Category Archives: Crappie Fishing

What Are Some Tricks To Catch Late Season Crappie?

Surefire tricks for late-season crappies

Scott Glorvigan – sglorvigen@wired2fish.com
from The Fishing Wire

For anglers across the Ice Belt, November’s arrival spurs thoughts of the hardwater season ahead. But plenty of fine open-water fishing remains for the faithful who see the season through to the end.

Take crappies, for example. One of the year’s best bites is still firing on all cylinders, and promises stellar slabbin’ right through freeze-up. “It’s undoubtedly worth getting your boat out a few more times to enjoy the late-fall crappie bite,” says veteran guide and noted fishing authority Scott Glorvigen. “The fish are ganged up in predictable places, and ready to hit baits with a vengeance.”

Here’s the deal. As autumn wanes and water temperatures fall into the 40s, crappies abandon withering weedbeds and shift away from near-shore structure. “The fish head for their winter haunts, which are typically deep, mid-lake basin holes,” Glorvigen explains.

Here, large schools of hulking, hump-backed slabs roam the abyss in search of sustenance. Much of the feeding focuses on zooplankton and other pint-sized prey, but crappies eagerly snap up larger meals such as minnows and other baitfish.

Glorvigen leans on cutting-edge electronics such as Lowrance’s Elite-5 CHIRP Gold sonar-chartplotter to pinpoint pods of wayward panfish. “The fish are constantly moving around, which makes sonar a must,” he notes. “Lowrance’s new CHIRP units give you incredible target resolution, so you can verify the fish you’re marking are crappies, and even pick out individual fish within a school.”

A plotter primed with detailed mapping is another key component. “This allows you to identify likely areas and then search them effectively,” he says. “Plus, if you lay down a trail of waypoints while following the fish, you can often predict where they’re headed next. For example, if you know a school of slabs is moving in a counter-clockwise rotation around a deep hole, it’s much easier to follow the herd.”

In search mode, Glorvigen scans potential hotspots, which include depths of 50 feet or more. “Don’t assume there are limits on how deep the fish will go,” he cautions. “Many anglers mentally set a boundary of 25 to 30 feet, but crappies often suspend much deeper.”

Once a school is spotted, Glorvigen takes an unusual tack for tricking the fish. “One of the hottest tactics for tapping the late-fall bite is hovering swimming jigs such as Rapala Jigging Raps and Northland Puppet Minnows within the school,” he says.

“Horizontal jigs tipped with flavored softbaits such as Berkley PowerBait and Gulp! bodies also work well. “You can use spoons, too, but vertical baits aren’t nearly as effective this time of year.”

While many anglers wield tiny tackle for crappies, Glorvigen favors swimming lures in the 2- to 2¾-inch class, along with 1/8-ounce jigheads. Colors aren’t as key as the bait’s water displacement when fishing deep water, he notes, though he has seen higher catch rates on UV patterns compared to standard color schemes.

Gearing up, Glorvigen spools a light-action Lew’s multi-species spinning rod with 10-pound Northland Bionic Braid mainline. The rod’s quick tip engenders strike detection and solid hooksets, while the superbraid boosts sensitivity, which is a huge asset when fishing deep water. He ties a small swivel on the end of the line, to limit twist, and adds a 12- to 18-inch leader of low-vis 6-pound fluorocarbon.

Unlike traditional snap-fall tactics used for walleyes and other larger predators, Glorvigen applies a slower hand for suspended cool-water crappies. “It’s not a standard jigging presentation where you’re really working the bait,” he says. “This situation calls for deadsticking. When the crappies see the lure’s profile, they think it’s a minnow mixed in with the zooplankton, and boy, do they smack it.”

Thanks to his CHIRP sonar’s target resolution, Glorvigen can watch his jig even as it descends into a crappie wolfpack. “This is really a breakthrough,” he says. “It’s not uncommon to run across massive schools 15 feet thick. With traditional sonar, there’s no seeing into a tight school. Once the bait gets into the fish, it’s off the radar. But with CHIRP, I can tell where my lure is and how fish react to it.”

He cautions that once you find a school, it’s important to keep moving to stay on top of it. By shadowing a deep-running gang of slabs, it’s possible to pluck multiple fish from a single group. “Keep in mind that when you pull crappies out of extreme depths, the fish are likely unreleasable,” he warns. “Plan on keeping what you catch for a late-fall fish fry. And if you get on a school of fish too small to keep, move along until you find larger ones.”

Depending on the individual lake, your latitude, and what kind of weather Mother Nature dishes out in the weeks ahead, you might have a month or more of crappie action before winter draws the curtain on open water. “Good news is, as soon as safe ice arrives, the same areas are still going to produce fish,” Glorvigen adds. Which is all the more reason to hit the water now to unlock the locational secrets of late-fall crappies on your favorite fisheries.

How Can I Catch Spring Crappie?

Spring Crappie PANdemonium

Simple stuff for finding and fishing cool spring crappies.

By Calvin Christopher
from The Fishing Wire

Ask any saltwater angler whether ‘high’ or ‘low’ tide is the pick of the litter, and not only will you get mixed results, but iterations from “the first hour of incoming tide,” to “halfway through outgoing,” to “dead flat – I’m weird like that.”

