Keep up with all things, outdoors, with Big Billy Kinder...
I may lose a few friends over this one. It’s a hot topic with many folks. Fences. High fences, low fences no fences. Hunting within the confines of a fenced area. Is it ethical? Depends on who you visit with. Many hard core public land d.i.y. hunters will tell you, "Absolutely not! True free range is the ONLY pursuit that’s fair and ethical." The deer farmer will tell you that there is no disgrace in hunting an animal behind an 8-foot fence. The low fence guy, well he’s proud of the fact that his herd can slip over to the neighbor and back again as they please. I have hunted on occasion all three areas, but not before some careful thought and reasoning.
Back in 2010 I suffered an injury that would keep me on crutches and a walker for a year and a half. 7 surgeries and 42 skin graphs. Locked up in the house, with the exception of hospital and doctor visits for well over a year. I didn’t care who thought what of me when I finally had an opportunity to climb back in a stand, even though it was on a high fence place. I had a ton of medical apparatus in tow, but made it up the ladder and into the blind on that cold December morning. The fine, tall 8 point that I put down that day hangs on my wall, and I am as proud of him as any spot and stalk, low fence/no fence big country critter that I’ve ever hunted. Even though I had a clear medical reason for hunting behind a fence, I still needed more before feeling totally comfortable with it.
God gave me the answer, as He always does, in the book of Genesis. He was speaking to Noah, and laying out how things would be after the great flood. God told Noah in Chapter 9, Vs 2-3,
2 “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; and into your hand are they delivered.”
3 “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”
Notice the Lord never said “except those behind a fence” or “no fish from a small farm pond” or under any other conditions. That is good enough for me. If its okay with God, then its good with me.
Ethics do come in to play. He also gave us a conscience, and when He placed us above the animals, fowl and fish, as he showed Noah when he cared for the critters 2 X 2 on the ark, we are to care for them. America has been the worldwide leader in that conservation effort for the past 100 years. It is that God given ability to think, that allows us to make our own decisions. Problem is, after we have sorted it out and decided what is ethical hunting for ourselves, we often want to frown upon other methods and the folks that take part in them. Example: We've all heard the age-old arguments between bow hunters and rifle hunters.
Figure it out for yourself. Is it legal? Will it bother me to harvest an animal on fenced property, be it 300 acres or 300,000? Do I believe that God exists? Do I believe what He said in his word?
Once you work it out, get out. Go and be in the woods. If you have to stop and unlock the gate on the way in, more power to you! If you pack your way into the National Forest for a day and a half, excellent! Ya’ll grill your backstraps up side by side. They're gonna taste the same cause God Himself made them each and said put them on the dinner table.
By Billy Kinder
DSC Life Member
Owner - Kinder Productions, Inc.
Host - Kinder Outdoors-SiriusXM
Radio Stations & Podcasts Across the U.S.
July 28, 2022
Hey, if you're a dedicated bird hunter, you've been behind good bird dogs all of your life. You will NOT be disappointed with the dogs at Joshua Creek Ranch. It's so special to see a well-trained setter on point, head and tail high, setter feathers waving in the breeze.
AND THEN...They turn the "Fat Girl" loose!
Her real name is Stella. She stands maybe 14 inches tall, and she enjoys her meals. She carries a few extra pounds therefore she's earned the name "Fat Girl". She loves to hunt as much as she loves to eat. And when you turn this little English Cocker loose, there's no down time. She takes no breaks. And even though the cover is three times taller than her, she somehow, with the miracle of God's creation that HE put into a Cocker and bird dogs in general, tunnels through this thick cover unable to see the game being played. It's all nose and instinct that leads her to that bird that she promptly puts in the air and then retrieves to hand. The smile on her face that you can visibly see will put joy in your heart and a smile on your face.
There are lots of "Stellas" at Joshua Creek Ranch. They employ the little English Cockers to do the flushing and much of the retrieving. Most of the little Cockers are much more dainty then Stella; all work equally as hard. You're gonna want to take one home. I promise! (That's not a maybe) AND...from time to time, they do have litters available. Check with the folks at the ranch about that.
