Skip to main content

Abundance and Size of Crappies make Eastern Kansas a Fishing Paradise

Abundance and Size of Crappies make Eastern Kansas a Fishing Paradise
Abundance and Size of Crappies make Eastern Kansas a Fishing Paradise

LAWRENCE, Kan. (MCT) - The way Chatt Martin sees it, he picked the right place to live.

His hometown, Lawrence, may be better known for the University of Kansas and college basketball, but it also is the capital of the state's crappie fishing, Martin will tell you.

And when you love to catch crappies as much as Martin does, that puts you in the right neighborhood.

"I have five lakes I can get to within an hour - Perry, Clinton, Hillsdale, Melvern and Pomona," said Martin, a crappie fishing guide. "Those are some of the best lakes Kansas has to offer. They're all known for their crappie fishing.


"So I have a lot of options at this time of the year. If the crappies aren't biting at one lake, I can usually find another option."


Martin was testing those options the first week of May.

He started by guiding two fishermen to an outstanding day of fishing at Perry Lake. The next day, he hopped to Clinton and found even better success.

He started by searching for spawning fish in the coves of the Wakarusa arm. That met with only minimal success.

But when he moved to the shallows off a main-lake point - a rocky area that had some brush - he sampled the type of fishing that has given Kansas fame.


Slowly retrieving a tube jig under a bobber, he watched as the float twitched slightly. When he set the hook, he felt the heavy tug of a big crappie.

"I've been crappie fishing in Kansas for a long time, but I still get a thrill over feeling that little tap," Martin said as he tossed the 13-inch fish in the live well of his boat. "I fish for crappies year-round. But I never get tired of it.

"I just love fishing for them."


Martin has plenty of company during May in Kansas.

That's the month when spring fever hits its peak in the Sunflower State. That's when the crappies leave their deepwater haunts and head for the shallows to spawn.

Once the water temperature gets into the 60s, the fish will congregate along the banks. And that can result in some of the best fishing of the year.

Martin proved that on a recent outing. After he used his trolling motor to maneuver his boat through some flooded timber and into the shallows, he located every crappie fisherman's dream - a school of big fish.

He and two fishing partners - Bob Roberts of Salina and I - spent more than an hour catching keeper crappies at Clinton. By late morning, Martin estimated his group had caught more than 50 crappies, many of them the large fish that everyone seeks.

An unusual day? Nah. Martin is accustomed to such success at this time of the year.

"When the fish are in and the spawn is at its peak, it's not unusual for a boat to catch 50 to 75 crappies," he said. "And with the females full of eggs, this is the time when you have a shot at a trophy fish."

Martin can offer proof. He remembers a spring day at Council Grove Lake when he landed two 3-pound crappies within five minutes of each other.

"The fish that weighed 3.2 pounds is the biggest I've ever taken in Kansas," he said.

Fish like that, of course, are rare. But Martin knows the Kansas reservoirs are loaded with crappies in the three-quarters to 1-pound range. And that's what he's searching for on warm spring days.

"Cold fronts are the biggest problem in the spring. They will back crappies off the banks for a while," Martin said. "And the wind can cause problems, too.

"But when you have some warm, stable weather, the fish will stay in the shallows and you can really catch them."

So why are the eastern-Kansas reservoirs so good? Fisheries biologists cite the fact that they're fertile, they have thriving shad populations and they have good spawning habitat in the form of gravel and rocky banks.

After almost 25 years of fishing Kansas reservoirs, Martin has devised some reliable methods to catch those spawning crappies.

He often positions his boat so he is within casting distance of the first dropoff. Then he will slowly work a tube jig under a slip bobber along cover.

"The bobber allows you to keep that jig in front of the fish longer," he said.

Martin also will use a long pole and slowly troll along the banks. He will use a bobber stop as a marker for how much line to have in the water.

"That way, I can cover a lot of water," he said.

But Martin knows each day can be different at this time of the year. A depth or a lure color that worked one day might not the next.

