‘Crappie Mania’ is at Lake Isabella and at waters all across the state
By JIM MATTHEWS
“It’s crappie mania at Lake Isabella, and all over the state,” said Clay Rutledge at Bob’s Bait Bucket in Bakersfield. “I haven’t seen a bite like this in a very long time.”
Crappie Mania is an infrequent event. It takes a set of circumstances over a period of time when two things happen. First, the water conditions must be idea for crappie to spawn. Second, one or two years after that spawn, the water and weather conditions must be ideal again so all the fish from the spawn one or two years previous pack into the shallows en masse to spawn again.
When that one-two punch of circumstances is delivered, the crappie fishing is spectacular. Most lakes and reservoirs have at least a decent spawn of crappie most years, and most years at least a few of the spawned fish survive to provide pretty decent fishing. Some years most of the fish caught are 10 to 12 inchers. Some years just a few bigger fish in the 1 ½ to two-pound range are caught. Most years, it’s just a smattering of all sizes. Crappie Mania occurs when conditions are ideal for big spawns, water conditions are ideal to grown lots of fish to bigger sizes, and then anglers experience a year like this one.
This is a Crappie Mania season at Lake Isabella, and many other waters across the region, where water conditions have been good for spawns each of the past two years. The result for anglers has been 25-fish limits, and a lot of 1 ½ to 2 ½-pound crappie on those stringers.
Larry Bottroff, the former Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who managed the San Diego City Lakes for several decades in the late 1900s and into this century, was an expert of crappie because he was able to do controlled mark and catch studies on the lakes he managed. Bottroff discovered that crappie populations in most reservoirs in California are very cyclic in nature.
“The only way we could have consistently good crappie fishing is to be able to control the water levels in the spring and summer,” said Bottroff a number of years ago. That just never happens in most of the state’s reservoirs and lakes which are managed based on human water needs.
He also said that crappie numbers frequently crash after a major boom year, with 95 percent of the population either caught by anglers or dying off naturally – and the fishing pressure didn’t seem to be a factory in the dieoff. On lakes with no fishing pressure, after a boom the population still crashed. So Bottroff was always a big believer in letting the angling public know when the crappie were flourishing and allowing them to harvest the fish.
Bottroff was also behind a 2,000-crappie plant in 1989 that brought Florida-strain crappie to Lake Isabella where fish up to three-plus pounds have been caught in the past two weeks. In a story written by the late Rick Bean in 1989, he quoted Bottroff as saying, "if you have good water conditions and a good spawn, you'll get good crappie fishing. A badly stressed population isn't going to reproduce as well as a healthy one.”
"Simply stocking another 2,000 crappie in an already stressed environment isn't a cure-all. On the other hand, there's good reason to believe that the same conditions which produced a faster-growing bass in Florida did the same for this strain of black crappie.
“We had very good results with them in rebuilding the crappie fishery in Otay Reservoir. The crappie population there was almost nonexistent. We stocked Florida-strain crappie there in 1985, and now you regularly hear of hefty catches of crappie," said Bottroff.
While Lake Isabella may be seeing the best bite right now, other waters will good to excellent crappie fishing right now include Lake Success, Lake Nacimento, and Lopez Lake. The Lake Silverwood bite appears to be exploding for the first time in a very long time and Lake Cachuma has signs it might have a crappie mania bite this spring.
“My bait guy said that he is hearing about crappie bites all the way from Northern California here to Lake Isabella,” said Rutledge. “We have a lot of water for a change, and it’s going to be a good fishing year.”
LADWP reports Eastern Sierra
Snowpack 171 percent of normal
The Eastern Sierra Nevada snowpack is 171 percent of normal, according to final snowpack surveys done by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) hydrographers last week. In comparison, the snowpack registered at 66 percent of normal in 2018, and 203 percent in 2017, which was the second wettest year on record.
This bodes well for Eastern Sierra fishing waters for the 2019 fishing season, which kicks off on most waters beginning April 27. However, the long, wet winter is likely to leave many of the higher elevations waters still covered with ice for opening weekend.
High Desert Shooting
Fun Fair will be April 27
The Eighth Annual High Desert Shooting Fun Fair will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Lucerne Valley Lions Club & Shooting Range just off Highway 18 in Lucerne Valley. There is free admission and parking to the event, and everyone who attends can shoot of wide variety of rifles, handguns, and shotguns for only the cost of ammunition, which will be provided at the event.
There will also be live music, a host of vendors of firearms and other related products, food, and a large raffle. All proceeds will go to the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation and Cooper Home.
For more information, call 951-347-0862 or visit www.lvlionsclub.com.
Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-887-3444.