Wednesday, April 24, 2013


    Two weeks ago, spring sprung.  Air temperatures are clinging to the 70s; and water temperatures, making progress towards 60.  The shadberry has bloomed, and fish are beginning to spawn.  The action yearned for through the winter is here and waxing quickly.
Springtime crappie, in all stages of the spawn, are very
predictable.  Photo by Genevieve Reilly.

    It was my dedicated fishing partner and brother, Phillip, who made the request:  “I want to catch something I’ve never caught before.”  Quicker than the leaves popped, my mind was full of crappie.

    Several lakes within an hour’s drive of our Fluvanna County home offer quality crappie angling, Lake Anna and Lake Orange being the most predominant, often yielding fish larger than a pound.  And with the spawning ritual well under way, these fish are very predictable.

    As I am more familiar with Lake Anna, we planned to paddle the lake’s Pamunkey branch the following day.

    After a late-morning start, we arrived at Fish Tales Tackle Shop at Anna Point Marina around 10 O’ clock.  With our ‘yaks in the truck, the plan was to launch at Hunter’s Landing on the Pamunkey, and fish coves—after stocking up.

    The clerk at the counter introduced a man whose name escapes me, but who introduced himself as the tournament partner of Chris Craft, a guide on the lake (CC BASSN Laka Anna Guide Service).  He gave us the scoop on the crappie movements, and set us up with the Kalin grubs that have produced so well as of late.  “Fish along the grass lines,” he advised, “and retrieve slowly.”

    Less than an hour later, we were on fish.  Phillip found them first.  In the back of a shallow cove, a small school hid itself among some wooden boat docks and provided our first keeper.

    It’s very rare that I don’t forget something.  This time, (besides my kayak’s drain plug that I patched with duct tape and a 3D glasses wrapper) it was ice for the cooler.  So upon returning from the No Wake Zone convenience store at Hunter’s Landing, we opted to abandon the smallish school in the back of the cove and pursue some with more table and trophy value.

    We found just that when my brother, again, came through.  A solid 12-incher came from the end of a boat slip adjacent to a patch of grass.

    As the sun climbed to its apex in the sky, the fishing slowed.

    After searching a few docks on the main river, it was evident that shade was a necessary factor, and not just that which was offered by the docks.  So we made the move to one in a slight inset of the bank, surrounded by trees.  As I had hoped, we were fast to several more keeper fish, and the pattern became more defined.

    The majority of fish were between 8-10 inches; but several measured 12, with the largest being 13—Phillip’s, caught on a dock bordered by shallow grass.

    This remained the pattern for the larger fish; and though it seemed our average catch would have been larger had we fished grass edges, I couldn’t recall the location of any significant grass beds, and because we were dependent upon ourselves for power, and were consistently boating table-worthy fish, we decided the effort was unnecessary.  We kept fishing docks.

    Several of these structures provided numerous keeper-sized fish.  One in particular produced seven over 11 inches.

    It is also worthy of note that the structures that are most light-restricting (hint: the ones with garage doors) fish best at midday when the sun is the highest, provided you can skip a jig far enough under it.

    The kayaks provided a critical edge in this way.  At a lower angle, with a smaller craft and presence, one can get closer without spooking fish, and launch a lure several feet into the shade of a dock.

    I also came to appreciate the “restrictive” nature of the man-powered craft on the expansive lake.  In a bass boat, the angler is free to motor about looking for fish, whereas the kayak fisherman is forced to fish areas thoroughly as a result of wind drift and the effort required to move large distances.  Fishing “smaller” has its rewards.

Of course, catch a mess of specks, and you've got a mess of
cleaning to do!  A good scaler can do wonders here.
Photo by Genevieve Reilly.
    We packed in after five hours of fishing.  Of almost 80 “specks,” 22 slabs were in the cooler, and will make for a nice campfire meal in weeks to come.  If you’re looking for a close-to-home crappie fishing destination, don’t count ‘Anna out.  Fish in numbers and size can be caught; and the local authorities are friendly and ready to help.  Look for structure—docks, grasslines, and rock piles.  If kayak fishing, don’t be intimidated by traffic from bigger boats—stick to the bank, and wear a life jacket. 

    If you’ve got pictures, success stories, or both, send them in via the Facebook page or the contact link on the blog!

First published in The Rural Virginian

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