Nothin’ vulgar: the loose language of crappie fishing

THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2014

Jamie McMurtery, 6, hauls in a crappie from Lake Thomas during a summer camping trip with his dad, Jeff.
Jamie McMurtery, 6, hauls in a crappie from Lake Thomas during a summer camping trip with his dad, Jeff.

My computer’s spell-check isn’t as smart as I thought.

Here is a program that can tell the difference between “there,” “their” and “they’re;” correct the spelling of “restaurant” (which I never get right); and even warn me that I used “compliment” when I meant to use “complement;” but every time I type “crappie,” a popular fresh water fish, it underlines it in red and suggests I may want to look for another word.

I must assume my computer is not censoring me because it considers “crappie” a vulgar term, for it doesn’t underline more graphic words having to do with gross bodily functions, such as the vernacular for what comes out of runny noses. I must assume that whoever is in charge of the spell-check function on my computer is not a fisherman. (An aside: Yes, am I very much aware “fisherman” has been replaced with “fisherperson” or “fishers” in socially refined and politically correct circles, but I can’t make myself write either of those. I don’t like “canine companion,” either.)

Crappie are confusing even in conversation, particularly with non-fishermen. It should be spelled “croppie,” for that is the way it is pronounced. You can say, “The crappie are biting on Long Lake,” or “A crappie is a fine-eating fish,” for it can be either singular or plural. What you do not want to say is “You did a crappie job of fixing my boat motor,” for the correct word there is “crappy.” If the mechanic is nicknamed “Louie the Torch,” you don’t want to say anything.

This is the time of year when crappie fishing really picks up in these parts as crappie are in the shallows looking for love. Many lakes now have limits and size restrictions on crappie, but when I was a kid with grandparents living near Potholes Reservoir in the Columbia Basin, your limit was all you could carry in a gunnysack. This is perhaps the reason it is difficult to catch a decent crappie there anymore. Moreover, all crappie, as I remember them, were all at least 14 inches long. When I began catching the 9-inchers in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas, I didn’t think they were even the same fish.

I remember, in fact, telling my father after a spring day on Eloika Lake where the biggest crappie caught was 7 inches, “This is crappy fishing.”

“They’re ‘croppie,’ son,” Dad said.

“I know they’re ‘croppie.’ ” I said. “But it’s crappy.”

Dad just shook his head. Another reason he didn’t “get” me.

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