Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Occoquan River Crappie

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Earlier this week, AbuMasgouf from the MKF forum suggested we try to coordinate our schedules to fish the Occoquan for some crappie together.  Since my trip earlier this week was not too successful, my wife was gracious to let me go once again.  My in-laws are arriving today too, so if I do well we can have fish for dinner - they would love that.

I took the OK Prowler today.

I met AbuMasgouf at the launch at 9AM and we were on the water by 9:30.  This was his first time fishing at the Occoquan, and also his first time fishing for crappie.  I'm only 2 trips ahead of him, so I didn't really have much insight to offer.  However, with all the knowledge we gathered from my past experience, some tips from other boaters, and from forum posts we wanted to see how we might do. 

First crappie of the day

We paddled across the river to the first marina we could find and hit up the docks to see what we might jig up.  I had my fishfinder today, so I was able to use it to determine the depths and kind of see where the fish are.  Within the first 10 minutes I hooked up with the first crappie of the day, and it wasn't a bad one at 10 inches.  I could tell today would be much better than my previous trip.

One of the large bluegills that were around

We stuck around the area for maybe and hour and a half or two hours.  We both hooked up with a couple more crappie and some monster bluegills.  AbuMasgouf caught the biggest bluegill I've ever seen...I think it was around 11 inches.  I also caught one that was almost as big.  Earlier in the morning the crappie seemed to hit the jig going sideways (cast and reel it in).  And the bluegills I caught were hooked when jigging vertically slowly near the bottom (Those bluegills seemed to give a better fight than the crappie).  However, after a while they stopped hitting the grubs and the fishing slowed.

I caught this guy at some point in the day
We decided to try some other areas, so we went off in search of more fish.  I paddled back and forth across the channel to try to find some fish on my fishfinder, but couldn't register any on the screen.  I later found out this was probably a bad way to find fish.  We paddled all the way to the last marina before the opening of the river, where I had had some success in the spring when I first tried for some crappie.  We still couldn't hook up with any there, and it was getting to be time for AbuMasgouf to head out so we went back to our original honey hole to give it one more shot before calling it quits.

On the way over, I met the boater that I had talked to on Monday, and asked how he was doing.  He was jigging by the bridge pilings, and he said he was doing awesome - he even just caught 8 decent sized crappie in the past 10 minutes.  What the heck were we doing wrong????  He held up his red and chartreuse grub and told us that the fish aren't hitting anything else.  Well, that stinks because I don't have any grubs in that color combination.  We thanked him for his advice and went back to the honey hole.  We jigged around for a good half hour before AbuMasgouf headed home.  I was determined to catch some more crappie, so I paddled back to the bridge to see if I could catch some more fish.

The largest of the day
While paddling to the bridge, I checked my phone to see if my wife had tried to contact me, and to check my e-mail.  I noticed that someone had responded to my thread on the MKF forum with some tips.  Basically, it said "The crappie are around every structure in the river.  The hard part is finding where the big ones are schooled up."  Every structure huh....I had mainly been concentrating on the open areas in the lanes between docks in the marinas.  I didn't fish too much directly next to the docks and piers.  I took this advice and the boater's tip and jigged my white-chartreuse grub right up against the pilings of the bridge.  On my first try I pulled up the nice 12 incher pictured above.  It's working!  For the next hour or so I slowly jigged my grub up and down next to the piling.  I also let the current drift me around to get the horizontal action in the grub.  Doing this got me hooking up with fish pretty regularly.  I ended up putting a few more keepers in my cooler by doing this.

Packed a little more than last time, but still pretty light

Around 3:00, I was getting tired from paddling around so I decided to head back in.  While packing up I met the boater again, and we talked about our day.  He mentioned that most of the day he was getting his hits by jigging up and down slowly near the bottom, and that he wasn't getting any hits by swimming his jigs.  That is pretty close to the experience I had today.  I'm glad that the pattern I used was also what another angler had used too.  He also gave me some tips about some locations where he said he consistently caught some 12-14 inchers...but I'll keep that to myself this time =).

Today's catch scaled and gutted
At home I cleaned the fish and wrapped them in foil to put some of them on the grill.  It turned out okay - I did it this way to avoid having to pull out the frying pan...but I wish I had pan fried them instead.  With the foil they came out more like steamed fish and I didn't season it well enough.  My parents-in-law still finished all of their portions though!

This guy's bigger than my son's head!

It was a fun day fishing for these panfish, and I met a new angler friend in AbuMasgouf.  I'm looking forward to getting back to the Occoquan to hopefully figure out the pattern earlier in the day to get into more fish.

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