Catch spring crappie like this

Catch spring crappie like this

In search mode, crappie expert Brian “Bro” Brosdahl casts small jigs with soft plastic bodies. Once fish are located, he switches to fuller bodied feathered jigs tipped with minnows. Photo by Bill Lindner Photography

Maybe not quite so particular, but subjective nonetheless, are freshwater panfish seekers. And in the spring, their preferences arc the spectrum from “sun-soaked bridge pilings,” to “mouths of creeks,” to complexities like “first drops off shallow muddy bays on the north end.” Myriad factors affect their partialities, of course, things like water temperature, water clarity, bottom composition, forage base and the like. So truthfully, to offer one man’s perspective is pretty one-dimensional, given the infiniteness of conceivable factors. But what about two-dimensional? Now that’s diverse.

So unwilling to enter the third dimension, I quizzed two dogged and salty (like character; sometimes language) panfish activists for their perspectives on spring fishing. And it goes something like this:

Who is your favorite NASCAR driver?
Bro: Dale Earnhardt Jr. It’s hard to live in the shadows of a big name like his dad. Jr.’s carving his niche and I respect that. (Frankly, I thought this question would stymie Bro.)

Neustrom: Dale Earnhardt Jr. He’s the crowd favorite. Great individual. He’s gone up against all the negativity and just races fast. Oh, and Brad Kieslowski – he’s a pain in the ass, and I sort of like that, too.

Do you open with plastics or livebait on spring crappies?
Bro: For searching, it’s definitely plastics. And ice fishing sized stuff. I like to put a single Northland Bro’s Bloodworm on a Gill Getter jig. Might slide on a piece of waxworm as well. The meat and plastic combo can be lethal in the spring.

Now once I know where they’re at, it’s time for feathered jigs and minnows. Cast it out and swim it back slowly. Give fish time to come over and grab it.

Neustrom: Depends. In clear water, my tendency is to go with minnows. The bite is trickier; fish are spookier. And livebait, well, always looks like livebait. Don’t have to worry about matching the hatch.

In darker water, I catch most fish on a jig and curly tail grub. The action does it. And I’m still a firm believer in the effectiveness of vibration.

Fish under a float or cast?
Crappie warlords Bro and Neustrom underscore the importance of keeping livebait energized. Minnows are best maintained with Frabill Aqua-Life aeration systems.
Bro: I use a float when searching during bluebird days. You can work a bait so much slower under a float. No float if the conditions are perfect – low pressure, warmth and some cloud cover. Then it’s time to cast and retrieve.

Either way, I’m looking for that one fish that gives up the flock. Humminbird Side Imaging lets me choose those casts wisely, too. It’ll show me actual fish, or at the least help me identify key features like emerging weeds and sunken timber – crappies are like glue on early green weeds. And just to make sure they’re fresh, I can verify greenness with my Aqua-Vu underwater camera.

Neustrom: Both. I like to pitch and swim plastics first, though. Keep the rod tip high. Reel in slowly. And just watch and feel for the rod to load up. There probably won’t be a classic ‘bite,’ either, so be on the trigger.

I fish with a float if I’m targeting smaller spaces like pockets in the reeds. In cover, the bait needs to sit longer, let fish find it. A 1/32-ounce jig with a minnow or plastic tail works just right under a float.

Are you a slave to fishing the northwest corner of a lake?
Bro: No, not at all. Some of my best spring crappie spots are shallow weedy bays on the south end. But then I’ll check the northwest corner of the specific bay. I’d say 60-percent of my natural lake crappies are caught on the northwest corner of the most qualified bay.

And then there are all those nooks and crannies, which can be in any direction. I’m looking for harbors, channels and small sections of water that get a lot of sun but little or no wind. Crappies hate the wind.

Neustrom: No. There’s far too much emphasis put on fishing the northwest end of the lake. Instead, I choose smaller lakes with all the right stuff: reeds, bays and darker water. If it looks good, I fish it.

Weather goes to hell. Where do you start looking for bites?
Bro: Crappies will hold to structure near shallow feeding areas under cold front conditions. Or, they might hover over holes near prime shallows.

I’ll go after them one of two ways. If the fish are 12-feet or deeper, I quietly drift over them dragging feathered jigs. If they’re shallow, I’ll pitch a heavily weighted float and jig. I want the float barely sticking out of the water so waves roll over it.

For both techniques, I’m using a short, 5-foot St. Croix Panfish Series rod. Long rods catch too much wind.

Nice spring crappie

Nice spring crappie

Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer Tom Neustrom advocates releasing breeding-sized crappies before and during the spawning to promote species proliferation. Photo courtesy of Daiwa
Neustrom: I’ll slide out to first break, which might only mean 8- to 12-feet of water. Don’t expect the motherlode, but you can still pick away at a few crappies in crummy weather.

I go to a float with a plain VMC hook and a tail-hooked minnow. You have to sit on those fish.

And one more thing, I set my Humminbird on SwitchFire mode. It enhances my view, seeing baitfish and even smaller fish that’ll start me on the right path to locating larger crappies.

Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones?
Bro: Tough call, but I’m saying Zeppelin. The guitar riffs are epic. And their aggression and intensity keeps my pulse high, in that good sort of way.

Neustrom: Led Zeppelin. Their creativeness is incredible. Makes you stop and think.

How does current factor into your site selection?
Bro: Current sorts things out nicely. I can find fish faster. It pushes crappies into pooled-up calm areas associated with logs and timber. And the fish are usually more aggressive.

I like to tight-line with a 10-foot St. Croix Panfish Series, reaching out and bumping the jig around. And wherever possible, I lock down with a Minn Kota Talon shallow water anchor. It’s the absolute epitome of boat control.

Neustrom: Don’t like current much. Maybe the edges, but that’s about it. Crappies don’t like a lot of movement. They’re a different kind of cat.

