Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pymatuning's smile shines on more than just walleye

JAMESTOWN, Pa. - Neither a fathead minnow impaled on a small jig nor an one-quarter ounce Road Runner bottom-spin lure could entice a Pymatuning Reservoir black crappie into biting.

Of course, Darl Black and I should have been there yesterday. Hey, wait a minute: Black WAS there yesterday.

A Pennsylvania outdoors writer who specializes in fishing, Black had cooked up a “Pymatuning Crappie Camp” fishing outing for a small group of like-minded journalists.

You don’t need to ring the bell twice for me to accept an invitation like that one. Especially when the subject is about angling for panfish in general and crappies in particular.

Forget those Pymatuning walleye. I’ll take a school of the 14,650-acre reservoir’s tight-knit spawning crappies any day of the week. In this case, that day was Tuesday.

And was the reservoir ever packed. Boats jammed gunwale to gunwale with eager anglers peppered the lake’s waters.

Among those playing hooky for the day was Dave Fury, judge for the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas. Fury enjoys fishing Pymatuning and has done well here, he said as he launched his well-aged boat and engine from the far southern Pennsylvania State Park launch ramp.

That’s the same ramp system from which Black sent several two-person teams of eager crappie anglers merrily on their way.

Black assigned me to his boat, a retrofitted dory that more typically is used by commercial watermen for doing stuff other than fishing.

In Black’s case he figured that his new boat could become a modified platform for inland lakes fishing challenges. There’s plenty of legroom in the craft though it’s seating arrangement currently consists of metal lids atop storage cubicles.

No problem as the floor arrangement allowed me to stand and stretch at my leisure. Such an exercise would prove risky in most any other vessel given my weighty poor center of gravity.

Black said we would start fishing a short distance from the boat launch. The location was just around a bend in the long lake. That is where a beaver has staked out a homesteading claim with the construction of its lodge.

“A friend of mine was here yesterday and he called to say he caught some really nice black crappies,” Black said in anticipation of numerous fish snacking on our offerings.

It was not to be, however. With a skinny-thin distance between our floats and their respective minnow-jig dinner plates, we worked at coaxing fish from the shallow-water tangle of strategically placed branches.

Nothing came calling, though: A mite stressing perhaps, but understandable. Pymatuning Reservoir is not

Thus, when it comes to bunched-up spawning crappies an angler easily can empty the pool before it can refill itself with new recruits. That’s likely what happened, Black opined.

Nor was I going to argue. After all, Black’s assessment made scientific sense. Likewise, I’ve also experienced first-hand this foundational principal of crappie fisheries management.

Thing was though that no matter where Black pointed his boat in the reservoir’s southern quadrant we were unable to locate hungry crappie. Or much else for that matter.

Even in the offsetting bay where the crumbling remains of a World War II-era torpedo testing facility still stands we failed to awaken any fish.

A mad dash - as if Black’s heavy boat really could sprint - to the Pennsylvania side of the reservoir failed to produce any crappie. Equally disappointing was that cell phone calls to other fish camp pairings indicated that in most cases the angling was slow elsewhere as well.

Which gave me time for my gaze to drift. During the course of the fishing day I had enjoyed spying several eagles flapping their way across the reservoir, an osprey looking for fish of its own to catch and a loon that had yet to skedaddle to its summer home somewhere in the North Woods.

By mid-afternoon we were back at the boat launch, waiting for the other crews to enter port.

Our faces had become tinted a rusty sort of hue while our energy levels were bleached some. But I could claim with the honesty of an honest angler that I had spent a right fine day on the water, thank you.

Even when a pair of our boys came in with a livewell bulging with hyper-active black crappies I was not terribly upset. A little, maybe, but not a whole bunch.

Envious, of course, because the pair regaled their non-stop crappie-fishing action that saw them catching about 150 fish, and thanking Black for first providing the exceptional where-to-go tip.

Some days are like that when you’re fishing, certainly. We’ve all been there as anglers and we’ll do so again.

With that being said, I really hope that my all-too-often dismal Pymatuning Reservoir fishing experiences have now reached their final designated terminal.

I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next train and hope that Black will give his most-excellent and well-executed idea a second run on the tracks.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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