June 30, 2022
The whale that swallowed ol’ Jonah weighed 847 and a half pounds. Pay attention at the next club meeting. Zero in on the guys that like to fish. Just listen to the wonderful tales of fish tricking and how they convinced that finicky eight and a half pounder to take the lure. Never mind that a reliable scale was never a part of this calculation. The eight pounds therefore is iffy…the half pound added on is the cherry atop this hot fudging sundae. Bassers do it. So do perch jerkers and sophisticated fly casters. Before they even launch the boat or pull up the waders, they’ve got a tackle bag full of “ana half’s” ready to use as needed. “Biggest bluegill I’ve ever come across! It weighed a pound ana half.” Guys that feel somewhat guilty about fish stretching might say…“I BET it weighed a pound ana half”.
I’ve witnessed walleye fishermen up north lay an extra half on 'em, and Florida guys that catch a sure enough lunker of a bass with no need to enhance, still, will throw in “ana half”. Maybe they think that this will somehow improve that double-digit beast just a bit. I have overheard fellow fishermen midstream in western waters utter "ana halfs". Crappie anglers are really good at it too. Not only do the crappie folks add an extra half pound, but they are quick to throw in another half inch as well. Just ask any game warden. I’ve noticed that the catfish people are indeed a rare breed. They are completely satisfied with a nice round number. You’ll never hear the trotliner say “…yep! She weighed 38 and a half pounds.” They just stick with 38. Before we crown and robe the whisker chasers, there is still a problem. It starts with that maybe 30 pounder growing to 38. I don’t know that we can call this half pounding “lying”. I think it is possibly a sub-conscience effort to grow ourselves six inches taller than the next guy by simply adding a half pound to our catch.
I enjoy fishing with a preacher friend from time to time. His name is Tom. I enjoy it because he doesn’t talk much, is dependably on time and doesn’t drink up my diet Dr Peppers. He is one of the most honest men that I’ve ever been around. Ask him a question, and he will actually listen, pause, and double check his words for truthfulness, but dangit! He did it! We were throwing 6-inch watermelon and chartreuse worms up to a rocky point and slowly dragging them back to the boat. Tom felt the tap, set the hook, played and landed the bass wonderfully! He did everything right, right up to the moment that he shouted, “WOW! THREE ANA HALF POUNDS!” I slumped over in disappointment and might have even whispered a prayer on the preacher’s behalf at that moment.
At this moment, smug antler chasers are giving a hateful squint to the anglers. Thinking to themselves.. “I’ve always known that they are *%$@ liars.” This is braggin' board jealousy made manifest. The deer hunter knows it’s not fair. His quarry suffers “ground shrinkage” while the trout man’s catch gets bigger. He made the perfect glorious cast, won the trout tussle and netted the big brown just like Lefty would’ve. Then, in a move that would bring a tear to the eye of the most grizzled conservationist...our hero released the fish! In a moments time and thru manipulative imagination, the fish that this thumb on the scales angler held for one minute, swam away not only healthy but a half pound larger than he was this morning.
When a young man visits your home in hopes of winning the hand of your beloved daughter, invite him to have a seat and tell you a fishing story. If he begins with, “well, I caught a 7 pounder once.” Stop him right there and call the preacher. You have found your guy. This is an honest young superhero that will no doubt make the perfect father to your grandchildren. When they are born, he will proudly exclaim “8 pounds even! 7 pounds on the money! Whew…9 pounds on the spot!” He is rare-the rest of us??? We stand at the club meeting with outstretched arms, palms facing each other as we re-live the tale about the 9 "ana half" pounder. We will celebrate the "ana halfs" of our friends, readily hand them out to guys on the next client trip, refuse them to our fishing partner in a moment of green jealousy and use them as skillfully as Tom Brady would a football. "Ana halfs" exist for a reason.