But with all that said, current flushes in food. So it’s typical to find springtime crappies near current areas.

What are your thoughts on catch & release as it relates to the proliferation of ‘big’ crappies?
Bro: Nothing wrong with turning crappies into food, but that doesn’t mean getting greedy on the big ones. Actually, fish in that 10 to 12-inch range are the best eaters. Trust me. Watch how much better the meat cooks next time. Slabs fall apart in the pan.

And let others enjoy catching big crappies, don’t get all piggish. Unlike bluegills, there isn’t any scientific study that says fishing down size alters the gene pool. But I do know when a lake gets hammered, it takes years to bring back size.

Neustrom: I really don’t like catch and kill during the spring spawn. Let them breed. And if you remove the large fish, eventually all you’ll have are dinks. Can take 4- to 6-years for size to recover. I’ve seen it over and over again.

Where did all the big ones go, people ask? Duh.

How To Catch Winter Clarks Hill Crappie

Many crappie fishermen are getting tackle ready, planning and looking forward to March when the slabs start to move into the shallows to spawn, but they are making a mistake. If you aren’t fishing for crappie in February you are missing out on some of the best fishing of the year, especially for big fish.

Clark’s Hill is our biggest lake and offers great crappie fishing. There are many creeks and smaller rivers entering the lake that run in different directions, so you can find a place to fish that does not get the brunt of the winter wind. And you can find just about any water clarity you want to fish.

two big crappie

two big crappie

Rod Wall grew up and still lives near the lake in 96 South Carolina. He has a place on the South Carolina Little River arm of the lake and builds docks and seawalls on Lake Greenwood and Clark’s Hill. All his life he has been fishing Clark’s Hill for crappie.

About six years ago Rod started fishing crappie tournaments. He set small goals, first trying to catch a limit in each tournament, then to place and now to win. He does well on the Crappiemasters, Crappie USA and Georgia Slabmasters trails. He guides for crappie on both Lake Greenwood and Clark’s Hill.

Rod has done well enough on the trails to be sponsored by B ‘n M crappie rods, Vicious Line, and Hummingbird Electronics. He likes Southern Pro jigs and Midsouth Tackle jigs and trailers for his fishing and carries about 400 color combinations of jig heads and trailers with him in his boat.

Rod’s usual partner in tournaments is his 15 year old son Braxton and he has learned well. He has won two youth national championships, the 2010 Crappie USA Pickwick tournament and the 2011 Crappiemasters Alabama River tournament.

Nice winter crappie

Nice winter crappie

“You can catch some of the biggest crappie of the year right now,” Rod told me. The fish are moving into the creeks toward spawning areas and are feeding actively. There are several ways to catch them that work from right now through March.

To prove his point, he took me fishing in mid-January and we landed about ten crappie. The biggest seven went from 1.40 to 1.91 pounds – on his tournament scales. Those are big crappie. But he catches even bigger. His best seven fish

Winter crappie

Winter crappie

tournament limit weighed 17.5 pounds and he has landed three pound crappie on Clarks Hill this time of year.

Rod likes to longline, also called pulling or trolling, for crappie. His Lund boat is set up with Driftmaster rod holders allowing him to fish 14 B n M rods out the back. This setup lets him cover a lot of water quickly, finding the schools of fish and catching them.

To start the day Rod will look for stained water since he says crappie hit better on a reaction bite when the fish can’t get as good a look at the bait. He will watch his depthfinder for baitfish and schools of crappie to determine the depth he wants to run his jigs and use either four or six pound test Vicious line and vary the weight of jig heads to keep them at that depth.

“One of the biggest mistakes a beginner crappie troller makes is to not know the depth he is fishing,” Rod says. The best way to learn is to put out some one sixteenths ounce jigs and troll them over a flat of a consistent depth. Vary the speed of your boat until the jigs start to bump the bottom. If it is 12 feet deep that will tell you that size jig will run at that depth at the set speed.

Speed and line size is as critical as the size of the jig. The length behind the boat you troll is also important. Rod has made a chart so he knows exactly how fast to troll a jig size and line size combination to fish a set depth.

Normal trolling speed is from .6 to 1.2 MPH. A good GPS will tell you exactly how fast you are trolling and Rod keeps a constant eye on his speed. His boat is rigged with a Minkota remote control trolling motor and he can work it from the back of the boat near the rods to keep his boat on an exact course and speed.

Crappie relate to the channels as they move toward the spawning areas so he starts near the channel, fishing points and flats along them. We caught most of our fish in January off the end of a big flat that ran out to the Little River channel and dropped off on one end into a small feeder creek. They were stacked up on the drop.

Another mistake beginners make is to try to start with too many rods. Although Rod uses 14 B ‘N Rod rigs, you should start with just six to eight rods until you learn to control them and not get tangled.

It is also important to keep your rod tips down at the surface of the water, especially if there is any wind. Wind will catch the line and make it change depths and speeds, making control difficult if the rod tip is up off the water.

On his boat Rod will have four eight foot B ‘n N rods across the back beside the motor. Three more rod holders on each side have a 12, then 14 and finally a 16 foot rod. This allows you to cover 32 feet plus the width of the boat on each troll, a swath almost 40 feet wide.

In more clear water or if you want to run your jigs deeper, use four pound test line. In stained water or if you want to keep your jigs higher you can use six pound test line. First thing in the morning Rod will try several different colors but will switch most of his jigs to the color the crappie prefer.

