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Crappie by the Numbers

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Published on: Apr. 22, 2010

I love fishing. The only warm-season activity that comes close to the fun of finding a hot spot and catching one fish after another is taking home a mess of fish and savoring their fresh-caught succulence.

Unfortunately, I lack the methodical bent necessary to excel at most types of fishing. I can walk up a small stream—where all the fish are confined within casting distance—and catch bass and sunfish all day. But when it comes to finding the precise location and depth on a big lake where crappie are inhaling minnows on a particular day, I am as lost as a pocket knife dropped in a 40,000-acre reservoir. Thank goodness for global positioning systems and guys like Darrell Shirk.

I acquired Darrell as a fishing friend when my daughter and his son married. Darrell and my son-in-law Brett’s enthusiasm for crappie fishing was a double stroke of good luck for my family, because I am a mediocre fishing guide at best. Darrell’s fascination with the world’s most delectable sunfish, combined with Brett’s fascination with technology, recently enabled me to acquire the main ingredient for a fantastic crappie dinner.

I had been itching to try finding fish with a global positioning system ever since discovering that the Conservation Department has map coordinates for hundreds of fish-attracting structures. I own a hand-held GPS unit that I was convinced would get me close to the magic spots. However, Brett has a much more sophisticated model that he normally uses for road trips.

Between the two of us, I figured we ought to be able to motor from one fish attractor to another until we found one where the fish were biting. Once there, I felt confident Darrell’s crappie expertise could put fish in the boat.

Fisheries Management Biologist Greg Stoner agreed to ferry us around Lake of the Ozarks one September day as we put technology to the test. We had great weather for the project, sunny and 62 degrees at 7 a.m., when we arrived at the boat ramp on the Niangua Arm.

Greg mapped the location of Lake of the Ozarks’ crappie hot spots, so we asked him to keep mum if we had trouble finding the places we were seeking. His job was simply to point the boat where we directed.

We hit the water with GPS units and several sheets of paper with map coordinates of fishattractors. These range from piles of cedar trees and rows

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