This has been the best spring in some time for crappie fishing at Chautauqua Lake. So why go anywhere else?
Just for a change of scenery, try crappie fishing at the Allegheny Reservoir.
Granted, I do not spend a lot of time fishing for crappie at the Allegheny Reservoir. Still, I have yet to encounter another angler fishing for crappie. When Pennsylvania anglers cross the New York border into Seneca water, they usually are in pursuit of walleye. It was while fishing for walleye that I reconnected with crappie at the reservoir.
Like many local anglers, I had fished for crappie at the Allegheny Reservoir when they were booming along with walleye and perch, when the reservoir was much younger. But the big walleye that were common then lured me away from crappie. I hardly noticed when crappie fishing declined.
It was a few years after the fishery collapsed that I was invited to stay at a cabin, at High Banks. While we were there, my wife, Jeri, and I caught crappie consistently from a brush pike that lay at the edge of the water immediately over the bank from our cabin.
But for one reason or another, several years passed before I returned to catch crappie there again, as I just mentioned, while targeting walleye.
Not much time passed then before I returned to target crappie. The result was one of the best days of crappie fishing I have had since the good old days at Chautauqua Lake, in the 1970s. We caught numerous crappie, both black crappie and white crappie, that ranged in size from 12 inches to over 15 inches. I fished hard, trying to catch one to get mounted. That did not happen, but I sure had a lot of fun trying. I got very close.
Crappie are scattered around the Allegheny Reservoir now, or so I have heard. But since I have been able to consistently find them in the Seneca part of the lake, this is where I have concentrated my crappie fishing.
During late spring, crappie can be found in flooded brush and other clumps of wooden debris along the banks. The best places are immediately adjacent to relatively deep water.
During June, crappie can be found suspended in the main channels. The areas where we caught them were adjacent to brush along shore where we caught them earlier. These suspended crappie are easy to spot on a sonar screen. They are mid-size marks, sometimes as single fish, most often in loose groups. They may be suspended at several different depths at the same time, starting at a depth of about 4 feet and from there anywhere down to bottom. Our best results have come with baited jigs set at 8 feet and 12 feet.
Usually we tip jigs with shiners, when we can get them. Pieces of nightcrawler might be better bait for targeting black crappie.
This is typical summertime crappie behavior. You can find crappie the same way at Chautauqua Lake, particularly in the narrows between Stowe and Bemus Point. One of the best places is around bridge abutments below Interstate 86. Lower jigs right alongside the abutments.
This pattern holds right through fall. We have used it to make good catches of crappie at Lake Wilhelm and at Raccoon Creek Lake.
Down at Pymatuning Lake, which may have been the best crappie lake in northwest Pennsylvania over the past few years, crappie often can be found suspended over sunken creek channels, which are the deeper water in that lake.
Shallower baits we set away from the boat using slip bobbers. Deeper baits are set vertically below the boat. This allows the baits to be jigged, which often triggers hits.
Since crappie are not congregated in a small area while they are suspended, either wind drifting or trolling very slowly with an electric motor should be the most effective ways to fish. It seems that most often the wind is moving parallel to the shoreline which makes drift fishing convenient.
Just about every time we have fished for crappie on Seneca water we have hooked pike. Usually they have cut the 4 pound-test line that is rigged on crappie outfits. So if you want to catch a pike, bring along a few larger minnows and a heavier outfit. It would seem to be a high percentage proposition.
It is crappie, though, that interest me now. But ask some other time and I might prefer pike.