Rod warns that the color choice can change rapidly during the day so if the fish slow down hitting one color try others. Also vary your speed if the bite slows on one that has been working. Watch your depthfinder so you stay at the depth the fish are holding and keep your bait there by changing jig size or line size for the speed you need to go.

A loop knot used to attach your jig head to the line definitely gives it more action and Rod always ties them on that way. With the light line a good know is critical. You need to tie one that will not cut the light line.

Some of Rod’s favorite places to fish on Clark’s Hill are the South Carolina Little River arm above the Highway 378 Bridge, Soap Creek above the Highway 220 Bridge, Haw and Wells Creeks on the Savannah River arm and Germany, Rousseau and Kemp Creeks on the Georgia Little River arm. He also fishes up Big Hart Creek and Little River around Kemp Creek.

Start toward the backs of these creeks in the mornings in February and pull out toward the mouth until you find the fish. On Clark’s Hill you can find space away from other boats giving you room to troll and make the wide turns necessary to be successful. Once you find an area holding crappie, either when you start catching them or seeing a lot of bait and crappie on your depthfinder, stay in that area.

Rod likes curly tail jigs and will tip them with a live minnow to see if that helps. He often puts jigs out on one side with minnows and jigs without minnows on the other side of the boat to see what the fish prefer. If they are hitting the jigs without minnows there is no need to use them.

Crappie often are just barely hooked on the jig so you should not set the hook or fight them too fast. Just pick up the rod and start reeling. Keep the fish in the lane that rod is in so they don’t tangle other lines and let them run when they want to. You have to keep the boat moving so reel very slowly.
You will need a long handle net for bigger fish. Rod says you should never get the fish closer to the boat than the length of line equal to the rod length. When the fish is about a rod lengths line away, slowly lift your rod tip to bring it to the net.

No matter how tempting it is to try to land a big striper, hybrid or largemouth when you hook one, they will make a mess of all your lines. In tournaments Rod will instantly break them off. The day we fished he hooked a nice striper and tried to land it. It tangled 12 of our 14 lines. If you want to try to land a big fish be prepared to untangle lines. Jut be sure it is not a really big crappie before you break it off!

Another trick when trying to find out exactly what the fish want is to run a zigzag pattern with your boat. That will speed up jigs on one side and slow them down on the other. This not only changes speed, it will change depth, so you can find out what they want.

On sunny days Rod will use translucent jigs and more colorful jigs on cloudy days. A little breeze often helps but stronger wind makes boat control difficult. To control his speed when trolling with the wind Rod keeps a drift sock in his boat and puts it out to slow him down. He will also put his motor in gear and he says that will slow your speed up to a tenth of a mile and hour by itself.

Some current definitely positions the fish deeper on cover so it makes trolling more difficult. No mater what, make sure your jigs stay clean. Any small piece of grass or other trash on the jig will guarantee the fish won’t hit it.

Don’t hesitate to change speed, color and depth when you are not catching anything. As Rod says, if you aren’t catching any fish it certainly doesn’t hurt to change.

The trolling season for crappie extends a long time. Warming water even for a few days can turn the fish on and anytime the water is over 50 degrees the fishing is good. There are both black and white crappie in Clark’s Hill and the blacks move in earlier, followed a couple of weeks later by the whites, so that extends the good fishing time.

Rod says black crappie will spawn at 60 degree water temperature and whites a couple of weeks later, so keep up with the water temperature. Fish move in waves of schools so you can keep up with them and catch them over a longer time than you might expect.

Smaller fish are often more aggressive and hit more shallow, so drop your jigs a little deeper if you are catching small fish but seeing others a little deeper. But be sure to always keep your jigs above the fish. Rod says crappie will sometimes come up six feet to hit a jig but will never go down to take one.

There are other ways to catch crappie this time of year. Rod has rod holders on the front of his boat for pushing bush piles and standing timber. This method involves putting the rods out in front of the boat, moving up close to the brush or tree, and letting the jigs or minnows drop straight down.

Depth is critical when pushing, too, so try different depths until you find what they want. Standing trees in the mouths of spawning creeks and pockets often hold large numbers of crappie and you can catch a lot while pushing them.

Clark’s Hill used to be known for its crappie fishing during the spawn in the button or buck bushes but the lake has been low for so long that has not happened in years. Fish will spawn just about anywhere along the bank and even out in deeper water on brush and standing timber.

The lake was 16 feet low the day we fished, just before all the rain in the middle of the month. The lake had come up about a foot since Christmas and should still be rising. The rain will give more color to the creeks and that should improve the trolling.

Rod’s depthfinder has a barometer indicator on it and he likes to see a rising or falling barometric pressure. He says a steady barometer is not good but movement in either direction will help make the bite better. An approaching front, with changing pressure, definitely helps.

If you want to catch some big crappie, head to Clark’s Hill this month. Try Rod’s methods or fish the way you like best. There are other good creeks on the lake, too so don’t get stuck on one pattern on place.

To book a guide trip with Rod on Greenwood or Clark’s Hill call him at 864-993-8868 or visit his web sites at http://slabmasterguideservice.com for more information and to book a trip.

Where Can I Catch Spring Crappie In Georgia?

Slab Time In The Peach State
Catching Spring Crappie In Georgia

If you have missed out on the ritual of catching crappie in Georgia in the spring you have missed one of the most enjoyable fishing experiences our state offers. The action is fast, the fish taste great and thousands of your fellow anglers take advantage of some of the best fishing Georgia has to offer.