In my occupation, I have many opportunities to spend time with professional anglers-Top notch pros, some even of hall of fame notoriety. I pay attention at the dinners, angler meetings, events and fishing trips. The pros are as proud of "ana halfs" as we weekenders. Think about this, a pro bass angler catches 5 fish for his legal weigh in. His old friend "ana half" has added a cumulative 2 "ana half" pounds to his limit. Hmmm. No one ever catches a 5 pounder. Never. Including me. They are always "ana half". It comes out of our mouths before good sense, humility and honesty ever have a fighting chance to salvage our reputation. Hey, it actually feels great to "ana half"! It COULD actually be true, which is a salve for our troubled conscience. The fish and the proof swim away. The "ana half" stands-never to be challenged. It starts young. The 7-year-old will tell you that he’s 7 "ana half". The teenager will answer…5 feet 10 "ana half". There is no limit to "ana halfs". Endless supply. That’s why you hear grandpa still using them even as grandma raises an eyebrow. Folks will doubt and snicker, maybe even call you out on it from time to time. Stand your ground. That "ana half" is yours; enjoy it. Tell the taxidermist as he forms that perfect walleye replica that she was full of eggs, so... (fill in the blank) "ana half"!
February 18, 2022
Next season starts now. As I exited the deer woods for the very last time a few days ago, it had a melancholy feel. Each trip is full of wonder just like that first trip when dad toted me along. This day had been wonderful as well. Cloudy, breezy, warm for mid-January with a great lack of critter movement. Still, it was a great day. As I locked down the old hunting blind and walked away with two days left in the extended Texas doe and spike hunt, I knew that this whitetail season was in the books for me. There would be no time over the next couple of days to come back, watch, walk, wait and soak up the scene. My time in the field this deer season was more limited than past years. Personal duties had demanded my attention and time, and I was paying the price-no venison. This marks the first whitetail season with no protein in the bed of the truck since…I don’t know. We’ve run short or out of a few things like taco meat, but we’re still better stocked than a lot of grocery store shelves. Whitetail season a year ago ended with a couple of mature does in the freezer. A week or so later, a wonderful axis buck found his way next to them. We eat a lot of venison. It is our primary protein in the Kinder home, thank You Lord! Fortunately, we still have plenty to carry us, especially when accented with the crappie fillets and turkey breasts that I plan to accumulate in the next few months. Pork is never hard to find. We like those feral tamales, tenderloins, peppered, German and smoked sausages. Heck, not much can beat a tow-sack half full of bullfrogs. Concerning bullfrogs and those athletic legs, you might not admit it down at the country club, or maybe you don’t even know it, but you like ‘em too! We won’t starve.
On my way down the trail a quarter mile or so to the truck, the low hanging oak branch was an uplifting sight and thought. Still two months from Spring’s first day, the tiny buds that will eventually blossom into strong healthy leaves caused me to pause, look and take a couple of pictures. Here we go again I thought. Next season starts right now. Robert Earl Keen wrote a great tune entitled, “The Road Goes on Forever (and the party never ends)…” The title fits how we live, think and breathe as whitetail hunters. November to a whitetailer seems like a distant birthday celebration for a six year old. “How many months is it?” The long arduous wait begins. We’ll watch the off season antler growth thru remote eyes fixed on our hunting grounds. Make an occasional trip to shore up the corn and protein supplies. Filling our vacant and hurting hearts with big green bass, maybe a good trout trip this summer, redfish on the half shell, and a dove shoot or two. All good medicine for whitetail flu. Nothing drops a whitetail hunters off season fever quite as quickly as a five pound bass (That’s another Robert Earl Keen song) on a topwater plug. Like a good dose of nighttime chug-a-lug from the neighborhood pharmacy, the 5 lb’ber makes you forget you ever had a cervid sniffle. An occasional follow up glance at your phone temporarily settles whitetail jitters. Your giant smile and outstretched arm, making five pounds look like twelve. Yep, we all do that.
Each opening day of the Texas Whitetail season, somewhere between 5am and sunrise, either Larry or I will lay a match to the kindling of a new whitetail fire. Tucked away in the dark, several hundred miles apart, so excited for legal light to arrive we share our joy and delight with each other thru text. “Are you hunting the family property? Are the grandkids with you? I hear pigs scuffling and rooting nearby. I saw a goodun pass thru the moonlight. Gonna fry crappie tonight.” Larry has been at this a while and so have I. Between the two of us we have seen well over a hundred opening days, and we still get breathlessly excited to sit propped on a tree, in the dark, awaiting God’s glorious sunrise and what it might bring-overjoyed at the start and sad to see it fade away. Hondo Crouch, the fella that turned Luckenbach Texas into an international tourist stop, once said, “Havin’ fun is hard work sometimes.” That describes perfectly the whitetailers spring and summer months. Scouting, documenting, feeding, hauling, moving, cleaning, building, feeding again, trimming, spraying, etc. All done with a smile on his or her face in anticipation of what? Pulling the trigger? Absolutely not.
