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  • Sticks and Rocks and Crappie Docks by SlabsRus

    For the past 11 years we have lived in Gladwin County, on, or within just a couple miles of some outstanding crappie fishing waters. Recently that all changed when we moved north about 45 miles. Although the move wasn't all bad because it landed my family and I just a couple blocks from Houghton Lake, the largest inland lake in Michigan. Houghton Lake also happens to be a lake I grew up fishing and have hit some good numbers of slab crappies in the past few weeks. The down side of the move was that I hadn't been able to fish any of the Gladwin area lakes since we moved, whereas I would have been on them a couple times a week since the ice melted in April.

    Well as things would have it, early this afternoon I had to take my son back down to the Gladwin County area for a few hours, giving me a chance for a half day of fishing Wixom Lake while waiting for him.
    On the majority of my fishing trips, I also operate a video camera or two while controlling the kayak and fishing, which is quite enjoyable, but it takes up a lot of fishing time. A few years ago I started giving myself a "Just Fish" day every third or fourth time on the water. Those days are for me and the fish, no video camera, and I really try not to take too many photos, but that's tough. Well anyhow, today wasn't necessarily one of those days, but on the way to the lake, I decided to go ahead and make it one since I would only have 4 hours, and I really just wanted to catch some fish.

    I arrived at the landing at 1:30 in the afternoon, and after a bit of conversation with a couple anglers at the access, I was on the water. I had a specific route planned for the day of fishing, depending on how the bite was going, and I was only a ten minute paddle from the area where I would start.

    With the weather having been confused as to whether it is Spring or still Winter, the water temperatures have been jumping up and down from one week to the next. I figured the crappies and bluegills could be in just about every stage of the spawn, depending on which area of the lake I woud fish, so I made a plan to cover as many spots as possible, in search of active fish, in the short four hours that I had available.
    The first spot on my fishing route was a small secondary bay off the main north bay. That secondary bay is usually the first spot for nice crappies to show up in the Spring. If the water temperatures and quality were right, I was sure there would be plenty of fish to catch, but that wasn't the case.

    As I approached the entrance to the little bay, I immediately went to a fallen tree which I have caught hundreds of crappies from this time of year over the past 11 years. The first thing I noticed was a dozen turtles sitting on the limbs of the tree that were not submerged. To me, that's not a good sign, and as I got closer to that tree, I could see green algae growing and hanging from all of the submerged trunks and branches. I knew right away that the little bay would be a waste of time to fish because my past experience there told me when the algae and turtles show up, the crappies are gone. Of course I made a dozen or two casts anyhow, but my suspicions were proven correct, so it was time to move to the second location on my fishing route.

    As I left the small secondary bay, and entered the larger and deeper main bay, I cast my 1/64 ounce orange jig and Berkley Gulp minnow as far as I could without a bobber, and then just let out line as the mild breeze pushed me slowly along. When I figured my jig was about 60 or 70 feet from the kayak, I closed the bail on my ultralight reel and let the wind push me, dragging the micro jig about 2 feet under the surface over an eight foot deep, weedless bottom. I hadn't drifted that jig more than 50 feet when the classic crappie thump triggered an instinct in my hand to set the hook. My four and a half foot ultralight rod bowed nicely as my first speck of the day pulled to the side like a sub-surface sail. A very nice ten inch crappie held tight to that little jig until I landed, and released it. I followed that up with six more from the same bay, using the same method. That was all I needed to see there, so I moved on.





    The next stop on my route was less than one hundred feet away, and it consisted of a submerged point that extends into open water from the end of a drop off at a bend in the shore line. I approached the area with as much stealth as possible, and when I was about twenty feet from where I thought the submerged point was, I cast my jig, suspeded 3 feet under a clear bobber, toward the point. The water over the point is six to eight feet deep, and I had a suspicion there would be crappies suspended over or near that submerged point. When my bobber hit the surface on the first cast,I set down that rod and reel and grabbed my other one. I cast the same jig and Gulp minnow combination, but without the bobber. When that jig hit the surface, I counted to three, and then began slowly reeling. And when I say slowly, I mean moving just enough to keep it from getting any deeper in the water column. I had only reeled that jig about six turns on the reel when I noticed a little ring of water moving outward from the bobber on my other rig, followed by the bobber slowly sinking below the surface. I immediately set down the rig that I was reeling, and pulled back swiftly but softly on my bobber rigged rod.

