OUTDOORS COLUMN: Call 'em what you will

Bob Kornegay

Bob Kornegay

Crappie fishermen are strange animals. I say that knowing there are thousands of anglers who might take offense. On the other hand, since I occasionally fish for crappies myself and am possibly the strangest animal of all, there is probably little need in my worrying about rebuttal.

One reason crappie anglers are unusual is that they addictively pursue a most unusual fish. The crappie is a true enigma. He is among the most sought-after fish species in America, pursued by scores of fishermen, few of whom can agree on what to call him.

Technically, there are two kinds of crappies: black and white. Simple? Guess again. A black crappie is silver with black spots. A white crappie? Yep, he’s silver with black spots, too. Experts tell me you have to count the spines in the dorsal fin to tell the difference. Most crappie anglers will never know. Clumsily, we seldom get past three or four before running a spine through one or more fingers. Besides, it’s rather foolish to sit there counting fin rays while the other guy in the boat is catching fish.

To further complicate matters, a crappie isn’t always a crappie. What he is depends totally on where he is at the time. For instance, I drive 100 miles north and he’s a “croppy.” Forty miles south, I’m catching speckled perch or just plain “specks.” He is a white perch in the Mississippi Delta, and I’ve even heard the occasional Yankee refer to him as a calico bass. Finally, in south Louisiana they pursue sac au lait, meaning “bag of milk.” What we’re dealing with is a fish with an identity crisis. Small wonder crappie fishermen can also be psychologically imbalanced.

Crappie anglers complain about a lack of brush and snags in a lake because crappies relate to that type of structure. Let them find a stump line or treetop on the depth finder and they’re happy as cows in clover. Let them snag a couple of jigs in the submerged debris and they cuss about being hung up all the time. Come January, they’ll load their boats with used Christmas trees and motor out to sink them in a likely spot where they can once again get together to cuss and complain. Old Freud and his cohorts would have had a field day analyzing crappie fisherman behavior.

Crappie anglers like to fish at night. The advantage to this is that the fish are often more active and the fishermen more comfortable after sundown. There’s also a definite disadvantage. It is called darkness.

Anyone who grows up with monsters under his bed and boogeymen in his closet knows full well there are things in the dark that’ll get you. Grownups on the water after dark should realize this as well. Stumps fast-rooted along the shoreline in daylight will uproot and replant themselves directly in front of your boat. Turn on your running lights and the owls and bats show up in droves. It’s like Pearl Harbor without the noise. The bats chase mosquitoes around your head while the owls chase the bats. For every crappie caught night fishing, there are 3 stump punctures in your boat, 100 mosquito bites on your arms, and one long gash across your face from an errant swipe by a nearsighted owl.

Yep, crappie fishermen are strange animals. The object of their obsession lures them every fall and spring in uncanny, drug-like fashion. Sorry to say, there is no known cure. Their actions simply must be tolerated with empathy and patience.

So, ladies, take heart. If your spouse is now exhibiting what you consider rather offbeat behavior, the cause is not likely male menopause or an extramarital affair. It’s just those darned old crappies (or croppys or white perch or specks or calico bass or sac au lait). You see, they tend to bunch up in shallow water about this time every year. Just hand the poor guy his minnow bucket and let him go. He’ll be back in due time.