Hot-water crappie fishing sizzles

Larry Woody • Aug 8, 2017 at 8:30 AM

The thermometer on my back porch read 94 in the shade.

I know, because I went out and checked it after receiving a cell-phone photo from Steve McCadams, who was hunkered in his fishing boat on Kentucky Lake. Out on the open water the temperature had to be in triple digits.

The photo showed Steve, sweat-soaked and wearing a bandana on his head. He looked like Beau Geste of the French Foreign Legion after a grueling march through the burning sands.

It also showed him holding a big slab crappie he had just hauled in.

I messaged Steve back: the convenient thing about catching crappie when it’s this hot is that you don’t have to cook ‘em. They come pre-cooked.

The point of the story is that even on the most sweltering days, crappie can be caught.

They continue to eat, and as long as they eat, they are susceptible to getting a hook in their lip.

Frankly, I prefer to do most of my crappie fishing in the spring when the days are crisp, the water is still winter-cool, and the dogwoods are in bloom. But just because I quit later in the summer doesn’t mean the crappie do.

There’s an art to catching hot-water crappie. Unlike in the spring when they move into the shallows to spawn, the hotter it gets the more reclusive they become.

They go deep, and finding them is the hardest part of catching them.

Experts like McCadams, who has guided on Kentucky Lake for a half-century, know where to look. In Steve’s case, he puts out wooden stake beds – over the years he has installed hundreds – and he has each one marked on a GPS device.

He can motor out into the middle of a vast cove and position his boat exactly over a stake bed 20 feet below.

Putting a bait under a crappie’s nose is the key in hot weather because, like us, they don’t like to move a lot. McCadams can dangle a minnow or his favorite lure, a tiny hair jig, right in the crappie’s living room.

Fishermen who don’t have the advantage of stake beds can locate natural cover such as brush and trees with electronics, and use depth-finders to work channel edges and other deep holes. A good depth-finder and detailed lake map is vital to this kind of hunting-fishing.

It’s like anything else – the more you do it, the more you learn, and once you locate fish in a certain area they’ll likely be there on future trips.

Fishing in scorching weather is demanding and can even be dangerous, especially for the elderly and those with medical conditions. Even healthy, veteran anglers are not immune to heat stroke and related problems.

It’s wise to fish early and late in the day, and even then limit your time on the water.

Drink lots of water, dress cool and if you feel faint immediately seek shade or head to the dock.

Personally I’ll hold off till things cool down, but crappie addicts like McCadams can’t wait. They know where the crappie are, they know how to catch them, and they don’t sweat the thermometer.

They take them straight from the broiler to the frying pan.

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