Black Lake -Crappie and Pike Fishing
It has been a long cold winter and spring has finally sprung in the North Country. It is a special time of year for me. My planning and preparation for the 2015 season is all in place and now it is time to get outside and enjoy what the North Country has to offer. The anticipation for what occurred this past weekend can only be compared to children waiting for Christmas morning. Opening season for turkey hunting followed by the opening of Pike and Walleye season, results in a sleepless night. I have given up hunting due to my passion of fishing so for me this weekend would consist of chasing Crappie and Northern Pike on Black Lake.
With the ice being out for only a few weeks and the opening day upon us you might consider tough fishing conditions due to the cold water. The reason I chose Black Lake is knowing how quickly a few warm days can heat that lake up and when this happens so does the bite. My normal course of action this time of year is to try to get on the lake within 7-10 days after the ice is fully out. This time seems to work well for the patterns that I fish and the water temperature will usually be good if we can get a few sunny days with a warm wind.
Dad and I hit the lake Wednesday before the season opener of Pike season to see if we could catch some big Black lake Crappie. I also wanted to locate some old weed growth in an attempt to narrow down my pike locations for opening day. Main lake temperatures were in the low to mid 50’s when we took off in the morning. The lakes water level for this time of year was low as compared to the last few seasons. We ran north on the lake and began checking the back pockets of bays and small creek inlets to find not much of a water temperature change. Our baits of choice were small red and white tubes on a bobber rig, small underspins and crankbaits . The underspins and crankbaits we use primarily to locate schools of crappie, now normally it has to be warmer for them to react to these baits but the big ones still bite it and that’s what we are after. After checking several of our old hotspots we were disappointed to see little weed cover left from the following season, possibly because of the heavy ice during our harsh winter months. Our day came and went with only about 10 crappie, a few giant perch which ate the crankbaits and a few bluegill. A sure sign for me after catching the perch and bluegill in shallow is that the Crappie were not ready to bite at least in the locations that I like to fish. The sun stayed bright with a light breeze all day but the water temperature never seemed to rise.
Dad and I returned back to the lake Friday after watching Thursdays weather stay warm and the prediction for Friday being just as nice. It’s a great time of year for me with tournament season just around the corner, it’s nice for Dad and I to spend time on the water together before my travels begin. Fridays main lake temperature showed mid to high 50’s and I knew we were getting close to the bite really turning on. We ran back north and checked the same locations. This time it was a whole different game. As we pushed back in the pockets I started to see water temperatures in the 60’s so I knew things were about to turn. We fished through some of our spots still with no luck and no sign of fish. Strange for the water temperatures I new we were not quite figuring something out. I pushed tight to the back just to have a look in the brush, there was not any water which you could cast into because it was so low, but I wanted to see what was going on in there. As I bumped the boat into the brush I see a school of about 30 crappies scatter from underneath the brush laydowns. They were in there, the problem was the water was so low it was almost impossible to get a lure into them. We pulled back out and hit a similar location targeting shallow brush growing tight to the bank. We soon found that our casts had to be tight to the brush line, within a foot or less. Once there the tube rig would have to sit still, moments later a crappie would come out from that brush and eat. Any cast that was further than a foot from the shoreline seemed to be wasted. We continued this pattern throughout the rest of the day catching about 20 crappie in the 10-11 inch range. It appeared most of the fish we caught were males that had moved in and were getting ready for the females. We decided to search off shore for the last few hours to see if we could locate the school of big females which must be getting ready to come in. After some idling around with the structure scan I located a tree offshore in the middle of a bay which was in about 6 to 7 feet of water. First cast in I hooked a giant crappie. We anchored down for the next few hours and had found the big school of females. Most of those fish were in the 12-15 inch class and were heavy fish! We released a lot of fish and kept a few for a great springtime meal.
I was excited for opening day of pike season as I was taking out my two good friends Don Miessner and Dave Swanson to target some crappie and pike. Don and Dave have never really targeted crappie on Black Lake so I was excited to get them into some of the action on the big school of fish I had located. During my prior scouting I had also located some old weed growth and post spawn location that I thought would produce plenty of pike. We took off in the morning under sunny skies and a light wind and I headed to the tree Dad and I had left the day before in an attempt to get some crappie. That stop proved plentiful for us as that tree produced fish after fish. The water temperature had warmed and they were really feeding for the first few hours we got there. The bite slowed and the sun continued to warm the bays and I decided it was time to see if my pike locations would work. It was not long before we landed our first pike fishing old weed lines. Our day of action proved to be non-stop with some locations producing double catches of pike. I have never really caught giant pike on Black Lake but we did catch some quality fish in the 6 pound class. As the day continued and the bite stayed strong it gave me the opportunity to experiment with baits in an attempt to see if I could catch a bigger fish or more than Don or Dave. Its impossible to be on the water and not compete against your buddies! The bite was awesome and it seemed whatever you threw at them they would hit. We caught fish on buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, frogs, jigs, chatterbaits and crankbaits. After switching through baits and testing the waters my bait of choice for the day would be the Berkley Grass Hog which is a slim swimbait in white. I fished this on a wide gap hook with no weight. That setup for me proved to get more and bigger bites throughout the day. Overall it was a great day with good friends on the water. Black Lake continues to be a fish factory. We kept about 25 crappie for a meal and landed 20 pike throughout the day with plenty of followers that just never committed to the bait.
This time of year can be some of the best fishing you will see, the winter being over and warming water temperatures puts fish in feeding mode. I am normally a catch and release angler but of once a year I treat myself to a meal of crappie which I think is some of the best fish you can eat. Just remember to practice good conservation etiquette, just because the bite is hot and you can load the boat with limits of fish does not mean you have to keep everything you catch. Keep enough for a fresh meal and release the rest to be caught another day.
You can follow more of my fishing and outdoor adventures including tips, videos and pictures at chrisflintfishing.com or on facebook on my like page at UP NORTH Outdoors.
Don’t chase your dreams.....catch them!!!