BIG BEND – Crappies are among the least significant pan fish in Michigan in the summer. They are popular in the spring, when they move shallow to spawn and signal the arrival of the new season almost as certainly as the first robin. But once the spawn is over and the crappies disperse, most Michigan anglers forget about them until ice fishing arrives.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Denny Bouwens, an all-species angler who targets crappie all summer. Crappies, which tend to suspend in the water column making them harder to catch than many other species, don’t disappear. It just takes a methodical approach to find and catch them, Bouwens said.
He showed me. In spades.
I’ve known Bouwens for a number of years and have fished with him a handful of times, mostly on the Muskegon River, where he guides salmon, steelhead and trout fishermen, mostly in the winter and spring. During the summer months, Bouwens fishes for crappies on a number of lakes; he chose Hardy Dam Pond, a reservoir on the Muskegon (above Croton) for our crappie crusade.
Bouwens piloted his bass boat out of the launch ramp and pulled up outside of a weed line in 15 feet of water. He flipped a small jig over the side while he was checking the drag on the spinning reel and a fish intercepted it as it fell. It was a sign of things to come.
Less than four hours later, we were finished, with 50 fish in the live well — 49 crappies and one perch.
The drill was fairly simple: keeping the boat in deep water, we cast toward the weed beds and retrieved the tiny jigs (one-sixteenth ounce heads) as s-l-o-w-l-y as we could.
Sometimes the fish hit the bait on the initial fall. Sometimes they took it off the bottom directly under the boat. And they took it everywhere in between, too.