Growing up near Clarks Hill I experienced the excitement each spring. Word would spread around McDuffie County like pine pollen blowing in the April wind – “The crappie are in the bushes.” Everyone from farmers who got in a boat once a year to bass fishermen who concentrated on largemouth 50 weeks a year to mommas and young kids would head to the lake to catch a mess of crappie.

This was the time to fill your freezer for fish fries that would last for months. For a two to three week period every cove at the lake would have several boats full of fishermen easing round the bank dropping minnows or jigs beside button bushes and pulling out shinning crappie. Everyone had a big smile on their face.

In lakes all over Georgia crappie go through their spawning cycle and fishermen show up to catch them. With a little effort you can expand the two week spawn when they are shallow into a full spring of catching fish. And you can do it on almost any public lake near you.

During the winter crappie are suspended out over big water, usually around some kind of wood. They hold over brush piles and tree tops and you can catch them but the weather is not very much fun and they are hard to find. Trolling and jigging is the most effective way to catch them.

As the water starts to warm in late February and early March the fish start to move toward the spawning areas. Depending on how fast it warms up, some crappie may be back in the spawning areas in late February but by mid to late March you can count on some laying eggs. Late March and early April is usually the prime time to catch them shallow.

Usually by mid to late April the shallow action is gone and the fish are heading back to deeper water. As they work out you can troll for them or shoot docks on lakes with lots of them. You can hit them in blowdowns on deeper banks toward the main lake. Then by early summer it is back to trolling and jigging in deeper water.

Spring is the time bank fishermen catch their share of crappie, too. From late February to late April the crappie are more likely to be near the bank and in reach of fishermen without boats. Find access at boat ramps, parks, fishing piers and roads that run near the water. Stay on public land and you can catch them.

If fishing from the bank it is a good idea to have several rods and poles so you can cover a fairly wide area. Keep some baits in near the bank but make long casts with others. When you catch one fish put all your bait in that spot because a school of crappie is probably moving through the area.

One exciting way to catch crappie on all our lakes is to tie up under a bridge or beside a treetop in deep water, hang a lantern over the side or drop a light into the water and wait for the shad to come to the light. Crappie will follow them and you can again load your boat. Many bridges look like small cities this time of year as dozens of boats light them up.

You can catch crappie all around Georgia but some lakes are better than others. Clarks Hill seems to always be good as are most bigger lakes. But don’t forget the smaller public waters like Public Fishing Areas and State Parks. If you live near one you know how good the fishing can be.

The following six lakes should all be good for crappie this spring. Choose one near you, hook up the boat if you have one, grab some poles and enjoy this ritual of spring.

Lake Allatoona

Although not known as a crappie hot spot, Allatoona has a good population of crappie and many anglers take advantage of it. Early spring fishing is good and there is less of the famed pleasure boat traffic on Allatoona. You can fish in relative peace.

The crappie fishing at Allatoona has been consistent for several years, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division. (WRD) The crappie you catch should average about one-half pound and be just over eight inches long. Some crappie weighing a pound are better should be in your catch, too.

There is very little shoreline cover like bushes to fish unless the water is very high, so look for shallow crappie around blowdowns and brush piles put out by fishermen. There are also some docks to fish in the creeks.

Troll the creeks for them in the early spring then drop a jig or minnow beside any kind of wood cover when they are spawning.

Look for crappie back in Kellogg, Illinois and Stamp Creek. The DNR says these are all good places for crappie. You are likely to catch some of the biggest crappie of the year while the females are full of eggs and back in the spawning areas in the early spring.

As the water warms follow the crappie back out by trolling toward the mouths of the creeks. By early summer they will be schooled up on state brush piles and other cover put out by anglers on drops and humps on the main lake. Fishing for them at night will help you avoid most of the boat traffic and gives you the best chance of catching them.

Lake Harding

Lake Harding, also known as Bartletts Ferry, has a good population of big crappie. According to the DNR at least half the crappie in the lake are in the 10 to 14 inch range and will weigh about one-half to three-fourths of a pound. There are many larger fish that you can catch, too.

In late February crappie start moving into the many pockets and small creeks on the lake. Almost all these creeks and pockets have docks in them and many have brush piles around them. Crappie will move following the deeper water and you can catch them by trolling jigs. Then they will hold on the shallow dock posts and brush piles to spawn and this is a good time to shoot jigs under the docks and dabble jigs and minnows around the shallow cover.

Also look for the cypress trees planted by the WRD and Georgia Power on shallow areas on the main lake. The root balls of these trees often hold spawning crappie. Fish all around them with jigs and minnows, just like fishing shallow brush in the creeks.

As the crappie start to move out they will hold on deeper docks. Late spring is a good time to shoot jigs back under the docks into the shady areas where they are feeding. Try to get all the way back under docks to the heaviest shade on bright, sunny days. Respect dock owners and skip docks where they are fishing, there will be plenty of empty docks to fish.

There are six fish attractors put out by the WRD that offer excellent fishing as summer approaches. Drop minnows and jigs around them during the day or anchor and fish over them at night with a light. You can do the same kind of fishing in the river by tying up to treetops and logs in deeper water.

Lake Blackshear

When you first see Lake Blackshear you can’t help but think it is crappie heaven. And it is. The acres of cypress trees standing in shallow water, numerous docks and bridges all look like crappie hot spots and they are. Add to those places the 10 brush piles put out by the WRD and you can find crappie all over the lake.

According to the WRD you will catch both black and white crappie on Blackshear and the populations of both is fair. Most of the fish are under 10 inches long but there are a good many pound to pound-and-a-half fish to be caught. Early spring is the best time to get the bigger fish.

