The secret life of the black crappie

May 9, 2012

It was a fine spring day and the boat was still attached to the tow vehicle, so I started it and drove to Opinicon Lake for a bit of crappie fishing.

I couldn’t find the fish in their usual haunts. Flowing water and schools of minnows weren’t attracting them today. I picked my way around Deadlock Bay, unwilling to give up. Eventually I found a few scattered fish around submerged stumps. Usually once you have found the first fish, the next dozen come quite easily. I have caught as many as 76 under a single stump. But not today. Two strikes on each stump, and that was it.

Eventually fatigue and a threatening storm drove me off the lake, but not before I spotted a group of people on the dock at the Queen’s Biology Station, so I swung by to say hello. These three were from Carleton University and didn’t know anybody I knew. I mentioned my few crappies. The alpha-male student told me that there are lots of crappies around. They’ve been netting them. Perhaps they’re not biting today.

That’s when it got interesting. I told him that I could only find them on stumps. He said that’s because they spawn on stumps, sticking the egg masses to the top of a horizontal root. Then the male guards the egg mass, though he takes off when the eggs hatch, rather than guarding the fry the way bass do.

It immediately became apparent to me that I had sinned, taking spawning fish off their nests. Oops. Sorry, fish. I didn’t know. He also said that, “They’ll be all fryed out in another week. Then they’ll school up and start feeding.”

So I left the QUBS dock a wiser man. I’d better stay away from the stumps for a week or so, but then I should be able to find some crappies in their usual haunts.

(When I cleaned up the fish they were all males, and none had anything in his stomach. Seems the guy knew his stuff.)

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