Day one of our adventure started Saturday morning. Leaving KC around 7am was going to put us on the water by 11 or so, by our estimation and experience. We enjoyed a nice morning drive, punctuated with all of the usual topics of discussion – ranging from baits & techniques, wind & weather, analysis of well-marked-up topo maps, and any and all of the necessary conversation related to such an adventure. Add to that an abundance of turkey, deer, and geese active and on the move all morning long, and the bright and sunny 3.5 hour drive west was gone in a a snap. A nice drive had us hoping for equally active and cooperative slabs awaiting us on the highly touted crappie fishery known by the locals as Waconda – or Glen Elder Reservoir.
As expected, we hit the water around 11am, eager to begin. However, this would not happen without issues. The first of what became a bit of a theme for the weekend – overcoming obstacles and adversity – reared its ugly head in the form of a dead battery in the iPilot remote. Of course, we did not realize this until we were out in the middle of the lake exploring Nick’s well plotted graph. Spirits fading fast, Nick gave Aunt Donna a call in search of a local source for such a thing. Knowing that Glen Elder, Beloit, and anything else within casual driving distance was not likely to have a specialty battery, we were dreading the hour and a half to Salina, should that be necessary. Nick left Eric and me with the boat to kick around while he and Aunt Donna corroborated in their quest for the battery.
Aside: I must add a quick side note with respect to Aunt Donna. Everyone should have an “Aunt Donna” somewhere out there. I know mine comes in the form of an Uncle Bill, but we all have one somewhere. That relative in a small town that welcomes you in and makes you feel right at home, like you have known them forever. They feed you like a king and treat you like their own. And they remind you of what life might be like if you just slow down a bit and enjoy what’s around you. Aunt Donna played that role quite well, and was a most gracious hostess to a few boys making a mess of things. We were all quite appreciative of her hospitality, and can’t wait to get back to see her again.
Good fortune would smile upon us a short time later. Eric and I, off in the boat scouting, had just about enough time to get out and graph one tiny piece of structure on a channel break that was holding like two fish. Just two. We marked it and headed back to pick up Nick, who had somehow found the required battery right there in Glen Elder. Yeah, he bought two.
Nick aboard, iPilot tested and good, we could NOW begin our morning. While we had a game plan on where we were heading initially, we alerted Nick to our minor and insignificant – almost laughable find of two fish, and as it was along the way to where we were headed, and thanks to Eric’s persistent urging, we decided to stop there and explore. We would spend the next 6 hours right here on that spot.
Fish were piled up in schools, hugging the bottom in 32’-37’ of water. We fished tandem jigs, using ¼oz on the bottom, 1/16oz on the top, with a variety of colors. Just about any color combination that included chartreuse, as well as some white minnow and fluke patterns seemed to catch fish.
This six hour run, covering about a 50-75 yard stretch along this channel break, produced one of the finest afternoons of crappie catching I have ever been a part of. Hands down the largest average size crappie I have ever seen for this many fish. We caught our three man limit of crappie – 150 of them. We added 4 incidental walleye ranging from 18”-22” to the livewell for good measure. Not to mention both Eric and I claiming personal bests with our pair of 16″ crappie.
In Kansas, we are used to those 20 fish limits, with a 10” min. When we cross the state line and hit a MO lake like Truman, we are looking at 15 fish that may include 9” fish. At a lake such as Hillsdale, or Melvern, we are used to catching fish at a winter time ratio of maybe 3:1, shorts to keepers. More than double that in the summer. We are typically happy to throw a few 12” crappie in the boat, with a 13” fish usually getting a pic snapped, as you’ll find all through this blog.
Being the data/analyst/stat dork that I am, (as well as being blown away at the overall size of these fish) I had this idea that I would measure every fish to the nearest half inch, record and plot out a matrix, and get us a true average. Here are some of my results and notes.
We did not catch one fish that was not a Kansas keeper (10” or better) – and only caught 3-4 of those, which we safely returned when we could. Let me repeat that. We DID NOT CATCH A SHORT ALL DAY.
Our AVERAGE FISH came out to be 12.5” in length. 150 crappie, holding an average at that level is pretty sweet. Means there were a lot of 12”-12.5” fish… and obviously a lot of bigger ones.
We had around 100 fish at 11.5”-12.5”. The remaining 50 or so were 13”-16”.
At Truman, Hillsdale, Melvern, we celebrate the 13” fish. At the Glen, you can get a bit jaded. Fast. And it makes going home to our little Hillsdale start to sound much less thrilling.
A beautiful sunset synchronized perfectly with the fulfillment of our limit signaled the end of this ride, as we took to the task of destroying Aunt Donna’s driveway in the process of turning these critters into pure tastiness. Which is where the “what can go wrong next” theme popped back up.
Cleaning 150 fish is a daunting task. Cleaning that many bigger crappie, tougher still. Having your electric filet knife go down two fish into the game… not so good. Having the legendary, world famous fish cleaning guru on your team helped offset things a bit, and two hours later we were looking at four large tubs of freshwater’s finest on ice. One more obstacle overcome.
Aunt Donna whipped up that meal-fit-for-a-king, featuring our new favorite “country style ribs” (nothing named Country Style Ribs could ever be bad, right?) making sure none of us would go to bed hungry on her watch.
Sleep came fast after that, as we toasted a grand day on the water, and watched the forecast for the next morning. Dying wind & temps dropping into the teens, left us wondering – and worrying – what the morning trip out might hold for us.