Take another crack at crappie

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

If I wanted to take another crack at crappie fishing this spring, and I do, it would be at one of two waterways, Pymatuning Reservoir or Eaton Reservoir. Both currently have good crappie populations. Both currently are giving up slabs. And the best of spring crappie fishing is nearing the end at both.

Actually, as I sit here now at my desk, Bill Anderson just phoned to make final arrangements for a crappie fishing trip to Eaton Reservoir in the morning. We will be testing a new Pennsylvania style porcupine rig. It pushes three lines ahead of the boat, two rods to the side, and one rod for casting.

Porcupine rigs originated quite some time ago in the Southeast, I think. Some porcupine rigs push a dozen rods ahead of the boat. Southeastern waters are generally more fertile than ours, and they have a much longer growing season. They can afford more liberal harvesting of wild fish.

My porcupine rig rods are relatively short, 10 feet long. Some are at least as long as 14 feet. No thank you. Those long rods are tough on the thumbs of an old guy with arthritis. Also, the rods I bought are very light, Crappie Maxx Mighty Lite.

If you should choose Eaton Reservoir for the last crack at crappie, first focus on ‘where’. Eaton Reservoir is small enough that it can be effectively covered in a day with a good search technique, either wind drifting or trolling at very slow speed with an electric motor. Speed is terribly important. It should be very slow. Casting jigs while drifting can be very effective.

With two anglers in a small boat, each angler should cast ahead of the boat, and each should drag a bait behind the boat. Control the angle of the boat in relation to the wind using a drift sock, or two.

Now try the water just outside weed beds, or where there are sparse clumps of weeds outside the main weed bed. This will be in depths of more than 8 feet.

Probably you will see where the crappie is hitting by the boats on the water. Starting from the boat launch near the dam, fish outside the weeds up to the lake to the far side of a large bay. Then cross the lake past the aerators and fish toward the dam.

The access road to the boat launch begins in New York. This lake is very close to the state border. The entire lake is in Pennsylvania. Boats can be powered by an electric motor or manually. Gas motors are not allowed.

At latest report, crappie was hitting quite well. Those being kept measured from 10 inches to 13 inches in length.

Crappie being caught at Pymatuning Reservoir are even larger than those caught at Eaton Reservoir. It is not at all unusual to catch 15-inch crappie. And like those at Eaton Reservoir, most are black crappie. There can be little doubt that Pymatuning Reservoir is the best big crappie lake in the region, as in big crappie and not a big lake, although it is a big lake.

If you are a crappie fishing enthusiast and have not fished for crappie at Pymatuning Reservoir, get down there before another year goes by. The nearest boat launch is at Linesville, along the northern end of the lake. It is about 90 miles from Warren.

We enjoyed a very pleasant short vacation there while staying at a rental cabin in Pymatuning State Park. We docked our boats within a short walk of the cabin. This is a great way to get acquainted with Pymatuning.

Pymatuning Reservoir is quite different from most other Pennsylvania lakes. The reason, it is situated in the gently rolling terrain. Originally before being dammed, it was Pymatuning Swamp. Except near the dam, at Jamestown, depths are generally less than 20 feet.

In the area near Linesville, depths mid-lake are about 12 feet. It is normal to find crappie suspended in this area.

If you are trying to catch very large crappie, I do not know of a better place to try than at Pymatuning Reservoir. But if this is your primary objective, stay away from clusters of boats. Black crappie tends to be warier than white crappie. Boat traffic will put them off their bite.