Alabama is blessed with plenty of water, and it seems like almost every creek and mud hole has a population of crappie. There’s even an old wives’ tale that if you build a new pond in Alabama and don’t stock it with anything, crappie will show up.
The Cotton State as a whole is truly a crappie hotspot. But even among all that abundance of crappie fishing, a few places stand out as the best of the best.
Here’s a look at five sites you don’t want to pass up when planning your spring fishing calendar this year.
“We have got the crappie this year,” District III fisheries biologist Jay Haffner said about Aliceville Lake, enthusiasm evident in his voice. “In my professional opinion, it’s going to be as good as it has ever been.”
It’s a very exciting time to be a crappie angler on the Tombigbee River.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and it is as good as I can ever remember,” he said.
Crappie could start turning on as early as February with some warm days. But the fishing here is expected to still be going strong come March and April.
Haffner looks for the fishing to be the best when there are three or four sunny days in a row. It starts moving crappie toward the banks. He expects the fishing to be toughest on raw, blustery days that still feel like winter.
Anglers should troll the banks looking for any woody structure to fish with jigs and minnows.
Aliceville Lake covers about 8,300 acres on the Tombigbee River in west-central Alabama, hard against the Mississippi state line.
While wood is a primary structure for finding crappie, don’t overlook the weedlines. Aliceville has abundant aquatic vegetation and the weedlines can be another structure where you find crappie.
Haffner welcomes questions from anglers looking for more information about Aliceville. You can reach him at (205) 339-5716, or e-mail him at Jay.Haffner@dcnr.alabama.gov.
Millers Ferry in southwest Alabama is a destination that needs to be on the agenda of diehard crappie anglers this spring. It has both abundant and trophy-class fish.
“We’re seeing good numbers in our sampling and we’ve seen individual crappie up to about 3 pounds,” said District V fisheries biologist Ben Ricks.
Crappie fishing has been called Millers Ferry’s best-kept secret, but word has been getting out for years now.
The impoundment of the Alabama River covers about 17,200 acres.
Good places to try for crappie on this reservoir are Foster, Pine Barren, Chilatchee, Alligator and Bogue Chitto creeks.
Locals like to fish with minnows, but plastic grubs and jigs do well for crappie on Millers Ferry too.
Play your cards right and you might do more than just take home a cooler full of fish here. You might win a nice prize, too. The Wilcox County Chamber of Commerce sponsors a spring fishing derby that focuses on crappie.
They catch, tag and release fish. Anglers who later catch one of the tagged fish can qualify for a prize.
“They give out five big prizes every year,” Ricks said. “It’s a lot of fun. They had about 1,000 people register for the rodeo last year.”
The size limit on Millers Ferry is 9 inches and the creel limit is 30 fish a day, same as for the rest of the state.
“Our catch rates are almost always higher than anywhere else in the state,” Ricks said. “And we see a lot of crappie in the 2 1/2-pound range.”
Visit www.wilcoxareachamber.org for area information.
Mention crappie fishing in Alabama, and Weiss Lake instantly jumps to the minds of a lot of people.
It’s a longtime crappie producer that often bills itself as the Crappie Capital of the World. It’s a shallow, fertile lake on the Coosa River covering about 30,200 acres. It’s in Cherokee County in the northeastern portion of the state.
“We’re seeing some really good fish in Weiss in our surveying,” said District II fisheries biologist Dan Catchings. “It’s going to be another good spring on Weiss.”
It probably won’t be the best it has ever been on this impoundment. A few seasons of drought played havoc with the water level and that in turn affected the crappie spawn.
Catchings described the current crop of crappie coming through as a “moderate year-class” of fish, meaning it’s just an average population.
Fall crappie sampling last year turned up a good number of 12-inch and larger fish on Weiss Lake, Catchings said.
In March and April, you want to check out the various sloughs of the lake as the crappie begin to run shallow to spawn.
Crappie here have to measure 10 inches to legally be a keepers. There are also regulations in place that prevent anglers from using more than three rods and reels, so keep that in mind if you like to spider rig with multiple fishing rods.
You can get links for accommodations and fishing guides at Weiss Lake by visiting the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.cherokee-chamber.org.
