An early morning storm left High Rock Lake swollen, muddy and full of hungry crappie this past Saturday. Fred Sumlin of Concord and his twin brother Willie sat beside Dutch Second Creek near the Bringle Ferry Road bridge. After fishing for two hours from the rocks, seven keepers swam in their bucket, destined for a hot frying pan full of sizzling cooking oil.

"We will dress them up for dinner with corn meal, Texas Pete and tartar sauce," Fred Sumlin said.

The Sumlin brothers culled through a mess of little ones to catch their dinner guests. They kept it simple by fishing from the bank with live minnows set about six feet under the corks.

At Flat Swamp Creek, Neil Varner of High Point doubled up on curlytail jigs to start his stringer. Using 6-pound line on a spinning rod, he tied two 1/16th-ounce jigs about 24-inches apart. A skilled sportsmen, Varner often fishes bass tournaments from a boat, but on Saturday morning, he was fishing from the rocks under the NC 8 Bridge.

"Sometimes I can sit under this bridge and catch crappie all day long," he said.

As a battling bonus, he said, largemouth bass will frequently attack his crappie jigs then fight like champions on light line.

A crappie struck the Christmas-colored jig on the bottom and swallowed it deep, but it was too small to keep. Undeterred, Varner released the fish and tried again.

Varner knows High Rock well. He said the lake bottom under the bridge steps down like ledges. "Crappie hold on those ledges," he said, his line twitching as he set the hook to reel in another one.

Lisa Appel, who manages Sports Country in Denton, fishes her favorite crappie spots at High Rock on her days off. She fishes with light-action spinning rods rigged with 1/16th-ounce curlytail jigs. She favors colors called Acid Rain and Christmas. Chartreuse and black jigs are proven lures here.

"For March, I like to start at the mouth of Swearing Creek, then work my way up the river," she said. "I catch them 12 to 14 feet down, but when the water temperature hits 64, that is the optimal temperature for crappie to begin spawn."

Once the spawn begins, crappie swim to the shallows where happy anglers fill their coolers. Festive dinners complete this annual rite of spring. For those who can't wait until then, Sports Country will hold a customer-appreciation fish fry for lunch on Saturday, March 10. Hungry guests can dine on crappie, stripers and catfish from local lakes.