Late Date With Oklahoma Slabs

Late Date With Oklahoma Slabs

Think May is too late in the season to be going after the Sooner State's slab crappie? Well, not at these lakes! (May 2009)

Donnie Jinkens, the "Crappie King" of Canton Lake, shows two good reasons he's earned that title -- a pair of 2-pounders!
Photo courtesy of Donnie Jinkens.

May is a super month for a myriad of outdoor activities in the Sooner State. School-aged kids revel in the fact that their long-awaited summer breaks are near. Campers, boaters and water skiers converge on many of the state's watery venues this month as waters warm to tolerable temperatures. However, if you are an angler, there's some hot crappie angling in the midstate area now as well.

It's true: Even though crappie have spawned in most waters, May is a great month to tangle with feisty papermouths. Many of these post-spawn slabs will be on the prowl looking to gorge themselves on small shad and minnows. Read on to get the rundown on my favorite crappie holes in the central part of the state.

CANTON LAKE
According to crappie expert Donnie Jinkens, Canton Lake is a great place in May to catch a basketful of crappie. Located 75 miles northwest of Oklahoma City and originally built as a water-supply lake for OK City, Canton is best known for the annual Walleye Round Up -- a festive fishing contest indeed. Yet, this prolific 7,910-acre fishery is overlooked by many crappie anglers, according to Jinkens, a 40-year resident there.

Nicknamed the "Crappie King" by Oklahoma fishing legend Don Wallace, Jinkens owns the Canton Motel and operates a guide service. He also believes Canton to be one of the best crappie lakes in the state.

"The lake has some real nice crappie that usually are fairly easy to locate in May," opined Jinkens. "The crappie I'm catching now are 1 1/2 pounds on average, but it is not uncommon to catch crappie over 2 pounds. In fact, my best crappie weighed 3 1/2 pounds."

Jinkens suggested anglers try the Indian Cove area near the southwest part of the lake, or the cattails or "tule area" located on the northwest end of the lake. Another good spot for May slabs lies in the Canadian area of the lake, where there is bank access from a jetty. The dam is 3 1/2 miles long and is a likely spot for casting a pair of jigs or dunking some minnows.

Jinkens advises that there are three pull-off areas by the dam, and these are places where crappie congregate. The ODWC has enhanced the lake's habitat with numerous brushpiles that, although unmarked, can be located with sonar equipment.

Jinkens' favorite artificial bait is a 2-inch Bobby Garland Baby Shad in chartreuse, Red Thunder, pearl and white, and pink and white colors. Minnows and jigs will work well also, and most fish will be caught at depths ranging from 1 to 3 feet. Bigger female crappie will be suspended at depths ranging from 10 to 12 feet.

The drive to Canton is just over an hour from Oklahoma City and well worth the trip. The fishing is exceptional and Jinkens' comfortable motel makes overnight stay superb. To get up-to-the-minute fishing reports or to book a trip with the Crappie King, contact Jinkens at (580) 886-5170.

EUFAULA LAKE
If driving two hours from Oklahoma City isn't a problem for you, I'd suggest one of my favorite crappie lakes, Lake Eufaula, which is in the southeast and close to the town of the same name. The state's largest lake, it covers 102,000 acres.

Summer anglers regularly catch hefty limits of crappie at Eufaula, making it one of the most popular destinations for anglers statewide. It's undoubtedly one of the finest crappie venues in the nation.

Lake Eufaula, though turbid or dirty in some areas, possesses prime habitat within which schools of crappie lurk, waiting to ambush small minnows and shad. Though the entire lake produces respectable numbers of crappie, the better areas are the clearer parts of the lake -- sites like Porum Landing, Duchess Creek, Belle Starr, and Highway 9 Landing.

Todd Huckabee is a crappie guide who regularly takes limits at Eufaula. Huckabee plies his trade around the lake's brushy creek areas, as they harbor many skillet-sized delicacies.

