Fly fishing gear

Anderson: Walleyes are tasty – but crappie and sunglasses are more fun

Two questions about the 1965 designation by the Legislative Assembly of walleye as a state fish:

First, why did it take so long?

And two – and more relevant to today’s discussion – why was walleye chosen over crappie? Or, for that matter, “sunfish”, a catch-all term that in Minnesota includes green sunfish, orange spotted sunfish, bluegill sunfish, sunfish, sunfish north, the warmouth and their hybrids?

What, after all, is more fun to fish and/or catch: sunglasses and crappie – or walleye?

Of course, the answer to that last question is, “It depends on the time of year.”

Which means that in the spring and early summer, when sunfish (another catch-all term that, for present purposes, means “sunnies and crappie”) are in shallow water, they are by far among the most “fun” fish to hunt for, surpassing not only walleyes in this regard, but most if not all other game fish in Minnesota.

The reason: The action of crappie and sunnie in the spring can be so fast that sometimes bait isn’t even needed to trigger a bite. Often a small tube jig with a bare hook, or even a colored jig without a tube is all an angler needs to catch those tasty morsels.

I was thinking about it the night before the walleye opened, when my wife, Jan, and I stopped en route to Winnibigoshish for a few hours of crappie fishing.

It was as much his idea as mine, in part because his late mother, Odile “Sunny” Netko, was an avid panfish fisherman, and in that regard, the two were cut from the same cloth.

Sunny, in his later years, suffered from macular degeneration and was legally blind. But when Jan and I took her out on the Whitefish Chain, where she had a cabin, she could see a bobber on her line if she dropped it directly off the side of my boat. and if she draped herself over the gunwale to get as close to the water as possible without falling in.

Despite her bad eyesight, she knew how to hook it when her bobber disappeared. And she did.

The day before walleye opened, due to high winds, Jan and I were forced to fish for crappie on the lee side of the lake we had chosen. In those first tries we were unlucky and for a while it looked like we would go without a fish.

Then on a little lark, trying a remote spot, we found a honey hole that kept us busy catching and releasing crappie for about 30 minutes.

The action was so quick that once I took a video of Jan casting, intending to then focus on his bobber to watch him go down, before Jan put the hook in.

But the bobber went below the surface before I could even locate it in the sight.

As a child my first experiences with spring crappie action were in the Perham-Frazee-Vergas area. My grandfather was a Methodist minister serving churches in each of these towns, and when we visited in the summer, my brother, dad and I – in addition to hearing the same sermon three times on Sundays – struck one of many panfish lakes nearby and often return with poop and sunglasses limits.

I also feasted on crappie, big ones, when Upper Red was having its crappie explosion. Also a few years ago, Dave Vesall, the retired head of the DNR (and his predecessor, the Department of Conservation) and I fished for sunglass and crappie with fly rods, casting small poppers on pencil reeds while standing in knee-deep water, wearing waders.

A few years ago when Pelican Lake near Orr was going wild with sunny action, I also joined Dave and Betty a few times.

As further proof of the hold sunglasses and crappie can have on anglers, consider that a few years ago when Jan’s mother was in a nursing home, Jan and our two sons stopped to see her on her way home after a spring crappie and sunnie. exit.

Grandma couldn’t see much by then, but she smiled like she’d been given a new set of eyes when the boys brought their catch of shit to her room and held one inches from her. her face so she could make out the outline. , and touch.

She was even happier when the boys fried some shit for her lunch, using a portable stove outside.

Yet for all the fun of angling that sunglasses and crappie provide, there are still issues regarding each. The main one is that they are overfished, largely, historically, due to overly liberal limits.

Attempting to rectify this and grow bigger sunglasses and shit, DNR managers in recent years have reduced everyone’s limits. Here, a careful reading of fishing regulations is in order, as special sunnie and/or crappie harvesting restrictions now apply to no less than 250 lakes, including 52 that were added this spring as part of the MNR’s Quality Sunfish initiative.

Andrew Lake in Douglas County, for example, has a Daily sunfish limit of 10, while Annie Battle Lake in Otter Tail County has a possession limit of five sunglasses.

As for crappie, five of a minimum size of, say, 10 inches, should be enough for any individual angler to avoid a trip. Ditto, depending on their size, sunfish.

Such restraint, increasingly mandated by DNR regulations, should over time increase the average size of these wonderful and delicious fish, ensuring that future generations of anglers can create and savor their own memories of sunshine and of crappie.