When I visit the deer woods, it’s soul medicine. I breathe in fresh health. The brisk north wind ushers in the perfect finale to a Texas summer. Sparkling frost on sunlit mesquites is a light show designed by God Himself. In the pre-dawn, I listen for the wonderful sounds that are unique to the current place and time-the owl, or if I’m lucky, owls, abruptly breaking the morning still. In certain woods, the old whippoorwill eases his song through the trees. Soon a crow caws, the sun rises shortly thereafter and a new day begins. In the end, it is this scene, smell and sound that causes my end of season melancholy. Don’t get me wrong. Big antlers make my heart race and I will joyfully execute God’s words to Noah and his boys in Genesis Chapter 9 Verse 3 when He said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And, as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” God said that and He hasn’t changed His mind since. So, here we go. All together now let’s watch the big football game, fish the shallow spawners, call a gobbler, share pictures of our 12 pounder at the family reunion, vacation in a speckled fish hotspot, laugh it up at the dove hunt and bide our time ‘til we can lean back on that November morning and text our whitetail pals. It’s closer than it feels. Next season has already begun.
By Billy Kinder
DSC Life Member
Owner-Kinder Productions, Inc.
Host- Kinder Outdoors-SiriusXM
Radio Stations & Podcasts Across the U.S.
January 26, 2022
The most recent deer season just wasn’t what we dream of. The previous year was. Last year, on opening morning it was perfect! Robin and I had made the drive on a bright cool and sunny November day and enjoyed precious and rare relax time for an afternoon, a good meal and a solid night’s sleep at the hotel. I rose early in search of venison! It was opening day and that same excitement that I felt as a young teen is still exactly the same now, decades later! I had a couple of sausages and biscuits, coffee and more coffee and made my way 6 miles north of town on the blacktop and then 8 more down the caliche road to the ranch gate. Thru the gate, up the hill, slow rolling past the thick oak and mesquite to the area that I park, then a quarter of a mile walk to my spot. It’s still about an hour and a half until legal shooting time. I like to settle in with plenty of time for the area to be at ease with the surroundings. You can legally harvest deer at 30 minutes prior to official sunrise. Sunrise would be about 7:50 am, meaning that I could legally shoot at 7:20am.
I killed a nice buck at appx 7:30. Tag gone, easy as pie and the sun hasn’t crested the horizon yet on opening day. This most recent season? Total opposite. Deer season (1st Saturday in November thru the first Sunday in January) came and went without much activity at all. They just weren’t active and in my area during daylight. I saw and passed on a few young bucks. The does were not using my little area of the world nearly as much this year either. Deer season expired without me pulling the trigger. That means a shortage in the Kinder freezer. Fortunately the Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists keep a close eye on our deer numbers in Texas county by county. Those numbers say that good management means taking some does and spikes out of circulation. To do that, much of Texas enjoys an extended doe and spike season, two extra weeks after the official close of the whitetail season.
I had hunted hard at every opportunity for two months and seen no dependable pattern in the deer movement that would build excitement. But, taco meat and German sausage and backstraps on open fires are wonderful, so...I loaded up on patience and carried on into the extended doe/spike season. My final day to hunt would be Saturday the 16th. I had church duties on the final day to hunt, Sunday the 17th. The sun set on my deer season without a cervid in my freezer for the first time in I don’t know when. It was eating on me when I woke up at 2am Sunday morning. I figured in the drive time etc and discovered that I could hunt for 2 hours and still make it to church on time! So, up at 2am, 80 plus mile drive, blacktop, caliche, oaks, mesquite, quarter mile walk and in place plenty of time prior to first light. With 30 minutes left until the absolute end of my deer season, three does popped out. I know that doesn’t sound like much but this year it was huge! I loaded two in in the bed of the truck. Glorious joy! Weeks and months of slow burning patience, 10 minutes of deer hunting thrill, one year’s supply of very good and healthy things to eat in out freezer. Patience!
