LITTLE ROCK – Winter weather may have many anglers sitting at home dreaming of warmer days, but it won’t be long until water temperatures begin to warm to the upper 50-degree range and put the crappie on the move to shallower spawning areas. Anglers looking to clear out some freezer space for fresh fillets need look no further than Page 42 of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s cookbook, A Celebration of Conservation: 100 AGFC Recipes” and the recipe for Lake Conway slab crappie cakes.
The recipe was concocted in the kitchen of Matt Schroeder, fisheries biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in Mayflower.
“I’d heard about people making crab cakes with crappie fillets, so I took a crab cake recipe and started adding things I liked and taking out things I didn’t,” Schroeder said. “The hard part was trying to assign numbers to the measurements because I did it all by taste.”
If you don’t have the leftover fillets, now’s the time to start gearing up to catch the crappie so you’re ready to catch a few when they move up within reach of bank anglers as well as those fishing by boat. One of the best techniques for catching shallow crappie also is one of the simplest – a jig or minnow suspended under a bobber.
“This technique is especially effective during the spawn in central Arkansas lakes,” Schroeder said. “Water willow will begin to grow along the shore of many central Arkansas lakes, and anglers find a lot of success fishing at the edge of that water willow with a bobber-and-minnow or bobber-and-jig setup.”
Schroeder says other fish can be used for the crappie cakes, including walleye, white bass, bream, catfish and even small largemouth and spotted bass.
“Some lakes actually have too many smaller sport fish in them, and harvesting a few will free up some food and help increase the growth rate of the rest of the fish in the system,” Schroeder said.
Lake Conway Slab Crappie Cakes
1 pound crappie fillets
1 bag Zatarain’s Crab Boil
¼ cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Green onions, optional
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
Juice of half a lemon
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
½ stick butter
1 cup peanut oil
Boil crappie fillets with Zatarain’s Crab Boil until they float. Remove fillets; chill about 2 hours.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat an egg; add celery, parsley, (onions and jalapenos if desired), seasonings, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice; mix. Break crappie fillets into chunks; add to mixture. Add enough crushed crackers to mixture so it can be formed into cakes the size of hockey pucks. Roll cakes in crumbs on both sides.
Sauté cakes in butter and peanut oil until both sides are brown. Transfer to baking pan; bake 10 minutes.
Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CbqfwkNJPY to watch an episode of Arkansas Wildlife that’s all about crappie from the lake to the table.