappie, pronounced “croppie”. Elsewhere, they are known as strawberry bass, papermouth, speck, or speckled bass, but the good people of New England got it right when they called this fish calico bass, a poetic, respectful name for a fish so worthy, and so generous as to keep me fishing in winter.

The sun is climbing higher now, and the day is becoming warmer, and I’m beginning to shed layers of clothing with every passing hour. It’s turning into a beautiful fall or winter day, it doesn’t matter which; clear skies and warmer than one would expect after spending the dawn hours trying to fish with your hands in your pockets. In the late morning sun, the scenery and the calico bass have made for some beautiful time on the water.

 

Neil D. Parry

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Filed under Calico Bass, Crappie, Fall, Fishing, Fishy Water, Freshwater, Scenery, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds

Good Problems.

The biggest dilemma that confronts me on a daily basis is the decision on where to fish, and for what.

In a world of economic woes, high unemployment and a touch of civil unrest, this dilemma should be filed under “A Good Problem to Have”.

My home state is frequently snubbed, or at least not mentioned, as a quality fishing ground, but quite erroneously so. It’s true that I don’t have any Blue Ribbon trout streams within a days drive, and the states to the north tend to get the bulk of the saltwater game fish that pass off-shore during migration, but I tend to be the type to prefer the case of good liquor over the bottle of great liquor.

I live on a tidal creek that floods or falls when the tides of the Atlantic Ocean traverse the inland bays.  Here, I can fish for a wide variety of saltwater species from flounder and bluefish to perch and croaker, to the migratory striped bass that if, had you’d read certain fishing books, you’d think never swim south of New Jersey.

By boat, you can drift the Indian River Inlet, or Massey’s Ditch, or explore the hundreds of sandbars, coves, creeks and canals that make up the Rehoboth and Indian River bays.

By land, I can drive my 4×4 onto the soft sand of picturesque coastal beaches, and, with a surf rod, or a fly rod, cast for all mid-Atlantic inshore species. The majority of the coastline here is without a significant sandbar as with other east coast beaches. This denies you the simplicity of tossing some meat onto a sandbar and waiting for fish to bite, and encourages the

dedicated fisherman to learn to read the water, fishing rips and eddies, and learning to identify good water, and a good place to toss a fly.

Close to home, when I want to approach freshwater species, I have panfish, bass, pickeral, perch , carp and trout within twenty minutes drive, and in a range of settings, each with it’s own mood and character. A little further away, I can find wooded trout streams, some designated for fly fisherman only, where rainbow and brown trout appear in deep pools.

A wide variety of species, a variety of water and endless, year-round opportunities to catch fish. Yet, my state and it’s significant number of fisherman remain largely ignored.

If it sounds as if I have a chip on my shoulder, you may have a point. But it’s not without reason. Orvis has a fly fishing application that reports from Belize and Brazil, but not Delaware. The aforementioned book, and several like it,  ignore this state as they write their way down the striper coast. And yes, naturally, I’d complain just as loud if my local grounds were suddenly fished out by shoulder-to-shoulder fisherman in designer shirts an $400 sunglasses. So, perhaps I should take some solace in the fact that the fertile waters of home remain below the radar. Instead, I’ll continue to wake early, go out to the garage, stare at the saltwater and freshwater rods and flies, and wonder….

“Where will I fish today”?

A good problem to have.

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Filed under Bluefish, Bluegill, Books, Carp, Crappie, Croaker, Fishing, Fishy Water, Flounder, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Pickerel, Places, Striped Bass, White Perch

Crappie Day on a crappy rod

They are out early this year.

One of many caught on a Plfueger fiberglass rod, reel and line that cost all of $35. I had to see if you could even cast it. I was really surprised at how well it performed for such a cheapo rig.

By no means do I endorse it; it’s a broom handle compared to my regular-yest-still-affordable arsenal, but it’s better than you think. Of course, I like fiberglass, so I’m bias.

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Filed under Crappie, Fiberglass Rods, Fishing, Rods