By Frank Jezioro – Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
I normally don’t fish until the “bugs” come out, but the grandkids wanted to go and remembered that last year we had some good days on Stonewall Jackson Lake fishing for crappie. The great thing about crappie fishing is that there always seem to be enough to keep the kid’s attention. Kids like success and action in whatever they are doing to hold their attention. Put a youngster out in right field for a T-Ball game with little hope of seeing the ball except when he or she gets to bat and the next thing you see is that they are sitting down drawing in the dirt with a stick oblivious to the game going on. Take a child trout fishing, which can be challenging, and after a couple of hours with nothing on the stringer and they are ready to go home and watch cartoons. It may be difficult to get them out again. But take them to an area where they can watch their bobber go under every few minutes and you have a child hooked for life.
One of the most memorable crappie fishing trips we had was a couple of years ago when I took grandsons Frankie and Coltin to Stonewall Lake. As soon as we stopped on the boat ramp they were out with their fishing equipment waiting for me to get the boat in the water and loaded. I eased the boat trailer into the water and was making sure the brake was set and the truck was in park when the kids started screaming that “the boat is getting away.” I exited the truck and, sure enough, the boat was getting away. Somehow the rope at the front of the boat that secures it to the trailer had come undone and by the time I got out the boat was about thirty feet out into the channel and starting to drift away. Nothing to do but jump in and swim after it.
No time to worry about wallet or money in the pockets so in I went. In a few minutes I was back at the ramp with the boat securely tied. As the kids put their rods and minnow bucket into the boat I went to move the truck from the ramp and park it. Only there was a problem. When I jumped from the truck, with the windows up tight, the door had slammed shut with the key in the ignition. There we sat, truck locked tighter than a drum and no way to get in. After a few minutes another fisherman came to the ramp. The good thing was that I had parked to the side allowing others to launch their boats. The fellow had a cell phone and I was able to call Beverly. “You did what, you are where?” In about an hour she came to the rescue with the extra key. From then we proceeded to have a very nice trip taking several crappie and a couple of bass. And so another “outdoor adventure” was recorded in the minds of the kids that they still talk about today.
With the end of February the guns and dogs were put away for the most part. There is still some varmint hunting going on, especially for coyotes, but the small game season has ended and the dogs are enjoying a well-deserved rest. Most of our hunters also fish and March is the time when they start to look for the fishing equipment they put away last year.
It may be a little early for bass but crappie and trout fishing is starting to heat up. Our trout stocking program is in full swing. With the snow and cold we have experienced this year our January and February stocking was hit and miss, based on road conditions. We were not able to follow our regular schedule but did put trout in the various streams and lakes, weather permitting. The result is that by the time the snow and ice melts there will be a lot of trout in the water and they should be well scattered due to the high water conditions when some were stocked.
This should result in excellent fishing for several months, well into the summer due to the snow pack and water table. The lakes are stabilizing and the streams are starting to level out. Now is the time to shake those winter doldrums and head on out for another great West Virginia Outdoor Experience.