Under the Open Sky: Cold Weather Crappie

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
Crappie fishing in the morning, writing about crappie fishing in the afternoon, and eating crappie for supper. Life is pretty good for this Outdoors reporter.
One of the perks of my Outdoors writing job is getting to go fishing. Yeah, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
And whenever someone asks me to go fishing with them? That’s the best perk and I always say yes.

I was especially excited when retired WDFW outreach coordinator and author of The Chronicle’s annual spring fishing report, Jim Byrd, asked if I would like to fish for crappie on Silver Lake with him. Would I ever.

A black crappie, pulled from the canals at the northeast side of Silver Lake Wednesday morning. "The crappie seem to congregate in these canals in the winter," said Jim Byrd, retired WDFW outreach specialist.

As one of my friends said, “That’s like getting asked to ride the range on horseback with Clint Eastwood.”
Jim Byrd laughed when I told him what my friend said, but he’s a humble man.

About Silver Lake
Silver Lake is famous for largemouth bass, several spring and summer tournaments are held here each year. Yellow perch, bluegill, and both black and white crappie are the target fish in the fall and early winter.
Located along the south side of HWY 504, between Castle Rock and Toutle, this 3,000 acre body of water is open for year-round fishing.
The lake is shallow.
“It doesn’t get much deeper than 8 or 9 feet,” said Byrd. “And this time of year, the crappie like to congregate in the canals.”

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. An elk hunter from Bremerton plies the waters edge at Silver Cove Resort on Silver Lake after a long morning's hunt, proving you don't need a boat to find crappie, perch and blue gill a plenty. "I spotted this place during the early season," he said, "so I went and bought a crappie pole to give me something to do after hunting." He and his friend took a nice batch of black crappie back to their campsite that afternoon.

Once they leave the canals, Byrd said, they’re hard to find again until April or May — “but if you can find them, you can catch them.”

Cruising the Canals
The narrow canals that run along the east side of the lake are narrow, and much of the way you seem to be fishing in somebody’s backyard.
Get out your trolling motor and ease your way around, casting a light 1/16 or 1/32 ounce jig under an light bobber into the water.
“Put the jig only about 2 to 3 feet under the bobber,” said Byrd. “Crappie don’t look down, but they’ll look up. If you set the bobber too deep you’ll miss them.”
Tip the jig with a tiny bite of Chroma-Glow Crappie Nibbles PowerBait.
“That’s the secret to getting the fish to bite,” said Byrd.
Use a slow, somewhat hesitant retrieve, giving the crappie (perch and bluegill) a chance to take the light gear under water.
Once you start hitting into some nice-sized crappie (minimum size for keepers is 9 inches), stick around, you’ll find plenty of their friends in the area.

A Beautiful Lake
Look for more fishing photos at my website, almostdailynews.com, including the views, the birds, and me, with my first Silver Lake black crappie of the day.

Driving Directions to WDFW Boat Ramp
From I-5 take exit 49, go east on SR 504 7.2 miles, turn right on Kerr Road, go 0.5 miles to access.
Or, from HWY 504, past the town of Toutle, turn left on Kerr Road.
Services include public fishing, boat access, fishing dock and restrooms.

Finding Crappie
Search through the canals to the north and east of the Kerr Road boat launch.
Two resorts are located along the banks of Silver Lake: Streeters Resort (http://streetersresort.com, 360-274-6112, located at 120 Lake Rd., Silver Lake) and Silver Cove Resort (www.silvercoveresort.com). Both parks have day use access to the lake.
Minimum size for crappie is 9 inches, with a daily limit of 10.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website at almostdailynews.com, find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.