July 15, 2021
The weatherman lied…again! The wind, they said, would be gentle-northerly at about 5 mph. After I made the 90 mile drive and launched the boat in the dark, the breeze picked up a bit, more like 15 to 20. It was one of those days where the waves would lift the front end of the boat so high that the trolling motor would spin in the air before plunging deeper than I wanted in the water. The north wind carried cold temps too. I woke up to calm and 62, and by 8am it was knee-knocking shivers with a wind chill in the 20’s. I did throw in the insulated rain jacket and that helped out a bit. The shorts that I wore did not. It was April and the crappie spawn should have been in full swing. Under typical conditions, I would have eased the boat around in 4 to 6 foot water, vertically jigging standing timber and caught my limit of 25 crappie within a couple of hours. These cold blasts just kept coming in the spring of 2021-one per week. Perfect spawning water and conditions for 3 days, north wind and cold moisture for the next 3. The fish never really “patterned”. They just kinda went with the flow of things. I’m sure that some spawned out in 10-14 foot water and others in less than a foot.
On this particular day, the north wind didn’t kill the bite, but I certainly had to work for my fish. The bois’ d’arc tree jungle gave up one fish in 6 foot water. A trusted brush pile in 12 feet of water yielded a few more. The bridge was holding some fish in 12 to 14 foot depths. Moving the boat was cold, wet and time consuming. I caught my 25 keepers but not in a couple of hours. This took all of the morning and half of the afternoon. Patience was the key.
I love the part of fishing that requires some thinking...trying to figure out where they are and how to get them to bite. Now I’d rather not do it with numb hands and cold tears running from my eyes, but it worked out. It would have been a lot more comfortable to load the boat at 7:30am and head out for a hot breakfast and home, but the fish fry wouldn’t have been nearly as good. I’m not patting myself on the back or saying ”look at me”. I’m simply pointing out the fact that many times, the guy in deer camp that comes back with the venison is not necessarily the best hunter in camp, but the one that will be patient and wait it out longer.
My wife, Robin, and I were fly fishing a beautiful stream some years back. This place was loaded with rainbows. She studied a short, shaded stretch of the little creek and spotted 6 trout. She patiently worked the less than eager fish for what seems now like half a day. Robin never spooked them and patiently delivered her fly to each individual fish again and again until she had held each one in her gentle hand. I don’t remember what her fly was that day, but the magic ingredient was patience.
They say that patience is a virtue. Ol' Daniel Webster says that a virtue is “a beneficial quality”. Yep. If our kids learn to possess the power of patience, not only will they experience better hunting and fishing successs but better relationships, careers and lives too. Ecclesiastes Chp 7 Verse 8 says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, likewise, patience is better than pride.” God, in His grace, is the definition of patience. As He watches (and He is) this sinful world circle round and round, He patiently waits to hold us, one by one, in His gentle hand.
May 26, 2021
I see people with house dogs do it all of the time. It’s 98 degrees and they have ol’ Rusty on his leash because it’s time to “go poo-poo for mama”. So, Rusty leaps from his plush doggie bed in 72 degree air conditioned comfort and is bouncing up and down by the door waiting for the leash, an opening and the wide open spaces of the local park! When he first enters freedom’s bliss, he looks like a calf in a rodeo. Run fast, hit the end of the rope, bounce back, repeat. Just a few short minutes into the trip, ol’ Rusty has slowed down considerably. His tongue is hanging out about 8 inches long and he’s panting like the chug-a-lug of a Model T. He might even be involved in more of a drag than a walk by now, but he must continue on until mama leans down with her rubber glove and does the dirty work. Back home once again, Rusty foregoes the cozy doggie bed and stretches out belly down on the cool tile of the kitchen or bathroom.
Overheating and dehydration is serious business with our dogs, and as bad as it is in the dreaded August heat, I believe winter may be even hard on them from a dehydration perspective.
For bird hunters, summer workouts are imperative. September brings teal for lots of folks across America and in places like Montana, there are huns and sharptails to chase. Field trials even start back up around Labor Day. You can’t afford to just take the summer off. Common sense plays a huge role. Take steps to get your dog work done in the best of the bad conditions.
Enjoy your dogs! You’ll be working together in the dove field, teal blind and upland pastures before you know it…Get ready!!