    Once again my little ultralight arched under the pressure of a nice black crappie. As the speck approached my kayak, I could see the little jig stuck perfectly in the upper jaw of the fish. That crappie was practically a clone to the other half dozen I had already caught in the area, and was a sign of a great day to come, for as I released the fish, and picked up the rod that I had been reeling, my line was off to the side and on the move. My other jig had been inhaled by another nice crappie when I set it down to pick up my bobber rig. I caught a couple more on that spot, using both methods of presentation, before I moved on to some nearby submerged wood.

    As I approached the next shoreline on my route, I could see "the tree", and several other floating or partially submerged logs. I knew from years past that there would also be a lot of other submerged branches and brush in the area which could very well be harboring crappies. My plan of attack was pretty simple as I made my first cast, hoping to place my bobber a few feet from where I thought the end of a main branch farthest from shore and in six to ten feet of water. If a few of those presentations did not produce crappie, then I would start working my casts closer to, and into the submerged branches and main trunk of the massive maple, until I was sitting directly over the center of the tree, dipping my jig in the branches below me.

    Now I know how fish tales can get, and I've possibly told a few myself, but my first three casts really did put three 11 inch crappies in my kayak. Three branch ends, three good specks, on a jig 24 inches under my bobber. It almost caught me off guard when that first cast landed and the small ripples were no more than a foot from my bobber, when the bobber slowly disappeared under the surface. As I eased my rod tip up, and felt that steady sideways drag like a sail under water, I new immediately that it was another crappie. I was grinning ear to ear inside as the following to branch ends produced the same result. After a few more casts and just one additional crappie, I decided to switch to my jig rig without the bobber.





    I repositioned my kayak so that I could cast from the side, allowing me to run my micro jig a few feet from the branch ends, while trying to keep it in that 24 inch depth range. That repositoining and change in presentation allowed me to land another half dozen good specks before I pulled right up over the submerged tree, and dipped four more good ones from the tree and surrounding sticks that I could reach. I knew there were still a bunch down there, and probably a couple real slabs, but I had another couple areas I wanted to try, so I headed across the lake toward one of my favorite areas of rip rap.

    For years I have been able to count on this long rock pile to have a lot of crappies, in all stages of the spawn, and throughout the summer if it isn't to warm. It definitely hadn't been to warm yet as it was only mid-May, and yet it had been warm enough for fish to be done spawning in the north bays, so I was quite sure there would be crappies relating to those rocks.

    In order to cover as much of the structure as possible, I pulled up to one end of the rip rap, and positioned myself about four feet from the rocks. I picked up my rod and reel with the jig and no bobber and gave the little bait a good whip of my wrist, casting it as far as I could, parallel to the shoreline, and watched land about three feet off shore. I allowed the little jig to sink for what I thought was about a foot, and slowly retrieved it on a straight line back to the kayak. I repeated that cast three times without a bite, and then began to allow the lure to sink until I thought it was within a foot of the bottom in the five feet of water.

    My jig and soft plastic minnow had a rough life over the following 30 minutes as one nice crappie after another slammed it hard. Ten to twelve inchers must have been shoulder to shoulder down there, and from the five foot pine on the corner 40 feet from where I was sitting, to just three feet from my kayak, my bait was getting inhaled on just about every cast.




    ​And it didn't matter if it was five feet away from the rip rap, or in the rocks themselves in just 12 inches of water, as long as the jig was within five feet from the structure, there were plenty of hungry specks ready to eat it. I sat there reeling in crappies, thankful for every one, and wondered why I have never seen anyone fishing such a great area. Yet as good as those rocks were, and knowing that I could have sat there a couple hours and caught fish, I still had some docks I wanted to probe my jig around before heading back to the landing.

