Thanks to our wonderful Kansas winter we are having this year our annual Glen Elder trip was delayed until the middle of March. With the ice just coming off the lake on Tuesday we wanted to do our best to hit the water as soon as we could knowing that the crappie would soon be leaving their winter time breaks and headed to staging areas to spawn, this is known by many as the dreaded March disappearing trick. Last year by this time the fish had disappeared on us and where almost impossible to find, so with ice out being so late we where a little worried we might run into that this year even with the water temperatures being in the mid 30’s. Let me tell why we were worried: over the last 10 years of serious crappie fishing and talking to KDWP biologists I have really come to believe that the annual crappie spawn has as much if not more to do with the sunlight angle as much as it has to do with the water temperature. Last year we had really warm water very early but no shallow crappie to show for it. They wait until their usual time and dates to head shallow even though we had unusually warm water temps.
With the above ideas in mind the outdoorsman crew, (Adam, Eric, Jeff and me) minus Benton who had been on a long work trip, decided to take a few vacation days and head west to fish Glen Elder (Lake Waconda) for a few days. During planning time Eric had a heck of an outing on Monday at Clinton and with weather prediction out west to be unfishable for most of the day with a red flag wind warning we decided to stop off at Clinton on our way out of town for a few hours. We got to the lake about 9 am to find it glass calm with very few boats on it and just waiting for us! It didn’t take us long to unload the boat and head out where Eric left off beating the fish on Monday, but a quick run around using our new Garmin Down and Side VU scan showed us the fish had vacated the area minus a couple of nice walleye we kept. We spent the 45 minutes running around Clinton looking for fish on about every ledge with brush we could find but they just where not there. We finally found one pile that had a small school of fish on it that produced about 20 fish in 15 minutes which was fun but now what. As we where headed back to the ramp we found a school of suspended fish in 30 foot of water just off the bottom, let’s try em! Bingo, we had scatter fish and a few nice sized schools provided steady to hot action for the next two hours. Those results netted us 43 keeper crappie and 2 keeper walleye with orange and chartreuse the best color. About noon I mention to the boys we had a long drive in front of us, which was meet with what the heck are you thinking wanting us to leave this type of action. Kicking and screaming I was able to drag the guys off the lake in time to clean our fish and the boat so we didn’t transport any zebra muscles to a new lake.
With a few uncertain glances we got to Glen Elder about 5 pm and checked into the Fins and Feathers lodge in Glen Elder City. Quickly after stowing our gear we drove the 5 minutes to the ramp to be greeted by normal Glen Elder weather, 20 mph south wind and 4 ft rollers. Crap did we leave great fishing to fight the wind and this I am sure I heard more than once. Let’s just say my wanting to leave Clinton early was not winning me any favors. It being what it is, we headed to the protection of the south bank. I am not going to lie, after spending the next 45 minutes looking at as many protected brush piles and breaks as we could find and not finding a fish on them I was getting worried about having to swim back to the ramp. As a last resort we head to a shallow break that went from 15 to 26 ft of water and hoped for anything. What we saw was not aw inspiring but there where a few fish tucked right up where the channel break and the bottom met. Fine, let try it. After a few minutes it happened, I got a solid thump and up came a 14-inch crappie. Adam thought that was awesome, until he caught back-to-back 15+ inch fish. This being his first trip to Glen elder he was bouncing all over the boat. The next 2 hours didn’t produce any great stretches of tons of fish but it was a stead grind of crappie. We ended up catching 26 fish over 13 inches! Finally I felt better; I am not crazy for dragging these guys out there for no reason. About sunset we packed it in and headed to the dock and after getting the fish cleaned we settle in for the annual no holds bared game of pitch. This year had Jeff and I playing Adam and Eric, we ended up both winning one game before we just had to call it a night.
Friday morning brought more 20 mph wind out of the north and cool temperatures. There is not much to say here, we spent the whole morning driving up and down about every ledge, break and channel there was on the lake looking for fish and we didn’t find one! It had happened, they left the breaks and they left the brush. Time to regroup, so we packed up the boat and headed back to the lodge for a quick nap and an incredible fish fry from those Clinton fish.
The afternoon found spirit lifted with everyone full of food, predictions of the wind calming down and our batteries and coolers recharged. Off we went with ta new plan on taking the info we remembered on the28 we caught on Friday and trying to replicate today. On our second stop as we where working the break we noticed a few fish in the middle of the water column out in the channel, Eric brought is jigs up to the exact level of the fish and thump, there was a 15 inch crappie hanging out there. Eric caught 3 more like that over the next 10 minutes but it being early we still wanted to try and find more school fish with more numbers. Again we spent the next 2 hours driving and fishing break after break to no avail. On our next to last stop of the day we noticed the same things as earlier. In the middle of the channel there where scatter fishing 10 to 15 ft off the break in 20 to 25 ft of water. This time we stopped and backed up to the fish and we all brought our jigs up to him. Thump Adam got him, and then it clicked for me. They have left the breaks and are just cruising the channel right now, they’re scattered! We decided then and there to change our plan with the wind laying to dead calm, we spent the next two hours slowly working up the river channel stopping everything we saw a fish on our electronics suspended in the water column. With our high quality Garmin electronics we could see our jigs on our graph so every time we happened upon a fish we would stop, back up and everyone would raise their jig to be in the fishes zone. More times than not that would produce a big Glen Elder Crappie. Finally a pattern! I can say we ended up catching 22 keepers over 13 inches that evening with 2 kicker walleye with almost all of them coming on white and chartreuse. Not one fish that we caught was on accident, we spotted, targeted and worked each fish we caught. It didn’t produce the most number of fish we have ever had a on a fishing trip but it did produce a wealth of new knowledge and experience that none of us had expected. I have to say as we headed back to the dock, we all felt like we had accomplished something today. We earned every fish we caught today, we looked at what the lake was giving us and made something out of nothing. We finished off the night with our rubber match on the pitch table with Jeff and I coming out victorious, a bad day turned golden.
Saturday morning greeted us with no wind and high hopes. Mother Nature had other plans and by 9 am the SW wind at 25 was in full affect. We just couldn’t get a good hold on the fish in the wind so after only catching a few we decided to pack up and headed home. As we where pulling out of Glen none of us really wanted this trip to end so a plan quickly came together. Remember those fish we caught at Clinton, lets go see if they are still there. We pulled up to the lake about 2:45 knowing we had to be off the water by 6 pm in time to make it home for dinner, which was a short time to put something together on a lake. We quickly put the boat in and headed out to where we had left the fish a few days before, but quickly found it empty again. Off we went using the electronics to check the breaks but as with Glen Elder the fish just where not there. So why won’t the same pattern we used at Glen work on Clinton? Quickly Adam pulled into the channel and started working our way up and down the middle of the channel until we found them. We spent the next 2 hours trying to follow schools of fish up and down the channel using our lines, down vu, side vu and every other trick in the book. The end result was another 44 keepers in a short period of time.
This trip yielded the usual good times and stories but what we learned about the transitional patterns of crappie no matter the water temps really will leave a lasting impression on us for years to come.