They are not spectacular jumpers or particularly belligerent fighters, but crappies are among the most popular fish in our corner of Ohio.
Anglers target crappies from ice-out to ice-up, though the summer months are typically slow times for those who want to fill their freezers with fillets from the tasty panfish. Water temperatures at most of our area's reservoirs have dropped to the 60-degree range and the crappies are once again on the move to shallow spots where anglers can pick them off.
Mosquito Creek Reservoir is an especially productive crappie lake. Much of the serious crappie fishing there occurs in the spring as schools of fish move up to feed and spawn in the ample shallow-water cover all around Mosquito's perimeter.
Recent weeks have yielded nice crappie catches from the brush that remains in the water, as well as the Ohio 88 causeway. This week's Fish Ohio Report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resource's Division of Wildlife indicates the autumn night-bite has started at Mosquito.
Anglers stake out their favorite spots on the causeway and the wing walls at the south-end marina at Mosquito just before dark. Once the sun sets, they fire up lanterns and fish well into the evening hours.
Good catches of crappies in the 10- to 12-inch range can be expected. The most popular rigs include small jigs tipped with either minnows or maggots, as well as the always-productive slip bobber setups with a single hook baited with a small minnow.
It's a good idea to experiment with depth control. The fish sometimes are near the surface and other times are suspended anywhere from four to eight feet down.
The state sunk fish-attracting cover along the causeway's southwest side in late August and the crappies often can be found holding right in and next to the piles. Good fish also can be caught in the current that flows through the causeway's opening.
Similar tactics work equally as well at other local reservoirs such as Berlin, West Branch and Lake Milton. They all have excellent crappie populations, but the Mosquito fish are more apt to fall into the much-desired "slab" category.
The U.S. 224 causeway at Berlin, the Route 18 bridge at Milton and Rock Springs Road at West Branch are popular fishing spots for shore-bound anglers. Like Ohio 88 at Mosquito, the other causeways enable anglers to reach out to crappies well within casting distance.
In addition to the abundant crappies, anglers also can expect to catch bluegills and even walleyes. It's not uncommon, especially among those who fish after dark, to discover a much more stubborn fish fighting at the end of their crappie lines. A keeper walleye or two is a pretty nice bonus in a bucket full of slab crappies.
Fishermen who haven't stowed their boats for the winter find crappies on the shallow cover near deep water at area reservoirs. Bluff banks and long points that break near creek channels are good places to set out crappie baits.
The south bank at Berlin between the railroad trestle and the Ohio 14 bridge is always good for a few crappies, and the bluffs up beyond Ohio 14 are good, too.
Milton's numerous boat docks often hold nice schools of autumn crappies, and it's sometimes possible to fill the cooler after just a few stops. The marina at West Branch is also a good bet in fall.
If past years are any indication, the bite will improve as the water temps dip into the 50s, and the action will continue past Thanksgiving into the early days of December.