    Fishing docks is one of my favorite methods for crappies just because there are so many bait presentations that can be used, and so many variables in determining which docks will hold specks, and, where exactly on those docks will the crappies be. For example, on this day, the only docks that were holding crappies were those that had at least a dock and a boat hoist, and the end of the farthest piece of structure had to be in five feet of water or more. The docks areas that had more than one dock and one or more boat hoist, that were each no more than three feet apart, with a boat and or a pontoon on the hoists. Single docks or boat hoists held absolutely no fish, but the docks that were holding fish also had specific spots on each of them that the crappies were relating to.

    After about a half mile paddle I had my first target dock in sight. It was a dock that extended into seven feet of water, with a boat hoist on one side and a pontoon hoist on the other side, and it might as well have had a flashing neon sign that said "Crappie Here", for nine of my first dozen casts resulted in crappies from 10 - 12 inches. I caught crappies on the deep end, the sides, the shallow ends, and in between the docks and hoists. I hooked into fish with the jig and bobber rig, and the bobberless rig. The only thing that mattered was that the bait had to be presented from the south side of each piece of docking, and had to be within a foot of the structure itself.



    Once I had that figured out, I worked along a half mile section of shoreline, concentrating my casts only to those areas of multiple dock systems. I found ways at each one to slip under hoists, or along sea walls, to get to the south side of each structure. A half dozen or so of these docks gave up several good crappies at each one, and like every other spot on my route I released everything I had landed. The last dock I wanted to fish produced two solid crappies, and was a great end to a day of fishing sticks and rocks and crappie docks.
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. Billbob's Avatar
      Billbob -
      great read
    1. brucec's Avatar
      brucec -
      Great report on a great afternoon of catching. Congratulations.
    1. slabsrus's Avatar
      slabsrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Billbob View Post
      great read
      Thank you.
    1. slabsrus's Avatar
      slabsrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by brucec View Post
      Great report on a great afternoon of catching. Congratulations.
      Thank you. It sure was a great time on the water. Of course, when is it not a good time on the water?
    1. scrat's Avatar
      scrat -
      Wow! Good crappie fishing article. Thanks for sharing your crappie fishing day and pictures.
    1. Dave and Lynn's Avatar
      Dave and Lynn -
      Nice.
    1. slabsrus's Avatar
      slabsrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by scrat View Post
      Wow! Good crappie fishing article. Thanks for sharing your crappie fishing day and pictures.
      Thank you. I'm always happy to share my fishing adventures. Hopefully, from time to time, someone might pick up something useful.
    1. slabsrus's Avatar
      slabsrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dave and Lynn View Post
      Nice.
      Thanks. They sure are a beautiful fish. And to me, nothing fights like those thick bull gills with a micro jig in their lip, peeling a little drag from the ultralight rigs.
    1. fiveeyes's Avatar
      fiveeyes -
      Well done Frank!!
    1. Anchor Man's Avatar
      Anchor Man -
      Thanks for the report and pic's.
    1. "G"'s Avatar
      "G" -
      Great report
    1. slabsrus's Avatar
      slabsrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by fiveeyes View Post
      Well done Frank!!
      Thanks. Just another great day on the water in Northern Michigan.
    1. slabsrus's Avatar
      slabsrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anchor Man View Post
      Thanks for the report and pic's.
      It's my pleasure. It just wouldn't be right for a guy that has as much fun fishing as I do to not share it with the world. Some men were born to do great things in life. Me, on the other hand,I was born to fish.
    1. slabsrus's Avatar
      slabsrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by "G" View Post
      Great report
      Thank you. I sure do enjoy and appreciate all the opportunities I have to get on the water.
    1. RetiredRR's Avatar
      RetiredRR -
      Frank, your a kayak fisherman's fisherman for sure.
    1. slabsrus's Avatar
      slabsrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by RetiredRR View Post
      Frank, your a kayak fisherman's fisherman for sure.
    1. Slabjerkin''s Avatar
      Slabjerkin' -
      Really enjoyed the article and wished I was there with you. Nothing like a day on the lake and the fish are co-operating. See what you will be missing after moving? LOL
    1. flintcreek's Avatar
      flintcreek -
      Great article...thanks for the post.
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