(ROCKWALL, TX – April 5, 2017) Crappie fishing was the Easter egg hunting of my teenage years and each spring when the water thawed, I couldn’t wait to catch the “paper-mouthed poissons.” After my baseball practice and Dad saw his last Saturday patient, we’d jump in the van and speed up to our cabin at Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee. Upon a stop at the last Kroger for 40 miles, we arrived stocked with bear claw danishes and hamburger fixings ready to embark on our favorite spots.
For the non-angling reader, crappie are the creme de la creme of panfish. Different than the feisty little bream or the iconic largemouth bass, crappie are social, traveling in schools that can fill a cooler when they bite. Their milky-white flesh is delicate and tasty, especially when it’s battered and fried golden-brown. As they ready to spawn (lay their eggs), they’ll frenzy by the hundreds and when that happens you’ll have a hard time keeping up with their appetite. By April each year, the open water at Reelfoot looks like a parking lot with all the boats vying for the fish’s attention.
So during these months, we packed and drove to our home away from home for multiple weekends on the cool water. We’d buy a bucket of minnows, rig four to six long poles, and putter out to the deeper water where we had last heard they’d schooled. We set all the poles at once, the boat resembling a floating TV antennae, with a pole in a rod holder strategically spaced every few feet, and then we’d wait for the masses to show. The cork would bob, the pole doubled, and it was nearly a chain reaction. Pole after pole bouncing with a fish fighting to get off while we paced back and forth between them, taking off fish, re-baiting, putting hook back to water. At times it was the outdoor version of the famous I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel worked, attempting to wrap chocolates coming down a speeding conveyor belt. Soon they were overwhelmed, chocolates falling all over the floor, Ethel shoving them her mouth, Lucy stuffing them in her shirt. Dad and I had intersected with that perfect moment of Springtime, that moment where new life bombarded us, and as we pulled the crappie off the hooks, we giggled at the craziness of tangled lines, flopping fish, and slippery minnows.
Who knows when that spring new-life moment arrives? Maybe it’s the second you notice the white blooms on the dogwood, or when you jump at the crack of the bat as the ballplayer rounds the bases? Maybe it’s the April day you dress in your Sunday best to hear of the Resurrection and the kids hunt prize-filled eggs? April is about new beginnings, renewed life, and it’s full of those moments that can renew a soul. So when you hear that singing bird, or sit in that pew, or catch that mess of fish, breathe a prayer of thanks; it’ll be worth the moment.
By Scott Gill of Rockwall, teacher, coach and author of Goliath Catfish. Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.
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