Blackshear is far enough south that many are spawning by late February. Look for them in the cypress tree root balls and around the docks in Collins Branch, Spring Creek, Gum Creek and Boy Scout Slough. Up the river all the backouts have good spawning areas as do many of the main river runs.

Drop jigs and minnows beside cypress tress but remember the root ball may extend out several feet. Fish from right beside the trunk out at least three feet from it. A minnow swimming around just over the root ball should be hit, and you can drop jigs down to the same areas.

By late March there are still good populations of crappie holding around docks but you can also catch them off the state brush piles or around the bridges. Fish both areas day or night from late March on through the summer.

Also troll creek channel ledges for them. Take lots of bug spray.

Lake Sinclair

Probably our most popular crappie fishing lake in the winter because of the warm water released from the Georgia Power steam plant, Sinclair is a good bet all spring long, too. Year after year it produces good catches of crappie and that should continue this year.

There are some two-pound plus crappie caught each year at Sinclair and most are over eight inches long. About a third of the crappie at Sinclair are 10 inches long or longer and will weigh over half a pound. In the spring they will be fat and heavy.

You can start trolling for crappie and catching them early at Sinclair if you concentrate on water warmed by the outflow in Beaverdam Creek. By early March many crappie will be found in the backs of coves looking for spawning areas around docks, brush and bushes. The area from Beaverdam Creek to the dam will see fish move in earlier with those up the Little River and Oconee River arms moving in shallow a little later.

Check out Rooty Creek for good spawning areas all during the spring. The lower creek is warmed by Beaverdam some when pumpback is running at Oconee and the upper end warms a little later. Drop minnows and jigs around dock posts and brush back in the creeks. The back one third should be best early when the fish are spawning.

When the water hits the mid 60s the fish are mostly finished spawning and moving back out. Start shooting docks in the coves, concentrating on the docks in the outer two-thirds of the creek. When you catch a crappie around a dock stay there, there should be others as they school up this time of year.

There are several good state brush piles to fish in late spring and the main lake docks hold crappie, too. Troll the open water around the brush piles or shoot jigs to deeper docks in late spring to find the fish. Many crappie are also caught under the Little River bridge from late spring to summer.

Hamburg Lake

One of the most peaceful places to catch crappie may also be the best to catch big crappie. Hamburg is a 225 acre lake located in Hamburg State Park just north of Sandersville. Motors are limited to 10 horsepower so the lake stays quiet and calm. You can camp there and boat rental is also available.

Although crappie you catch at Hamburg will average about a half-pound, there are a good many two-pound-plus fish in the lake. The lake is full of stumps and crappie love wood cover, so you can usually locate them fairly easily.

In the early spring look for stump beds and brush out from the bank and either troll carefully through the area or cast jigs to them. As the water warms cast jigs to all the shoreline cover or dabble minnows in it. In late spring troll the old river channel and fish the standing timber along it with jigs and minnows.

When fishing standing timber, try to find the depth the crappie are holding by spotting them on a depthfinder. If you can’t see the fish for the forest, drop a live minnow or jig down and work it deeper and deeper until you catch a crappie. When you catch one note the depth and concentrate on it, that is the depth most of the crappie should be holding.

Lake Hartwell

Hartwell is a big lake with lots of arms and they all offer good crappie fishing. Different parts of the lake warm at different rates so you can usually find a variety of types of fishing at the same time. You can pick one area to fish and follow them as they move in or try to hit spawning crappie over different areas and extend that catch.

There was an excellent crappie spawn a few years ago after the water was down and that year class is getting bigger every year. They should be around 10 to 12 inches long this year and weigh about three-fourths of a pound. There are bigger crappie in the lake but for a good average size Hartwell should be excellent this year.

Start looking for crappie over structure like roadbeds and standing timber near the mouths of coves and creeks in early March. As the water warms follow the schools back into the creeks and coves, trolling for them. Watch for schools of baitfish as well as the crappie as you troll. They will often follow the shad as them move in, too.

By early April the crappie should be back in the coves spawning around bushes and other cover. Check out Eastanollee, Gum Log and Shoal Creek for better chances at crappie since those creeks have more color to the water and you can catch more there. If the water is too clear it is hard to get them to bite if they are real shallow, and the stained water is more fertile and supports more fish.

Late in the spring follow the fish back out trolling the creek channels and over standing timber. Night fishing is excellent in the clear water under bridges and over the standing timber. Use a bright light and fish your favorite jig or live minnow. Try different depths until the fish start hitting and tell you where they are holding if you don’t see them on your depthfinder.

All of these lakes offer great crappie fishing this spring. Pick one near you or head out to find new waters. Don’t miss one of the best times of the year to catch crappie.

Crappie Heaven – Secret Crappie Fishing Hole

Shooting jigs under docks for crappie

Shooting jigs under docks for crappie

Jim Pope tells us about a secret crappie fishing hole that sounds fantastic.

CRAPPIE HEAVEN
Jim Pope

Crappie fishing is something that this fisherman never spent much time doing. Sure there have been times when a school of slabs were accidentally located while fishing for smallmouth with grubs. When that happens, it is hard not to try to put a few of the tasty critters in the livewell. There are some, however, who dedicate themselves to catching crappie. A cousin of mine is such a fisherman.

My cousin lives about twenty miles west of Nashville, and he has a fish camp near Kentucky Lake in the New Johnsonville area. That is as close as I can take you to his place, because his fishing area is classified. He gave me a little hard capsule to keep on my person at all times and made me promise to bite into it if someone tried to torture me into telling them about this spot.

