Saturday, December 14, 2013

December Meet & Greet - Occoquan Crappie

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Today was the December Meet & Greet for the MKF forum.  When we met to organize the Meet & Greet schedule for 2013 back in January, I suggested that we have a Meet & Greet at the Occoquan for December...give the VA anglers a break from all the MD fishing locations that had been picked for the rest of the year.  The group thought that was a good idea, and further, they thought it'd be a good idea to have me host it too.  Doh!  Well, it wasn't that bad...all I was responsible for was picking a time, and picking a lunch spot.  We met at 8AM at the Occoquan Regional Park, and we were to have lunch at Dixie Bones BBQ at 1PM.

Leading up to today, the weather forecast was looking pretty grim...snow and ice were expected, but winds were supposed to be light, and the temperature wasn't going to be too bad.  But the chance of snow and ice was enough to keep most of the more careful anglers home.  Suddenly our attendance list of a dozen or so dropped to 4.  No matter!  I have fished in worse weather, and I wasn't going to back out as the host.

No snow! No rain! No wind!  Weather conditions couldn't have been better.

Luckily, the weather today was not bad, and I was pretty comfortable on the water until around when lunchtime came around, when I felt really cold.  I definitely have fished in worse conditions, and was glad to have been able to get out on the water today.  There were 5 of us from the forum that fished today, but I feel terrible as the host, as most people finished the day without a fish on the stringer.  I was the only one to go home with fish today.

The view from under the docks.

I started out fishing by the docks of the marina across the creek from the park.  The water level was pretty low today, which allowed me to paddle under the docks and navigate through the slips without risk of scratching up any of those nice boats.  I wasn't marking anything on my fishfinder and didn't get any hits on my chartreuse and red tube jig.  I gave up on the docks shortly after that, and went to the 95 bridge where I've caught most of my larger crappie at the Occoquan.

A technique I picked up from my friend Mike is to always have a line in the water.  He always catches fish on his fishing rod that's just sitting behind him with some kind of bait on it.  Today, I used some minnows that Ryan brought to share for today's fishing trip, and made sure to keep lively minnows in the water while I jigged with my lures.  This paid off once I figured out where the fish were.  When I was paddling around, I could see marks that looked like fish around 10 feet below the surface, so I used my fish finder to figure out how many cranks of the reel are required to get my minnow up from the bottom to 10 feet.  I would position the minnow at the right depth, and just sit it in my RAM rod holder.  I caught 4 of my 6 crappie of the day on the minnows.  The crappie weren't too aggressive with the minnows...every time I would only know I had a fish by observing the line moving away from me in the water.  The rod wasn't jumping or anything from the hits.

I had a lot of minnows, and I knew I wouldn't be needing minnows again for a while, so at one point I thought I'd try chumming the smaller minnows to try to draw the fish toward my line.  I think it might have worked...because I caught fish(twice) shortly after sending down the minnows.  By the end of the day, I had a stringer of pretty large crappie (for me), including a personal best size of 13 inches.  I think Ryan was the only other person to catch a fish, and I think he used the same technique that I used with the minnows.

Biggest bunch of crappie I've ever caught...

We all packed it up around 1PM and headed to Dixie Bones to eat some lunch and talk about fishing.  I love these Meet & Greets!  You fish, you eat, and you talk about fishing...  However, I hope not to host any Meet & Greets next year.  I'm a terrible host - the fishing was horrible today.  The fish played very hard to get, and the muddy <1' visibility water did not help.  On the bright side, I did have a cooler full of fish for tonight's dinner, and I think I'm starting to get better at interpreting the cryptic code that is displayed by my fish was my first time successfully using it to find and catch fish.

I'm also itching to get back to some saltwater....I would like to make a trip to the Norfolk area again soon.