Two crappies for the bucket.
Robert Frost called early spring "mud time." Granted, there's a lot of it around, but the soggy dirt springs good stuff, like the best crappie bite of the season; the surest way under the sun to paint smiles on the mugs of folks itching to break cabin fever.
Last Friday morning I called a friend who prides himself as an Oneida Lake specialist, and asked him how the crappie fishing was. I could hear his teeth grind just before he growled "There ain't no crappy fishing around here."
Thinking he was off his rocker, I shot back, say what!!!??? Then it hit me he was probably just having a bad day and I explained, softly "You know, calicoes, man, strawberry bass."
"Oh, those guys," he replied, loosening the death grip that was causing his phone to make cracking sounds. "They should be hitting at Toad Harbor."
Seeing an opportunity to research two blog entries at once, I called my sweetie, Susan, invited her to go on a flower search with me (more about that in another posting later this week) and we set out for Three Mile Bay/Big Bay Wildlife Management Area, two individual parcels of public land covering 3,945 and 120 acres respectively, on the north end of Oneida lake.
You couldn't fit another car into the parking lot at the Department of Environmental Conservation's Toad Harbor fishing access site, even if you tried wedging it in sideways. My wait for a parking spot paid off a few minutes later when an angler and his adolescent daughter came down the trail, put their fishing tackle and a five-gallon pail holding about a dozen nine- to 11-inch crappies in the bed of his pick-up, and headed home for a Good Friday crappie dinner.
Toad Harbor has two man-made cuts into the swamp. The one right below the parking lot had some anglers but they had just started and didn't have anything to brag about.
I headed down the hard packed dirt trail. About 100 yards later I came to the second harbor. People were lined on all sides, and just about everyone boasted crappies.
Most were taken on small minnows; some responded to spikes and mousies. Everyone was fishing with bait suspended a foot or two below tiny bobbers.
The window on this bite isn't too wide and it'll probably shut in a week or so.
To get to Toad Harbor, Take I-81 to Central Square, exit 32. Head east for about two miles, turn south on Toad Harbor Road, then right on Shaw Road about three miles later, and follow it to the fishing access site on the right, just before the end of the road.
Angler's ring around Toad Harbor.
Crappie time at Toad Harbor: fun for the whole family!