In late October of 1997, I was fortunate to be able to get in a fishing trip with my crappie fishing cousin and another cousin who had come down from Wisconsin (there is another story related to Wisconsin fishing. When we got to his camp, the first thing on our list was to make sure that the batteries were charged to capacity. When we opened the garage doors, I was surprised to see three boats housed there. There was a fairly new 17′ aluminum bass boat with a 60 hp motor, a 12′ john boat with a 9.9, and a 14′ john boat painted and rigged for duck hunting. After I spent several minutes complimenting the bass boat, my cousin informed me that he usually fished out of the 12′ rig. The bass rig was really nice, and I wondered why he would make such a choice. that would be revealed the next day.

The following morning, we casually drank coffee and had breakfast. There seemed to be no rush in getting to the water. A massive cold front had just passed through, the temperature was about 40 degrees, and a northeast wind was blowing at twenty or so. I was in no hurry, because the warmth of the trailer and the coffee felt good. In all honesty, I had many unspoken negative thoughts about the day.

We were at the water’s edge around 9:00 that morning. A gravel/dirt ramp was available to launch the boat, and my first thought was that it would take a four wheel drive vehicle to master that task after all of the rain which had fallen in the past two days. As it turned out, the ramp was very solid, and launching the boat was accomplished with ease.

Most of my fishing is done on large lakes and rivers. The body of water on which were about to embark was slightly different. It appeared to be more of a swamp than it did a lake. My cousin told me that the average depth was about three feet. Actually, is probably much less than that, because there are acres upon acres of water less than a foot deep.

This lake is near, but not connected to Kentucky Lake. The only time they join is when the spring rains raise the river level sufficient enough to overflow into this body of water. The lake consist of several thousand acres of shallow flats with twisting creek channels fingering their way throughout. It is absolute filled with big buck bushes, most of which are in less than a foot of water. That is where the 12′ john boat comes in handy. The bushes we would target on this day were the ones which were located on the edges of the creek channels. Understand that the water in the creek channels is, at most, only three feet deep. Next to these channels, the buck bushes were in 15 to 20 inches of water.

My cousin assured us that the crappie would be nosed up to or inside of the buck bushes on this cold windy day. He also said that we probably would not catch many fish, but the ones we would catch would be good ones. I wondered how he knew that, so I asked. His answer could have been related to largemouth bass instead of crappie. According to my cousin, the crappie dive into heavy cover on days like this day. The big ones move in, and the little ones have to leave. That is the law of the water. OK. He didn’t use any scientific reasons, but he spoke with confidence. Suddenly my negative thoughts began to change.

With two buckets of two and three inch long shiners in the boat, we set out. These minnows seemed rather large for crappie, but I held back that question. Our tools were simple. We each had a ten foot telescoping crappie pole with a little butt-reel spooled with 40 lb. test mono. On the terminal end was a slip float, a split shot, and a 3/0 wire hook. A piece of rubber band was tied about 12 or 15 inches above the hook to act as a stop for the slip float. Without asking, I wondered why he would want to use such a heavy line and large hook to fish for crappie. That was another question in my mind which was later answered by observation.

We fished three or four buck bushes before my cousin got our first crappie. I was amazed at how he could drop his float and minnow down through the center of the bushes. He had done that in this particular bush, and I heard him say, “There’s one!”. He raised his pole straight up. The long pole took on a parabolic shape, and the fish struggled to stay in the maze of roots and limbs. After a few short seconds of grunting and pole bending, my cousin horsed the big crappie straight up through the thick limbs of the bush and swung it into the boat. This fish would have weighed two pounds!

Naturally, my cousin from Wisconsin and I were both excited about the size of the fish. My cousin calmly informed us that this fish was not such a big fish. He probably can be considered somewhat of an authority, since he has more than one crappie on his wall in the three pound range. According to him, the spring fish are larger, and it is the spring fish he likes to catch. I can see why!

My cousin had three good crappie in the box before I had the first bite. That was enough for me to begin trying to drop my float fig down into the middle of those bushes. By 1:00, we had ten or twelve fish in the cooler, all of which were big fish (from my point of view). We threw back a dozen or more in the 10 to 12 inch range (for some reason, they now looked to be really small).

I had also managed to land four largemouth bass, the largest of which was about three pounds. A larger bass had straightened my wire hook. Strangely enough, a gar, which had to be 30″ long, took one of my minnows. For a few seconds, that was a “line singing” experience. It didn’t take me long to understand why the poles were rigged with 40 lb. test line. First, the strength is needed to force a fish up through an entanglement of roots and limbs. Second, it is strong enough to pull loose from a snag. The heavy line can be wrapped around the hand and the wire hook straightened. Now it all makes sense.

That day of crappie fishing was an eye opener for me. It was a very relaxing day, even if the temperature was below the comfort zone. To say the least, I was impressed with my cousin’s ability to put us on the huge crappie. As he had predicted, they were few, but they were good ones.

This fisherman is now at the age of diversity. For years, those casting from the back deck of my boat had no choice but to fish for bass. The only exception to that rule was when the stripe (white bass) were surfacing or when I took my Dad catfishing. Now that I have somewhat mellowed, I have found that there is often much pleasure associated with diversity. There will certainly be another trip to the secret crappie grounds, but please don’t ask me where it is. I have too many good years of fishing left.

