Trophy Quest: A Frozen Paradise

by Aaron Ball

Back at the end of January I got a text from my friend Josh asking if I wanted to do some pre-fishing with him on Buggs Island for an upcoming Bobcats tournament he was fishing. January had been brutally cold, and most of the water around my house remained frozen.  Then again, I could not pass up the opportunity to fish Buggs Island due to it being one of the premier crappie lakes on the East Coast, and one of the few places to provide an opportunity to catch a citation White Crappie in Virginia. 

My expectations for the fishing trip were extremely low. I had no idea of what the water temperatures were going to be, but I knew that they were going to be cold. Then there was the issue that I outlined in my January article regarding catching a citation crappie, it is just not that easy.  Now I was compounding that issue in that not only did I have to catch a citation crappie, but it also had to be a White Crappie.  Good luck, right?

I met Josh at one of the ramps on the upper end of Buggs Island. Immediately upon pulling into the parking lot, I thought to myself, this is not good. Ice covered the creek, with only a few hundred-yard stretch of open water. Josh seemed much more optimistic than I did at that point, but I had just driven over two hours so I was going to make the best of the situation. We dropped his boat in the water and immediately begin breaking ice and saw the water temperature was 37. I remember thinking to myself can you even catch a crappie in 37-degree water? We thought if we got to the main lake, we would find open water so we continued our ice- breaking mission until we got behind a catfishing boat that had the same idea and attempted to follow them out. Finally, we got within view of the main lake and all that was visible was a giant sheet of ice as far as the eye could see. 

Josh and I decided to head back up to the little bit of open water there was around the boat ramp and see what we could do. We were able to pick up a few crappie here and there in the open water but it did not take long to cover the limited area we had. It got to the point that we could see crappie under the ice slabs, and we were using the boat to push the ice and give ourselves tiny little cracks to flip our crappie jigs at the fish.  Needless to say, the fish were not as dumb as we were and this produced no results although it was entertaining.

We decided to head back out towards the main lake to try another little area that had some open water just to see if we could make anything happen.  We were drifting along in about 20 foot of water and we saw what seemed to be a decent sized crappie on the Live Scope.  Josh was able to get us set up the fish to present our jigs to it, and I felt the little tell- tale “thump” of a crappie bite and set the hook.  I did not think it was that big at first, but as I pulled it towards the boat, I saw it was a good- sized crappie and appeared to be a White Crappie. Josh slide the net under it and I thought to myself, “no way this just happened.” I didn’t allow myself to get to excited until I put the fish on the golden ruler and saw that tail just squeak the 15’ line.  My first ever White Crappie, and it just so happened to be a citation. In 37-degree water and the lake mostly covered in ice. That is what I love about fishing; you just never know what is going to happen.

Josh and I headed back up the creek arm towards the ramp and decided to fight through a few hundred-yard stretch of ice to access another little pocket that we could see had some more open water in it. That little pocket ended up putting a nice cherry on top of the day. We were able to pick up five-ten good-sized crappie in the last half hour, one being just under two pounds. 

Josh is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Livescope, boat control, and just crappie fishing in general. He also runs the Richmond Crappie Club, which you can find on Facebook. Their next crappie tournament will be on Lake Anna on April 24. I’ll be there fishing, come on out and enjoy what should be a great time on the water. All of our fish were caught a 1/16 or 1/32 NicTaylors hand tied jig, which you can also find on Facebook. 

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