04/17/09 — Catching crappie makes springtime fishermen very happy

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Catching crappie makes springtime fishermen very happy

By Mike Marsh
Published in Sports on April 17, 2009 1:47 PM

There is no other time that generates as much interest as springtime for freshwater anglers. One by one, the major fish species start biting in earnest as the water warms and the dogwoods begin to bloom.

The blooming dogwoods signal many events, including the turkey gobbling peak and the shad run. Dogwoods also indicate warming water and the crappie become more active. While the silvery fish bite in rivers, lakes and ponds all year round, their major spawning concentrations occur this time of year.

In the coastal plain, small lakes and ponds are the best places to catch crappie. Capt. Butch Foster and his son, Capt. Chris Foster -- who operate Yeah Right Sport Fishing Charters in Southport -- took a day off from offshore fishing to visit Lake Tabor.

The lake is the centerpiece of Tabor City, which is located in Columbus County. Hurricane Fran destroyed the dam in 1996. The dam was rebuilt in 1999 and as the lake refilled, it sparked a booming population of crappie.

"I like catching crappie because they are so good to eat," said Chris. "I can't think of anything that comes out of freshwater that tastes so good."

The pair stopped at Lake Tabor Bait and Tackle to pay the $5 per angler fee for anyone fishing from a boat. Cindy Spivey, who works the counter in the absence of her husband, Alan, said the crappie had been biting well.

"There was a 2-pound, 10-ounce crappie caught a couple of weeks ago," she said. "The best lure is this one."

Cindy pointed to a soft plastic minnow rigged on a jig head. The AWD Flip'r lure was blue with a chartreuse curly tail.

"We can't keep them in stock," she said. "We have only the one color because people won't use anything else. It works so well here and on other waters that people buy the entire card as soon as it's on the rack."

Crappie also bite Beetlespins, which are small jigs with plastic trailers with a spinner above them. Chris is especially fond of using them.

"I get bites with the AWD lure, but I use Beetlespins because they catch everything -- bass, bream, bowfins and jackfish." he said. "We usually troll them near the dam, or cast them in standing timber. There might be a crappie anywhere this time of year."

The Fosters launched their 16-foot aluminum boat at the concrete ramp. Setting down their trolling motor, they began fishing right beside the long fishing pier that extends into the lake. The pier has covered areas and boat docks and a $3 fee is charged for pier fishing.

Chris had some strikes.

He said they were small bream because they didn't get the point of the hook.

"We start fishing just about anywhere," said Butch. "You get a feel for it as you troll along with the electric motor. The lake is just over 100 acres in size and the fish can't go anywhere. They're here and this time of year, they're biting. All you have to do is find them."

The limit for crappie at Lake Tabor is 20 fish per day with an 8-inch minimum size. The Fosters said they had caught that many keepers in short order during a trip a couple of years ago.

"We caught the conditions right that day," said Butch. "But we went back later in the week and only caught one fish. I think the weather has a lot to do with it. A good warm spell with a steady barometer really gets them going. But a cold snap turns them off."

While his father was casting live baits around standing cypress, Chris flipped his artificial lures. Butch caught a few bluegill and red-ear sunfish, joking about Chris' lack of success. Then suddenly, Chris's rod tip shot up, bending and throbbing.

He hauled a silver fish into the sunlight, its mirror-like shine sharply contrasting against the dark water from which it had been caught.

"This is what we came here for," said Chris. "Dad can keep chasing those bream, if he wants."

But Butch was already digging through his tackle, looking for the AWD Flip'r he bought on Cindy's advice a few minutes before.