Quick tip…If you have a kennel setup that allows you to run a garden hose across the top, buy a long sprinkler hose. You know, the kind of flat water hose that has little holes in it from one end to the other? Zip tie it in place, sprinklers aimed down into the runs. Set it up on a watering timer for 5 minutes each of the hottest hours of the day. Not only does it give your dogs a beneficial cool down, but it helps keep urine washed down as well.
August 11, 2020
With the virus popping up on every checkout counter, workplace and TV channel that you associate with, most folks have been looking for a way to space themselves from fellow humans. Depending upon who you listen to, there is either not as much to the COVID as first thought, or it’ll drop you in your tracks before the day is over. Heck, the Governor of California seems to think that you catch the COVID by attending church. From the sound of things “out there” your best bet for a healthy tomorrow is to get in line with a mass of protesters and then tear down a John Wayne statue out at the airport. I personally like John Wayne. In fact I’m a big fan. Sometimes when I’ve had enough of the panty-waist politicians and street-gang thugs on TV, I flip it over to the Duke. It’s refreshing to watch him smash a bad guy’s face into a tree. Of course, that was back when folks knew the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Hit a cop on the head with a stick...bad. Run an outlaw's face into an old oak...good.
If you’re not into protesting, looting or burning cars, you might try fishing. A lot of people have so far in 2020. One of my friends in the fishing industry recently told me that in the spring, the fishing business was up 200 percent! Wow! What church burning and window busting are for gun sales, the virus is for fishing poles! People put their masks on and went to Wal Mart. They bought a rod n reel and a few bass lures or maybe some stink bait for catfish. Some put the stink bait on the new bass lures. Some bought those disgusting looking dead minnows in the shrink wrap. Some dipped the stiff dead minnows in the catfish bait before hooking them on the bass lures. All of the above is okay!! In fact, its better than okay, its wonderful!!! When folks made the gear purchases, probably without even knowing it, they made a contribution to conservation. With that fishing purchase, they actually made America better and they didn’t even have to turn a police car upside down on the sidewalk. They proudly held that new fishing rod upside down, they reeled it backwards, they threw those brand new lures high into trees or over high line wires, never to be thrown again.
So…put the mask back on and now that you’re an experienced angler, go to Bass Pro Shop. You might pass out when you round the corner and see all of those glorious lures. You can buy stink bait by the bucket at BPS! You can even buy a shirt that makes you look legit, until you throw that new $18.00 Whopper Plopper up there next to the Wal Mart lures. At some point through dogged determination and countless casts, it will happen. Your bass lure will be firmly affixed to the mouth of a game fish, but like my late and wise friend Ray Sasser once said “it’s you that will be hooked” and you couldn’t be “hooked” on anything better than God’s great outdoors. It’s a wonderful side to a terrible virus, people are getting outside. Getting away from the news channels, honey-do’s, computer screens and frozen pizzas. In Minnesota there is an explosion in teens buying fishing licenses-TEENS! In fact, state after state are reporting big license sales. Do you have yours?
Let’s get started…
A 5 to 6 foot, lightweight spinning rod and reel combination or spin cast rod and reel combination. Less than $30 at Wally World. Small pan-fish hooks, bobbers and weights or sinkers. About 5 more bucks.
A box of worms. Couple of bucks unless you run into some COVID worm price gouging. From the bank of any creek, pond or lake, pinch off a small portion of worm, just about half an inch. Thread it onto the hook that is 4-6 inches below the weight, which is about 8 to 12 inches below the bobber. Cast to within a few feet of rocks, logs, boat docks or any kind of shade or structure in the water. When the bobber swims off or goes under, lift the rod tip and turn the reel handle at the same time to set the hook and reel 'em on in. There ya go! Your hooked!
Clean your fish. Yes, you can. Watch YouTube videos on how to fillet (boneless) or traditionally clean (bone in) your fish. Very simple. Wash the meat thoroughly. Bread your wet fish with cornmeal, salt and pepper mixture and place the fish in a deep fryer or hot skillet. (I fry my fish in a deep fryer at 355-360 degrees) It doesn’t take long. TIP: In a deep fryer, when the fillets float I give em another minute or so then pull them out.
