Outdoor / Fishing

Thursday, Apr 04 2013 05:03 PM

Steve Merlo: Crappie fishing starting to take shape at Isabella

By The Bakersfield Californian

Some giant crappies have finally moved shallower from their 25-35-foot haunts this week at Lake Isabella in the Kern River Valley. Anglers are reporting fish weighing in excess of 2 pounds each and some as large as 3 as the long awaited spawning run commences with the great weather. Crappie need 60-62-degree water temperatures to begin the spawning process and indications are that the magical temperatures have finally arrived.

Anglers will first notice an upsurge in males heading to the 4- to 8-foot shallows to dig and fan out their nests (called redds), followed closely by the egg-laden females. Right now, most of the fish remain deeper than 12 feet, but along with the warming weather, the schools will begin making more and more sojourns into the shallows to check out possible nesting areas. Because the spawning process is so strenuous, these offshore schools will also be feeding heavily to put on fat stores for the reproduction event, a plus to fishermen seeking to make regular contact with the papermouths.

A depth finder and boat are invaluable assets this time of year for sure, but within the next few weeks look for shore fishermen to start making contact. Live minnows, light line and small jigs are keys to taking limits of the great eating panfish.

36th Central Valley Boat, Sportsman and RV Show

Speaking of crappie, if you get the chance, come on out to the popular fairgrounds outdoor show this weekend and sit in on my crappie seminar, intended to teach first timers how to catch their limit of the fighting gamesters. I'll be showing videos and also discussing tactics, lures and special techniques to help anglers and their kids learn how to fill a livewell or stringer. Last year, my wife, Candy, several friends and I scored 25-fish limits nearly every time we fished and I'm willing to share the info.

The show will also feature a host of professional sportsmen putting on their own varied seminars, from bass to stripers to bird dogs. Also, kids can come out and catch their very first trout at no charge and vie for some terrific prizes from the sponsors of the event. Event promoters are also pleased to announce the return of the Mobil Bass Bin, where huge bass swim only inches from the crowd while pros try to make them strike.

This year's event also includes a car show, rodeo, sand drags and many other activities.

Lots of turkeys

Wild turkey hunters willing to get out and scout are finding good numbers of the giant birds gobbling around the national forests near the 3,000- to 3,500-foot elevations. After a three-year hiatus from chasing the big birds, I managed to score early this week on a really dumb and love-struck 22-pound tom with an 11-inch beard. My two friends and I traveled back roads on open grounds, stopping occasionally to call, and found six birds willing to gobble on cue.

At 12:30 p.m., after unsuccessfully trying to lure the half-dozen morning birds into range, an unusually raucous bird finally answered our plaintiff hen calls from nearly a quarter mile away and immediately headed in our direction, gobbling like crazy. We hiked 100 yards from our vehicle, hid in full camouflage against several trees and literally talked turkey with him until a small hen showed up first. She apparently saw one of us and began "putt-ing" her danger signal while she angrily stalked away.

Her obscene cursing must have really raised the old male's dander, because he then tossed danger to the wind and strutted right into range to see what the ruckus was all about. With his red, white and blue patriotic-colored head brightly lit up, his curiosity proved his undoing, along with 1-3/4 ounces of number 5 shot at about 20 yards.

While we discovered good numbers of birds on open grounds, those shooters with permission to trespass on private properties will find outstanding hunting on an unusually high count season for turkeys. On one strutting and fanning area just across a fence, we watched 11 big toms trying to seduce more than 20 hens, a sight to behold, believe me.

Elk Foundation banquet

The Bakersfield Chapter's Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation dinner and banquet is set for April 13 at the Kern County Fairgrounds.

As usual for this very popular event, plenty of guns, outdoor gear and other prizes will highlight the action along with another great meal catered by Famous Dave's Barbecue Factory.

The RMEF pledges all proceeds to building elk habitat across the US, including California, where the foundation has already protected and enhanced over 105,000 acres of prime elk habitat. Contact Cindy Seitz-Krug (661) 835-7065 for more information. No tickets will be sold at the door.

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