HARDY, Va. (WFXR) — Most of the time we advocate catch and release, but sometimes you just have to have a fish fry.

This month may be the prime time to do it because this is the best time of the year to target some of the tastiest table fare available in area lakes, the crappie.

The popular panfish school up and feed heavily right after they spawn at this time of year. That makes them easy targets.

Crappie fishing is angling at its most basic.

All you need are a rod, a reel, some line, a bobber, a hook, and minnows. Don’t want to use live bait? Small jigs or spinners will also take fish.

When it comes to catching spring crappies it comes down to location. Captain Tony Miller of Reel Rock Charters runs striped bass and crappie trips on Smith Mountain Lake. He says to look for cover like brush piles or docks.

“It’s shade or structure for them,” said Miller as he gestured toward a dock and then threw his minnow toward it. “It’s where the bait fish hang out, too.”

When you find those ambush points, you will find crappie, and usually in great numbers.

“When it’s on, it’s on,” Miller said as he reeled in a nice 10-inch long crappie.

Captain Tony Miller of Reel Rock Charters lands nice crappie at Smith Mountain Lake (Photo: George Noleff/WFXR News)

Crappie fishing can be a family or group event. The fish are easy to catch and can keep children engaged and interested. Many crappie are caught from the bank, but fishing from a boat can give you the advantage of covering more water and fishing more spots that could hold fish.

Both black and white crappie are available at Smith Mountain Lake. Both species can also be found in a number of other lakes and streams throughout Virginia.

Miller says it takes effort to find a big school of feeding fish, but it is worth it.

“Once you find that first one, you’ll almost always catch a lot more, but you still have to find that first one,” said Miller.