ELK CITY RESERVOIR – Chances are J.R. Dunn has been fishing more times in the past month than 9-year-old Taylie McKlintic has in her life. While he has some of the best equipment money can buy, and knows how to masterfully use it, the girl’s rod and reel probably cost less than a handful of Dunn’s favorite lures.
But Monday evening, expert angling adult and beginning child were successful after a rite of spring – the crappie spawn at Elk City Reservoir.
“I guess I’ve been fishing here about 40 years and have had some pretty good days,” said Dunn, of Sycamore. “This can be a pretty good lake, and this has been a pretty good place to fish, a lot of years.”
He was talking about a wide cove in Elk City State Park, which leads to some smaller coves and is protected by a rocky point that can also hold spawning crappie. Trying to make a good thing better, state park staff and others have sunk brush along some sections of shoreline. A fishing dock in the cove is surrounded with submerged brush, too.
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Dunn had spent part of Monday afternoon at a favorite part of the cove, often wading a few steps into the lake then using a pole about 12 to 14 feet long to lower a dainty crappie jig down into brush in a few feet of water. He worked the areas thoroughly and patiently with total concentration, barely moving the jig in the water. Hoping to trigger more strikes, he switched lure colors a few times, and often placed a tiny, doughy, commercially-made nibblet on the point of the hook.
This year he wants as many things in his favor as possible. This spring’s crappie fishing, he and others at the lake said, has been consistently inconsistent.
After catching five nice crappie within about the same amount of minutes, things slowed for Dunn. A small, but intense thunderstorm on the horizon sent him with nine crappie after about three hours of fishing. He was back as the storm passed, trying for more. After a pair of quick fish, he went about an hour with none.
“They haven’t been along the banks like they were before the snow hit (last week), but I hope they start doing a little better,” Dunn said. “It’s been a funny spring, but it’s time for it to get good and stay that way for a while.” Some thought the fishing was just fine as it was.
Taylie McKlintic was fishing with her stepfather, Beau Schultz, coach of the baseball team at the local community college, and her 4-year-old brother, Bryor Schultz. She and the boy played in the mud and grass while minnows swimming below bobbers did the work. Schultz called one child or the other when one of those bobbers disappeared below the surface, and helped them get the fish to shore. Their first two crappie were gorgeous females about 14 inches long.
After a lull of about an hour after the storm, fishing action picked up all around the broad bay, and smaller bays that reached into the state park. The girl spent less time playing and more time watching the bobbers on the lake’s still surface. She jumped at the chances to reel in, touch and hold fish and couldn’t understand while her little brother wasn’t doing the same.
“Come on, Bryor, toughen up,” she said when the boy balked at holding a crappie. “Grab it, it’s just a fish.”
Dunn caught several more fish along a section of shoreline, while others did well with long rods from a fishing dock surrounded by brush.
Across a small cove from where Schultz fished with the two kids, Jon Nagel and a friend were doing well both close to shore and further into the cove. At one point they hollered to ask Schultz if he could spare a few minnows.
He said he could, adding, “The guy at the bait shop in town is pretty generous. I know he gave me way more than I paid for, but he said it was important since I was taking the kids.”
Dunn had another seven or eight crappie to clean, and an angler on the dock had about 15. Nagel and his friend ended up with about 20 crappie. He was back at about dawn the next morning. Dunn figured a lot of the same anglers would return Tuesday, and many following afternoons, too.
“A lot of people camp out here, but usually most of the crappie fishermen are locals,” Dunn said. “I see them out here every year. There’s a lot of crappie in this lake. It can be pretty danged good when everything gets right.”