Spring Spillway Crappie


Ahhhh…..spillway fishing is the kind of thing dreams are made of when the wind chill is in the negatives and there’s a foot of snow on the ground. Its the kind of thing that finishes the sentence, “I can’t wait till it warms up so we can do some….” It’s fast, furious and fleeting–fishing’s spring fling.

Finally, the time was nigh. April rains had lifted the reservoir above its banks, sending a cascade of warm surface water down the overflow. When conditions are right, there’s an air of danger about fishing a spillway. The currents are such that one false step could mean at best a cold, wet day; at worst a fight for your life. Attempting to swim against a raging current with water-logged waders is an exercise in futility.

A warm front had settled in, making for prime conditions. I rolled out of bed before dawn, threw my gear in the truck,and a donut and bad cup of gas station coffee later I was pitching jigs into a swirling eddy. The first hour of light was perfect. Fish were stacked up shallow in the eddies, readily taking white curly tail jigs on a 1/16 oz head. A small clip bobber set a couple feet deep was the ticket. A crappie will always rise but seldom drop to hit a lure.

Once the sun rose the crappie went deeper. I began to cast upstream, allowing the jig to come back to me, keeping a tight line while bouncing it off the bottom. The bite slowed, but remained steady. I kept 25, an even mix of black and white crappie, none under 10 inches, none over a foot. A damn near perfect day.


P1020024(1)I returned a few days later to find the water level had dropped significantly; and with it the action. I managed a few respectable crappie, some bluegill, and a fat flathead that proved to be a handful on light tackle. It inhaled my Zoom grub so deeply I had to cut my line. Spillways can be a grab bag of fish: you’ll find an eclectic mix of lake and riverine species.  Hopefully Mother Nature will bless us with another deluge with some warm weather. In the mean time, I see some pan-fried crappie in my future. If only I had some morels to go with them….


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