How To Fish The Weedline

Two nice Lake Conroe crappie

Two nice Lake Conroe crappie

by: Bob Jensen

In the summer, there are a lot of areas in a lake that will be home to fish. Some fish will be in the deep water close to structure, some will be suspended over deep water hanging out around baitfish, and some will be in the shallow sloppy vegetation. But on any lake in the Midwest, you can bet that if there is a good weedline in the mid range depths, there will be fish nearby. They might be largemouth bass, could be crappies, there will probably be some walleyes in the area, and you can bet a musky or northern pike will be cruising through every now and then as well. For the next couple of months, the weedline is going to be the grocery store for fish.

Weedlines To Fish

Just to be clear, the weedline that we’re talking about usually consists of cabbage weeds. Clumps of coontail weeds are also good. The tops of the weeds could poke above the surface of the water, but mostly the weedline is below the surface. The weedline could be in five or fifteen feet of water. Generally, the clearer the water, the deeper the weedline.

Baits To Use

Lots of baits will work on the weedline. Early in the day, later in the evening, or on cloudy days, it works well to fish a spinnerbait over the tops of the weeds. Sometimes you’ll want the spinnerbait to bulge the water’s surface, other times a lift-drop retrieve will be best. Regardless of retrieve, you’ll want to use a spinnerbait that has hardware that enables the blade to turn at the slowest speeds. A Pro Series Reed-Runner spinnerbait is perfect for working over and around the weedline.

Lots of other techniques will work along the weedline, but day in and day out, it’s tough to beat a jig and soft bait of some sort. Soft bait appeals to any fish that lives on the weedline.

When some anglers think soft bait and jigs on the weedline, they automatically think of a worm shaped bait. Worms have caught lots of fish on lots of weedlines, but it is possible that fish become conditioned to a traditional worm shape. Much of the time, if you try something a little different, you’ll catch more fish. A fairly new worm shape that has been out-producing traditional worms is the Berkley PowerBait SaberTail. The SaberTail looks just a little different than most worms, and lately, it’s been a lot better than most worms.

A jig designed for soft bait is also important. The Lip-Stick Jig-Worm has a long shank hook and a bait holder that prevents the soft bait from sliding down the hook. For soft bait, this is the jig you should use.

When the fish are active, a heavier jig works best as it allows you to cover water faster.

A smaller jig allows for a slower fall which can trigger fish that are reluctant to bite.

Eight pound Berkley Trilene Sensation is about perfect most of the time for working the weedline.

Right now is a great time to be fishing, and the weedline is great place to start your search for fish.

Crappie Fishing In Alabama

by: James J. McHugh

Shooting docks for crappie

Shooting docks for crappie

District IV Fisheries Supervisor

Alabama’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

http://www.dcnr.state.al.us/agfd/fishsec.html

Crappie are among the most sought-after game fish by Alabama anglers.  They are widespread throughout the State, very abundant in many waters and excellent table fare.  However, even the most ardent anglers are often confused about the biology of these species.

First, there are two species of crappie, black and white.  Both species occur throughout the State but each prefers slightly different habitats.  The main difference is that white crappie are more tolerant of muddy water than black crappie.  Because of this, white crappie predominate in waters that are seasonally muddy (like the Alabama River and black crappie predominate in lakes that are usually clear (like Lake Martin.

Species identification can be tricky.  Don?t assume that dark colored crappie are black crappie and light colored fish are white crappie.  Black crappie have dark spots or mottling that occur in a random pattern on the sides of the body.  White crappie have spots that form (often faint) vertical bars or bands on the sides of the body.  The best way to identify the species is to count the number of spines in the dorsal fin.  White crappie have five or six spines and black crappie have seven or eight spines.

Another aspect of coloration that leads to confusion is that during spring some crappie are very dark on the head and throat.  That is the breeding coloration of male crappie and occurs in both species in the spring.  Females do not exhibit that coloration.  Knowing this provides a useful fishing tip.  During spring, if you are catching crappie with the dark throat coloration, you are catching nesting males.  Take some time to look around for the females, which are often larger than the males.  They will be holding offshore, but nearby, at about the same depth as the nesting males.

Other aspects of crappie reproductive behavior should be of interest to anglers, since most crappie are caught in the spring.  Black and white crappie are members of the sunfish family, along with bass and bream.  In all species of this family, the males hollow out nests and guard the eggs and young fish.  Some species, like bream, construct their nests close together in large beds, while other species, such as bass, construct individual nests.  Crappie build their nests close together but usually in smaller groups than bream.  Crappie also nest earlier than other members of the sunfish family, generally when the water temperature is between 60o and 65oF.

There is a 9-inch minimum size limit on crappie in most Alabama public waters (10-inches in Weiss Lake).  This size limit was instituted in October 1993 and has been very well received by anglers.  In fact, many crappie anglers have asked why the size limit is not higher because, at about 10-inches crappie really start to put on weight.  When the size limit was established, the age and growth rates of crappie were taken into consideration.

Anglers cannot see how old a fish is, but Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division biologists determine fish age on a regular basis.  In almost all Alabama waters, crappie reach nine inches by the time they are three years old.  However, in most waters 10-inch crappie are four years old.  Because crappie are not very long lived fish, it was deemed appropriate to allow their legal harvest at age three.  Any benefits of protecting them to age four would be offset by natural mortality.  In the few public waters where crappie fail to reach nine inches at age three, no minimum length limit has been established.  Therefore, the crappie size limit, as with any fish limit, is as much an age limit as a size limit.

Crappie fishing is a great way to introduce kids to the wonders of Alabama and share some unforgettable times together.  For more information on crappie fishing in your area contact any District Fisheries Office or come see us on the web at www.dcnr.state.al.us/agfd.