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Monster crappie caught in private Oxford lake



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Bryon Cunningham, 25, of Sterling Heights, poses with the black crappie he caught in Oxford Township’s Davis Lake. It weighed 3 pounds, 8 ounces and measured 14 inches in length. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
June 29, 2011 - There are some monster fish swimming around Oxford Township's Davis Lake – just ask Bryon Cunningham.

On May 19, this 25-year-old master angler from Sterling Heights caught a black crappie in the private lake that weighed a whopping 3 pounds, 8 ounces and measured 14 inches in length.

"I dropped a little 1-inch tube bait right under the dock, put my rod down to close my tackle box and the line started going," Cunningham said. "It ran out from under the dock and I knew it was the biggest one that I had ever seen, so I got it (out of the water) in a hurry and then ran it over to shore to make sure it didn't flop in the water while I got pictures and made phone calls."

Just to put Cunningham's catch in perspective, the state record for black crappie is 4 pounds, 2 ounces. It was set way back in 1947. State records are recognized by weight only.

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It appears Cunningham's black crappie is the largest in terms of weight caught in Michigan since August 1994. Back then, a Westland man caught one in Budd Lake (Clare County) weighing 3 pounds, 12 ounces and measuring 16.25 inches.

"At first, I didn't realize what I had," he said. "I knew it was big, but I didn't know it was that big. Once I did a little bit of research and talked to some people, I realized that's probably the biggest (black crappie) I'll get in my lifetime unless I break a record."

Under normal circumstances, Cunningham could have registered his catch with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in the hopes of winning a Master Angler Award.

Unfortunately, because his crappie was caught on a private lake, it wasn't eligible.

Cunningham said his fish was so thick he originally thought it was a female "full of eggs."

"After I weighed it and talked to a friend who's a taxidermist, he said chances are it's probably a male that had been gorging himself on baby bluegill and minnows," he explained. "That (accounts) for the extra weight. He said a typical 14-incher will run right in the 2-2˝-pound range."

Cunningham believes there are probably even bigger black crappie in Davis Lake, which he's fortunate enough to fish because his future in-laws Jeff and Janet Myers live in the Davis Lake Highlands subdivision off Seymour Lake Rd.

"It doesn't get much fishing pressure at all. There are no (boat) motors allowed on the lake. All the boats are canoes or rowboats," he explained. "I caught an 11-incher about a week after that. There's probably crappie that are pushing 4 or 5 pounds. Between that little bit of fishing pressure and the spawning bluegill as a food source, they can pretty much gorge themselves. I'm sure there's bigger fish in there."

"I know (the lake) is just loaded with fish," Cunningham noted. "A few weeks ago when we were house-sitting up there, I fished for three days and the bluegills were on their beds. I could have had a limit of bluegill each day and I only fished for a few hours each day. And that was just from shore, twitching a little Rapala (lure) over their beds.

Cunningham plans to have his trophy crappie mounted for posterity.

"I'm saving my money," he said. "I got a friend that's a taxidermist that will do it for just the cost of the materials."

The lure Cunningham used to land this bad boy was a 1-inch Southern Pro crappie tube bait with a smoke/multi-sparkle color and 1/32 ounce plain lead round jig head.

"The round jig head gives it a more erratic action than the tube jig head," he noted.

Although this black crappie is the biggest panfish he's ever caught, it's not the biggest fish he's ever landed.

"My biggest fish would be a 28-pound King Salmon I caught in the Muskegon River in about 2001-02," he said.

Cunningham's been fishing since the age of 4. He's interested in passing on what he's learned to others.

"I'm hoping to start a guide service on the Clinton River and (in the) Paint Creek area to (show) anglers what we have here right in our backyard for trout fishing, and how to improve and take care of our waterways to make sure (they) thrive, so younger generations can have the same success if not more than we have now," he said.

Cunningham said he mainly fishes for trout on Paint Creek, but he likes the way panfish taste, so he tries to hit Davis Lake whenever he can.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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