Woods, waters and wildlife

Crappies, kids and memories


Walking our dogs along Cypress Creek one afternoon, we came upon a young man fishing with his daughter near some flooded timber.

“Catching any?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, smiling. “I got three white perch!”

“Are you from East Texas,” I inquired.

“How’d you know that?” the surprised daddy asked.

“I grew up at the edge of the Thicket right outside Beaumont,” I answered. “Heard ‘white perch’ a lot, back then. Most people call ‘em ‘crappie’ around here.”

I’d never heard the word “crappie” until I went to college. The first time I saw the word in print, I mispronounced it, thinking it was an adjective instead of a noun.

It didn’t take long before I could say it correctly and realized the oversized perch (correctly named sunfish) were a sporting challenge and a culinary delicacy. The first one our family caught was landed by my three-year old daughter on the dock at Lake Somerville one evening. She wanted to fish like her brothers, so we indulged her. No one else caught anything. Back home, I photographed her in a robe, standing on a chair, helping cook her “cwappie.” She was too young to pronounce R’s, but not too young to catch and cook fish. Or, to tell all our neighbors about her catch.

Crappie – both white and black species – are extremely popular all across Texas. That’s all some people fish for. Except when they move into shallower water to spawn, both species tend to colonize in water 12 feet deep or more, and around brush piles or rocks. Tommy Tidwell, a popular guide on Lake Granger, says in May he finds them near the shore in 12 inches – not feet – of water. The rest of the year, he finds them deeper around brush piles, many of which he placed in the lake. Near brush piles during most of the year, if you catch one, you’ll probably catch more in the same area.

Their favorite food is a small minnow, but they also strike small jigs. Tidwell used small (1/16 or 1/32-ounce) red, black, and yellow jigs the last time I fished with him. Most colors work, though. The limit is 25 fish with a 10-inch minimum length (some lake exceptions, however). Three of us caught 68 in an hour and a half that afternoon.

Kids and grandkids love catching them as much as adults. Find a guide that specializes in crappie and take a kid, and you’ll have the little guy hooked!

I’m blessed that all my kids, grandkids, and their spouses like to fish. Most know how to filet fish, too. All of them eat fish, and not just on Fridays.

You don’t have to travel very far to find a place to fish. They’re available at more than 150 public lakes, community fishing lakes, and 70 Texas State Parks (no fishing license required in state parks; just park entry fee – loaner tackle and instruction available in some parks).

The fish are there; Go get ‘em!


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