Fishing during the month of May here in the Ontario Kawartha’s Northumberland region is truly an exciting time of year for any angler. The trees are finally starting to show their leaves, birds are returning from their southern seasonal residence and the lakes and rivers seem to be buzzing with fish activity.
This particular trip was no different. Aside from the nasty approaching cold front we were seemingly caught directly in the middle of. Let’s take a trip back to the previous weekend… A weekend that yielded beautiful warm weather, moderate winds and great company from a couple of very old friends.
We had planned to target Pike during this trip but upon launching the boat I quickly discovered that I had forgotten to load my two carry on tackle bags. The bags that literally contained ALL of my Pike fishing arsenal. We made due with what we happened to have tied on and landed half a dozen nice Pike before deciding to venture to the other end of the lake to check “the spot” in hopes that the Crappie had moved in.
Now.. Most of you have caught crappies.. And in most cases they are in numbers in shallow back bays this time of year. A pile of cookie cutter fish in the 10-12″ range with the occasional 13+ incher. Always a great time! This particular lake is different. The fish behave the same for the most part. Suspend in the basin during the ice season, stage prior to spawn and move shallow when the time is right. But they are not in the big schools that we are spoiled by in most other lakes in the region. They are in pairs here. Pairs or at best 2 males and 1 female. And they are massive!! Every single one of them have the biggest set of shoulders I have ever seen. Average fish is 15″ in length and two inches wide at the shoulders. And they get bigger with fish in the 16 and even 17″ range! That’s right! I said it! 17 inches of leviathan crappie! I can remember the first time I ever saw one.. It was paired up with an 18″ largemouth bass cruising in “the spot”… I did a double take! I naturally assumed initially that it was also a bass given its size and proximity to the largemouth it had befriended. “That’s a crappie!!” I said loudly. My fishing partner at the time questioned my comment until we saw them again. Just cruising around the area. Literally the biggest Crappie I had ever laid eyes on.
On this day.. They were “in”. And by that I mean they were present in “the spot” in numbers. We eased in fan casting the area with very light and small plastics when it happened! I set the hook into what felt like bottom until the head shakes started and up came her head and body to the surface! A THICK 15+ inch female found the bottom of our net to which both of my old friends jaws dropped and almost in unison they said “that is the biggest crappie I have ever seen!” The Talons were deployed and we continued to fan cast the area landing PB after PB all the while loading the live-well in an attempt to not spook the targets. A day none of us will soon forget. After posing for a few photos we promptly released each and every one in the exact place we removed them from in an effort to preserve this anomaly. I’m not averse to keeping a few fish for a meal but believe me when I tell you. These were not eaters. These were breeders for a very small and fragile population.
Needless to say we planned to come back the following weekend to further enjoy these monsters before they evacuated the area. And wouldn’t you know it. The night before our trip back to slab town played host to the first BIG cold front of the season. I’m talking about a 15 to 20 degree swing in air temp which yielded wind, rain, and a decrease in water temp of approx. 10 degrees.. Shallow fish and cold front do not mix well! So.. We decided to give it a shot. A day on the water is better than a day of work right?!
Off we went.. Questioning our decision from the get go as the wind and rain seemed to worsen as we reached our destination. Not to mention the temperature also seemed to be dropping even more so. We made our way to “the spot” only to find that the fish had seemingly left the area. Insert sad face. Until! I spotted one hugging bottom at the base of an emergent Lilly pad. After quite literally swimming my bait in front of her face for what seemed like an eternity she finally tentatively accepted the offering and she was in the net. This led us to believe that our methods from the previous weekend (fan casting and swimming plastics) would not suffice this time around. The fish were relating to available cover and tight to the bottom. This brought me to quickly tie up a rig that I typically use for Smallmouth bass fishing during the tournament season. A drop shot rig. I knew this would allow me to place the bait with precision in and around the newly emergent lily pads in the area that seemed to be holding the fish. Not only was I able to place the offering exactly where it needed to be, but I could also impart action to entice the strike while pounding the bait directly on the spot instead of making the fish chase. They wouldn’t come to me, so I went to them! And boy did it pay off!! This was exactly what the Dr ordered! Fish after fish hit the deck nearly matching the performance we had put on the weekend prior! The ability to stay back off the fish and place the offering on their nose and leaving it there was just what they needed.. Just a little extra time to have a look and cruise on up for the take.
Don’t stay home on the nasty days! Get out there! Enjoy this beautiful region! And change your approach to match the mood of your targeted species! A drop shot is a fantastic choice for pressured or neutral fish everywhere. Don’t be afraid to use it on all species!
All of the fish images used in this article were caught and taken in the beautiful Kawartha’s Northumberland region of Ontario.