He catches some of his largest crappie in the south end of the lake near Crowder where he navigates through sometimes-shallow water. In fact, Huckabee seems to have a knack for catching slabs, having caught several weighing more than 3 pounds.

Huckabee has perfected a knack of dipping plastic jigs near stickups. Employing a 10-foot rod made by Quantum and bearing his name, the crappie pro swims his jig briefly around the brushy vegetation trying to entice a bite. If nothing happens, he moves on to the next stickup. That allows him to cover a lot of area, and when crappie are active, it's an exciting way of fishing.

Though traditional offerings work, Huckabee suggests using YUM wooly beavertail jigs, emphasizing their effectiveness on Eufaula's crappie. The pro's favorite color combinations are pink and white, chartreuse and black, black and pink, and pumpkin and chartreuse.

With the aid of a crappie light and some minnows, I've done pretty well fishing Eufaula at night under the Highway 9 bridge. That can be a great way to spend a nice May night.

The daily limit is 37 crappie, but with no length requirements.

ARCADIA LAKE
Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a water-supply lake, this 1,820-acre lake lies 15 miles north of Oklahoma City near Edmond. It can be accessed by taking I-35 north from Oklahoma City and exiting east on either the 15th Street exit or the Edmond Road exit.

ODWC fisheries biologist Keith Thomas shared some good news about Arcadia's crappie. "Anglers have always found above-average numbers of crappie in Arcadia, but now the average-sized catch is getting a little larger," he said. "Recent surveys have shown that Arcadia produces more crappie per hour (28.9) than any of the other metro lakes."

Thomas advises anglers to focus on the long brushpiles, which are clearly marked by orange-and-white buoys. "Traditionally, these areas are good for crappie which sometimes congregate there," he said. "The Tinker Creek area near the dam and Deep Fork Creek are also good spots, but usually a boat is needed to access those areas."

Thomas suggested that bank-anglers consider fishing around the 15th Street fishing dock, or off one of the rocky points on the north side of the lake near Central State Park.

Bank fishermen

will do well casting small jigs in the 1/64- to 1/8-ounce size range in bright fluorescent colors. The addition of a slip-cork can help anglers cast the lightweight jigs more efficiently and control the depth of lure presentation. Though the fishing can be good all day, the best fishing times generally are the first few hours of daylight and the last few hours before dark.

The lake is a fee-use area with prices posted at the entrances. The access fees are pricey, but usually well worth the fishing found there.

LAKE CHICKASHA
Chickasha Lake lies between Chickasha and Anadarko, within an hour's drive of Oklahoma City. The lake is small, only 820 acres, but it is relatively clear. Fed by two creeks and featuring a fair-sized complement of stickups, it typically produces good numbers of slab-sized crappie.

According to Larry Cofer with the ODWC, the lake's shoreline vegetation is less luxuriant than it used to be. That's due to the lake being drawn down to prevent flooding.

"Most of the crappie we have sampled have been black crappie, and the average weight will be a half-pound," he said. "When the lake first opened, there were some really nice crappie caught, but lately the size is not what it once was, though there are still some nice-sized crappie in the lake."

Cofer suggests that May crappie anglers concentrate their efforts near the small pods of cattails on the northwest side of the lake. He also believes the dam is a good spot for catching crappie. The lake features an enclosed fishing dock that's open to the public, and some underwater brush rows added to supplement fish habitat. Those areas are clearly marked with buoys.

Chickasha Lake doesn't offer much cover, but there are a few brushy areas beneath the surface that can be found with sonar equipment. These areas also make good spots to probe for post-spawn crappie.

Anglers are charged an access fee at Chickasha.

FINAL ADVICE
Crappie fishing is addictive and will leave an indelible impression on a child or a first-time angler. Why not take a drive to one of these crappie holes and spend a rewarding day, while getting your rod bent by a scrappy speck. Afterward, when your family dines on the tastiest of all filets, they'll want to know when you're going fishing for more!

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