Smile big at the dinner table, tell BIG stories to the family! YOU…are a fisherman. YOU have disappeared into the wilderness with rod in hand and reappeared at the dinner table with delicious fish. YOU…are something else!
C’mon, it’s the latest hot trend that doesn’t require you to sleep on a city street in Seattle or try to bust the CNN plate glass with your skateboard. (bettin that dude regrets that move) Really live it up on your radical journey to the neighborhood pond and tell someone Merry Christmas, Back the Blue or God bless John Wayne!
July 17, 2020
Before we get started, this is not a one size fits all crappie fishing guide. Your water in Florida may only be five feet deep. Your crappie in Minnesota may not know what standing timber looks like. We all live in our own little world, welcome to mine.
The calendar is slipping into middle May now and in Texas, that typically means the crappie spawn is nearly or completely over. If you will pay attention to the annual patterns that fish and wildlife follow, you can get closer to them and on occasion enjoy them on the table. This is true for all of God’s critters, but I’m zoned in on the crappie right now-zoned in for several reasons, not the least of which is dinner.
In the annual crappie chasing cycle, there are blocks of time. Predictable blocks when you know pretty much where the majority of the fish are located, and they are in that area in big numbers. There are also unpredictable blocks of time when the fish are scattered and can be tougher to find and capture. Predictable blocks of time are spring and summer. In springtime when the water temp hits 62 degrees or so, here the crappie come! They are headed for the shallows to make an investment in your grandchildren’s fishing future. The waves of crappie coming in and hanging out in shallow (10 feet or less) water can last for a month to six weeks or so. (notice all of the “or so’s…all of this can shift some from year to year) Typically, the very shallow water will hold male fish tail-fanning nests or protecting fry. Yes, the big females can be found there as well, but they move in to spawn then back out to slightly deeper cover, back in to spawn more eggs, out again deeper, five to ten foot water.
The spring spawn is a great time to impress the family with a big string of crappie and maybe even make the cover of “Wow! What a Fisherman” magazine. I fish a particular cove that features great shallow shoreline spawning cover.-reeds, brush etc. Within thirty yards of that shoreline is standing timber-two or three acres of timber. Drifting a jig or minnow just a few inches deep under a bobber in the shallows can catch a lot of fish! It’s the perfect time of year for the shore angler. Bigger fish are out there a little further, though, in those trees. Ease through the trees with a nine foot or longer pole to keep your distance and work a small jig from top to bottom and all around each tree stump. Recently, I caught all of my fish nine feet deep in ten foot water. The very next morning they were two to three feet deep in the same water. Typically, you will find a single fish on a tree, sometimes more and rarely a bunch…but it does happen.
Another predictable time is hot, hot, hot summer. A good fish finder on your boat and the knowledge to read and use it come in real handy! Side note…I know a fella that has spent many thousands of dollars on fish finders, always coveting the latest and greatest, but has never taken the time to learn how to properly use any of them. If you look at the simplest sonar units and don’t know what you’re looking at, throwing money at it will not increase your knowledge. It doesn’t take two or three thousand dollars to see fish on structure. There are great units for just a few hundred bucks out there these day: side and down imaging, sonar and gps technology for small money (small money for fish finder world anyway).
Okay, back to the fish. If you will spend your time doing homework with your fish finder, it will pay dividends in fillets! When the sun is high in the summertime, we like shade and air conditioning. Fish do too-boat docks, deep brush, timber, channel drops etc. The docks are obvious, the fish finder points out the other spots. In the midst of a Texas summer, I will usually find my crappie in eighteen to twenty five feet of water holding tightly to a brush pile or on standing timber. This time of year if you catch one crappie, drop your jig right back in the same exact spot and at the same exact depth and you're likely to catch another one, and another one and another one. When the bite slows on your jig, try a color change…sometimes that will fire em up again, or at least trick a few more. If you are concentrating on submerged brush, fish it completely. Even though the brush pile may be ten yards long, the crappie will hold in one or two small areas of the pile. If you are fishing standing timber, the shady side is key, so are limbs that produce shade. A big ol' narly limb or even better, a collection of limbs 20 feet deep in hot summer is a great find. It will also steal a lot of your jig heads. Take plenty of tackle.