Jones Bluff Reservoir
Jones Bluff Reservoir — really the stretch of the Alabama River from Montgomery all the way to the Robert F. Henry Lock and Dam — is a crappie angler’s paradise.
There are miles and miles of riverine habitat that support tremendous numbers of crappie, with occasional backwaters thrown in as an excellent place to catch other slabs.
“We see good fish from Jones Bluff,” said District IV fisheries supervisor Chris Greene. “The fish are abundant and the fishing is very consistent.”
He recommended trolling the banks or throwing baits at any kind of structure you see, particularly blown-down trees. Jones Bluff covers some 12,000 acres, so th
ere’s lots of room to fish.
In the southeastern corner of the state, Lake Eufaula is the main attraction when it comes to crappie fishing.
“A lot of people think of Eufaula as a bass lake, but there’s a lot of crappie fishing that takes place here, too,” said fisheries biologist Rob Andress.
Anglers should troll the banks of creeks and probe brush tops and other likely looking spots with jigs and minnows. Recent sampling work has indicated Eufaula crappie are growing a little bigger than they have in the past. There are good numbers of 8- to 10-inch crappie, with fair numbers of larger fish showing up.
“Fishing for crappie is no different here than it is anywhere else,” Andress stressed. “Look for blowdowns up in the creeks.”
Crappie fishing doesn’t stop in this lake when the spring temperatures warm up. Night-fishing for crappie in deep water under lights is also quite popular on Eufaula.
Eufaula covers 45,180 acres along the Chattahoochee River on the Georgia state line.
Keep It Simple
Crappie fishing isn’t rocket science, say the state’s fisheries biologists.
“There’s no reason to make it harder than it is,” said District III fisheries biologist Jay Haffner. “Keep it simple.”
He recommended fishing with standard spinning gear and using jigs and minnows, nothing fancy.
Paying attention to the basics — tuning up the boat and having it ready to go and spooling rods with fresh line — is something serious crappie anglers should have completed by the first of February.
On the Alabama River, lots of crappie anglers make it even simpler. Many anglers here use old-time long poles to probe treetops that have fallen into the water. It’s just simpler to drop a lure straight into the top with a long pole than it is to try to cast it there with spinning or spin-casting gear.
If you’re not catching fish, you might want to try slowing down your presentation. You can also experiment with using or not using a float. People catch crappie both ways.
Carry several colors of jigs with you. If you’re not getting hits on one, try another. Dark bodies and chartreuse tails seem to be an old standby. White grubs also work well.
Most well-prepared crappie anglers also have a Styrofoam or plastic minnow bucket stocked with a couple dozen minnows as an option, too.
Another trick is to fish two jigs at once, with one tied a short distance above the other. It gives you two chances to catch a fish, especially if you use different colors. The extra weight can also come in handy to keep the rig deeper if current is running through your favorite crappie reservoir.
Sleepers For Crappie
They may not be the best of the best, but several “sleeper” or overlooked waters also offer better than average crappie fishing this spring.
In the northeastern part of the state, Logan Martin Lake fits the bill.
“We’re seeing some really nice crappie in Logan Martin and they’re fairly abundant,” said district fisheries biologist Dan Catchings.
In the southeastern part of the state, Point A Reservoir produces crappie for locals in the know, although fisheries biologist Rob Andress said it is harder to find them there than on Eufaula.
In west-central Alabama, check out Claiborne Reservoir. District fisheries biologist Ben Ricks said the fishing is almost identical to that on Millers Ferry, but it’s off the beaten path a little more and doesn’t get near the fishing pressure that Millers Ferry gets.
“Access is a little more limited,” Ricks admitted.
Aliceville Lake may be considered the top crappie lake in District III, but next-door Gainesville Lake is almost equally good, Haffner said. Boats are required to do any serious crappie fishing on Aliceville or Gainesville.
A better alternative for the land-bound angler in west-central Alabama might be to visit Dallas County Lake. It’s a state public fishing lake that is absolutely teeming with crappie.
Counting our sleeper destinations, that makes 10 bodies of water around the state that are expected to produce better than average crappie fishing this spring. Those should be enough to keep any papermouth angler busy this year!