There are some things that local people should know about crappie before about 250 anglers spread across Lakes Monroe and Jesup for the first leg of the 2007 Florida Crappie Masters State Championship Jan. 20.
The pronunciation of crappie is the first must know fact. Crappie rhymes with choppy. As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission puts it, crappie does not rhyme with snappy.
The Commission lists Lakes Monroe and Jesup among the top 10 in Florida for crappie fishing, but fishing for crappie is more delicate than fishing for bass. Setting the hook, as one would to catch a bass, doesn’t work well for crappie. Crappie have the nickname “papermouth” for a reason.
Ed Johnson, former president of Crappie Masters based in Missouri, said crappies have a very thin mouth.
“You can’t jerk them,” he said. “I don’t know if a bass fisherman could land one. Crappie also move back and forth from different depths. They do school, but you could hit some of them on the head and they won’t bite.”
The fish are popular as a tasty source of food, but most don’t reach heavy weight. Johnson said some tournaments have been won by hundredths of an ounce.
“It can actually get down to how wet the fish were when you weigh them,” he said. Many crappie experts will use multiple poles.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of a quieter, lighter touch. It’s the touch in crappie fishing.”
If someone catches a three-pound crappie, he or she won’t lift it out of the water. A net will have to retrieve the fish, he said. Five-pounders are very rare, but three and four pounders can be found. A recent tournament winner broke the world record by catching 20 crappie weighing 37.88 pounds. “That’s a huge average,” Johnson said.
Until July 1, Lake Monroe crappie had to be at least 12 inches long to keep, but the fish has done so well thanks to habitat restoration efforts that the foot-long rule no longer applies. There is no limit right now.
According to the Wildlife Commission, Missouri minnows and grass shrimp work well for catching crappie in Lake Monroe. Lake Jesup is slightly larger than Lake Monroe, but it is also a prime crappie fishing area. Reportedly, they run a little smaller in Jesup, but their numbers are high. Minnows work in Jesup with those who drift-fish in the middle of the lake and near bird island.
Lots of crappie also hang out in the Soldier’s Creek area and the north end of the lake, where it connects with the St. Johns River.