In the fall, as the water temps cool and change, so does crappie activity...find and follow the baitfish because the crappie are. This is the time of year that I pull out the trolling rigs. I switch from jigs to live minnows and rig them on a weighted double minnow rig. Get up in the creeks and look for the baitfish. Set your rigs to troll at a depth towards the bottom third of where you are seeing bait. In other words, if the bait balls are averaging 5 to 8 feet deep in 12 feet of water, I will troll my minnows at 7 to 8 feet deep. Crappie feed upwards and will feed from under the ball of bait. I will either drift or use the trolling motor to slow troll my rigs. This is my least favorite way to crappie fish. My rods are in holders mounted to the boat, so I miss feeling the “thump”. You can still find large concentrations of fish but they are mobile, not “set up” on timber or brush like they were in spring and summer. You can be catching them pretty good one minute, and have absolutely no idea where they’ve gone the next. Like I said, fall is not my favorite time of year to crappie fish, but here is the good news. They taste the same!
There is a transition from spring to summer and summer to fall. These are the more unpredictable times to find and catch crappie. Big concentrations break up and individuals start making their way along the crappie trail. They are tougher to locate or catch great numbers at this time. Think about this. If you have a 20 mile commute to work, I have a good idea where you are between 8am and 5pm. I also have a pretty safe bet about your location between 6pm and 7am. However, it would be really tough to pinpoint your location from 7-8am and 5-6pm. But wait a minute…if I can do my research and find out where you like to stop for coffee, I can set up on a spot like that and intercept you during travel time. Same with crappie. They don’t leave point A with point B in mind and swim non-stop. They have waypoints along the trail that are good for resting, feeding, hanging out with other crappie and sharing the latest crappie news. These routes and stopping points remain the same year after year and generation after generation. That is unless flooding, drought or other related occurrences change that habitat. A mess of crappie may take a little longer and a little more “work” in these unpredictable windows, but it’s doable.
Winter-go deer hunting. It’s probably killed many a strong angler...trying to find crappie in the wintertime. It’s a little known fact that crappie dissolve in cold water. Crappie dust settles to the bottom of the lake and lies dormant until the first buds on the dogwoods bloom. Magically, God then calls the crappie dust to take shape and swim again. You ice fishermen are great people, but similar to duck hunters...a bit off-kilter. I’ve spent time with you. I’ve seen how you go about your crappie obsession. Dragging an auger where only weeks ago a very fast motor zipped you around in the comfort of your boat, beverage in hand. Now, you are drilling and drilling and drilling and moving and drilling and hoping and moving and drilling and hoping some more that there is a crappie under the next hole in the ice. Here’s a tip. Freeze a few in the summer and eat them in the winter. My version of ice fishing involves reaching into the garage freezer.
I hope this little outline helps you out season to season and that you become proficient at posing up for the magazine covers, websites and tv shows.
May 14, 2020
We've been locked up in our homes while making only the most necessary trips. We've Lysoled everything, a dozen times. We've watched the coronavirus news nonstop. Looks like we will be living this way for a while. A trip to the lake is wonderful therapy. An emotional band-aid. Even so, we can’t afford to let our guard down there either.
The Game and Fish folks in North Carolina have come up with a short list of recommendations for boaters. They are...
...maintain your distance at boat ramps and fuel docks
...avoid using boat ramp docks while other people are on them
...no beaching your boat right next to someone else
...no rafting up-keep your distance on the water
All good recommendations and I will add a couple of my own...
...if you are a shoreline fisherman, please don’t fish from the boat ramp docks-They are essential for boat passenger loading and unloading
...keep the hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and plastic gloves on the boat
...only boat with members of your household
...avoid all unnecessary contact with others
Spring turkey hunting carries new concerns this year as well. No long trips in the enclosed cab of a vehicle with members of a separate home but only with members of your home is not only a great idea, but possibly lifesaving.
Hunt solo, do your own calling. Don’t share calls, camo (especially face masks) or equipment. Common sense. (if solo hunting or boating be sure to leave an emergency plan with loved ones…where you are…time you should be back etc.) It’s a good year to skip the mouth calls and stick to your slates, boxes etc. Your hands back and forth to your mouth right now is not a good thing.
Once we have settled into that quiet cove or leaned up next to that tree in the turkey woods we can finally relax a little. Just be diligent.
April 16, 2020