Many die-hard anglers find ways to make winter fishing trips and keep fresh fillets in the skillet all winter.
Recently I hooked up (no pun intended) with one such guy. This energetic, knowledgeable young man does not hunt. He does not even fish for bass or catfish. Reagan Smith, of Tremont, is obsessed with crappie and white bass. He is the owner/operator of Reag's Guide service (centralilcrappieguide.com).
Smith, a licensed fishing guide certified by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, guides on several regional lakes. I met him last week at Clinton Lake. He also has experience on Lake Springfield, Banner Marsh, Evergreen, Sangchris and Lake Shelbyville.
When I met Reagan he was accompanied by his good friend and sponsor Erik Zimmerman. The three of us were going to try to put three limits of crappie in the boat that morning. The size limit on Clinton is nine inches and the daily bag limit is 15 crappie per angler.
Smith's plan for us was using minnows under slip bobbers. He set our rigs at about 18 inches. We would be fishing in 6- to 10-feet of water, with the fish suspended somewhere in between. As Reagan told us, the crappie feed from the bottom up. He was spot on.
Our young guide took us to the west side of the main lake so the morning sun would be on the rip rap on that shore. As the sun warmed the boulders the water there also warmed, attracting the crappie. I drew first blood, but it was only 8¾-inches. Back in it went. Soon after, Reagan found the fish.
As we all three worked the rip rap Smith put four keepers in the boat in as many casts. Erik too found the fish and his live well got some customers. Finally I got on them and we had several doubles throughout the morning.
Smith's boat is an 18-footer pushed by a 115HP motor with a trolling motor on the front. This boat was very comfortable for the three of us and I think four could fish out of it easily. This is because casting for crappie is totally different from casting for bass.
Another cool thing about Smith's service is that all you really have to bring is your camera and your lunch. He can furnish rods, reels, both live and artificial baits and even cleans your catch for you. If you choose to use your own gear, that is fine.
We were working close to our 45-crappie limit. We had caught a few shorts but the vast majority of our fish were legal keepers and most were between 10 and 11 inches. Erik took the prize for the big fish of the morning with a black crappie that measured just over a foot long.
Even with a break for lunch we caught 45 keepers in just under three hours. It may not be a record but it is a pretty darn good average. Along with the crappie we also caught bluegill, largemouth bass, white bass and even a drum. It was an amazing morning on Clinton Lake.
Reagan Smith can take up to four fishermen at a time and guides on the above mentioned waters 12 months a year, depending on weather and ice conditions. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (309) 642-8106. Tell him Mike sent you.