At posting time for this month’s Mississippi Sportsman, it will be the “official” kickoff of the 2015 fishing season. That is, we finally got through winter, and spring, with all its outdoor opportunities, is upon us. Dust off that jig pole, find the sunscreen and get out on your favorite crappie fishing hole.

I admit that this past winter has been almost completely void of fishing for me. One of my favorite wintertime fishing spots has been Chotard/Albermarle over on the Mississippi River, just north of Vicksburg. Seems the crappie fishing has greatly diminished because of the Asian carp infestation. At least that’s what local Chotard crappie guide and friend of mine, David Thornton, tells me.

“Paul, don’t bother coming over here. The crappie are gone from here. Gone, I tell you, just gone. It’s those damn flying fish that’s got it messed up over here. They’ve just completely taken over.” 

So, I just didn’t make the eight to 10 winter trips to Chotard like I ordinarily have in the past.

The Magnolia Crappie Club did hold a tournament over there in mid-December. But, that tournament was a “you pick it” deal where teams could fish either Eagle Lake or Chotard. The tournament was won on Eagle. 

My partner and I caught eight crappie — count ‘em, eight — on Chotard. It took all day to catch eight, and, man, were we proud of them.  My tournament partner, Herman Duckworth of Magee, actually applauded and cheered when I finally put No. 7 (the tournament weigh-in limit) in the boat with about 30 minutes to go before quitting time.

And then in January, MCC fished Okatibbee over at Meridian. It’d been a few years since we’d held a tournament on Okatibbee. We stopped going over there because the fish were just really small. Although there were a couple of 2-plus-pound fish weighed on T-day, the majority of the fish were really small. My seven weighed less than 6 pounds. In my opinion, they really need to take some crappie out of that lake. It’s just too full of little-bitty crappie.

But, I’m excited about what’s right in front of us now. The heaviest big mamas of the year show up in late February through March here in Mississippi. And April is the month for full-out spawning for most of the state’s crappie lakes.


Heads up

MCC is holding two major open tournaments this spring. The first will be on Grenada March 21, and the second will be on Barnett April 11. With the addition of a couple of corporate sponsors, the prize packages have potentially doubled for tournament competitors over previous years. 

And, these are open events. That is, you don’t have to be MCC members to compete. Just pay your entry fees and go catch the biggest big mama of the day. We’ve been holding these BMOs for the last few years with great success, attracting both local everyday fishermen and traveling “pro” teams from other states. 

One previous BMO attracted 76 teams from 11 different states! That means MCC and Mississippi crappie fishing as a whole are doing some things right. The fishing teams really have a good time at the BMO events involving family members as team members or awards session fans. Go to www.magnoliacrappieclub.com for full details on our Big Mama Opens.


Legislation update

I was involved recently in the second meeting of interested parties and administrators from a couple of state agencies discussing the possibility of the sale of game fish. I want to update you on where we are now, as I understand the process. 

After blasting all the things that I foresaw as problems if it becomes legal to sell game fish in January’s issue of this magazine, I eventually said, rather reluctantly, that if regulated and controlled and limited to the state’s aquaculturists — that’s our catfish farmers, friend — I had nothing against it.

After listening to additional reasoning and thoughts by some of the state’s brightest folks who would be managing this thing, the light bulb began flickering on for me. I’m beginning to see more of the big picture. I’m guessing that most sport fishermen’s first reaction to this proposition would be similar to mine. “No way — no how. Not here — not now.” But, friend, we need to take a deep breath and reason a little.

I know from more than 30 years of selling to catfish processors that the positive economic influences Mississippi gains from raising and selling fish is tremendous. Catfish farming is a big cash crop for our state. We’ve benefitted greatly from this commercial fishing industry for decades.

One of the catfish farmers at the last meeting said to me, “Mr. Johnson, we don’t want to ‘catch’ fish. We want to ’raise’ fish.” Ah-ha, lightbulb time!

It was repeated that new legislation to make selling game fish legal is not likely to make it to this session of the state legislature. From my new perspective, I’m disappointed that we aren’t moving forward faster with this really good economic idea — raising more fish for sale.

But, friend, have you ever heard of so many goofball ideas coming out of our state legislature? The Clarion Ledger reported that 2,238 new laws were submitted in the first week of this legislative session. Can you imagine? These politicians must be staying up all night, just coming up with pet projects and lame-brain ideas. What — 2,238 new laws in one week? Geez!

And,one of those great ideas is to get rid of all licenses regarding hunting and fishing. What? The legislator proposing this can’t be a hunter or fisherman can she? MDWFP is almost totally funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. And, they can’t just disappear if you and I stop paying license fees. 

MDWFP will still be in place administering one of our state’s biggest resources — our outdoors. They’ll just be funded by increased state taxes that you and I will be paying.

I’d never make it as a politician. All I want to do is go fishing and catch one as big as they grow. How ‘bout you?