So Martin starts by trying to determine a pattern. Once he determines what depth the fish are holding at and what color they prefer, he applies it to other banks he fishes. And more often than not, that results in success.

With the erratic weather, Martin has found inconsistent fishing this spring. A cold front last week backed the crappies off the bank and made the fishing tougher. But with warm weather expected this week, Martin looks for the crappies to be back in the shallows.

"I think we still have some good fishing ahead of us," he said. "May is always a good month in Kansas."

© 2008, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel

In-Fisherman's Managing Editor, Rob Neuman, sits down with bass pro Josh Douglas, to get insight on the all-new ShimanoVanford spinning reel. It features a LongStroke Spool for long-distance casting. The Vanford spinning reel will be available in 7 sizes: 500-5000. MSRP: $299.99 - $239.99.

Humminbird CoastMaster - A Closer Look

Humminbird CoastMaster - A Closer Look

Patterned after Humminbird's LakeMaster charts for freshwater anglers, CoastMaster charts bring the same features for salt anglers. CoastMaster delivers unrivaled nearshore and offshore fishing performance.

Rapala OG Slim 6

Rapala OG Slim 6

The 2019 Bassmaster Classic champ Ott Defoe sits down with In-Fisherman Associate Publisher Todd Ceisner, to talk about Rapala's new OG Slim 6 crankbait. The OG Slim 6 will feature a flat-sided, balsa body, and will dive around 6 feet. Featuring a circuit board lip, the OG Slim 6 deflects off of cover better than traditional plastic lips. Offered in 14 colors and available in tackle stores Fall 2020. MSRP $10.99.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Now's the time to finalize plans for the perfect deer season opener.10 Expert Deer Hunting Preparation Tips for Opening Day Whitetail

10 Expert Deer Hunting Preparation Tips for Opening Day

M.D. Johnson - August 26, 2020

Now's the time to finalize plans for the perfect deer season opener.

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters really stand out for monsters.The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish Catfish

The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish

John N. Felsher - August 21, 2020

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters...

Almost anyone can catch a bunch of small catfish. Hooking a true monster requires a different level of preparation, skill and effort.A Time for Giant Catfish Catfish

A Time for Giant Catfish

John N. Felsher - August 24, 2020

Almost anyone can catch a bunch of small catfish. Hooking a true monster requires a different...

The National Shooting Sports Foundation provides places to start.Are You a New Hunter Looking for Help? Hunting How-To

Are You a New Hunter Looking for Help?

Adam Heggenstaller - August 19, 2020

The National Shooting Sports Foundation provides places to start.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Major League Fishing (MLF), a made-for-television bass fishing competition featuring the country's top professional anglers, celebrates its 5-year anniversary this summer with news it has become the No. 1 fishing show in the nation.Major League Fishing Celebrates 5-Year Anniversary with Top Rating Stories

Major League Fishing Celebrates 5-Year Anniversary with Top Rating

MLF Communications

Major League Fishing (MLF), a made-for-television bass fishing competition featuring the...

When an angler has thinking time—like now—interesting thoughts come to mind.Sheltered in Place: I Miss My Boat-Ramp Friends Stories

Sheltered in Place: I Miss My Boat-Ramp Friends

Tory Mansfield - April 10, 2020

When an angler has thinking time—like now—interesting thoughts come to mind.

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths. Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths.Chase a Mixed-Bag Bite at Lake Oconee Fishing

Chase a Mixed-Bag Bite at Lake Oconee

Larry Larsen - April 28, 2020

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more...

'Entering a fishing tournament is like gambling. If you can afford it, go for it, but I'm not bankrolling you.'Money Fish: Things Change When Cash is on the Line Stories

Money Fish: Things Change When Cash is on the Line

Jeff Johnston - August 05, 2020

'Entering a fishing tournament is like gambling. If you can afford it, go for it, but I'm not...

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now