Spring is tailor-made for fishing in our great state.
Bass fishing is red-hot at almost every lunker hotspot, catfish hunters can find husky fish in a variety of ways, and saltwater anglers have it great for wade-fishing on shallow flats up and down the coast.
However, if you’re looking for real fun that surely isn’t far away, no matter where you call home, it’s time to hit the water in search of a papermouth paradise.
Crappie fishing is at its best right now, and with mild temperatures across the state, there’s no reason not to partake in what these fish have to offer. Whether you tie off your flat-bottom boat to a dependable, weathered stump, hit the dock for some night-fishing under the lights or simply fling wiggling shiners from the bank, you simply can’t go wrong this month in the search for barn-door slabs — and lots of them, too!
From small stock ponds to massive impoundments, the crappie seems at home anywhere, making its living among an array of subsurface habitat. With a little know-how, a dash of effort and maybe even a little luck, most anglers who hit the water this time of year in hopes of filling their freezer with some tasty fillets will cash in on lakes across our state.
Here’s a look at the top lakes for crappie fishing in Texas this year.
John Tibbs, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist in Central Texas, said his part of the state should be chockfull of crappie, and highlighted a few lakes that anglers should consider this spring.
“(Lake) Waco is shaping up to be good this year for 10-inch to 12-inch crappie, as there was a good spawn in 2007, and larger fish are available as well,” he said. “The abundance of cover from a 7-foot pool rise in the fall may make finding concentrations of fish a little difficult, but there are lots of them.
“Aquilla is also benefiting from the floods of ’07 and should have lots of 10-inch to 12-inch crappie available as well. Both Waco and Aquilla held floodwaters for an extended period, which increased crappie spawn success. Longer retention time generally equates to increased numbers of crappie from that year.
“Mexia should also be good this year, as fall 2007 surveys showed large numbers of newly spawned fish. They should easily be of legal size. Mexia is almost always a good bet for crappie.”
Tibbs previously pointed to drought and loss of habitat as being of concern for many bodies of water in Central Texas and also said that crappie populations tend to be cyclical in nature, which makes things tough to predict in some years. However, Tibbs also said there certainly is no shortage of great crappie fishing opportunities in his part of the state.
Other lakes to look at include Lake Limestone, which Tibbs said doesn’t receive as much angling pressure since it’s off the beaten path, but almost always has solid crappie numbers and plenty of suitable habitat. He also pointed to lakes LBJ and Granger. Another spot to consider is Lake Whitney, Tibbs said, which is more known for producing hefty smallmouths and stripers and hybrids. Tibbs said April is a great month on almost all Central Texas lakes with plenty of submerged vegetation. That’s because of fish being more concentrated in shallower areas as the spawn takes place.
Bruce Hysmith, TPWD’s biologist in Pottsboro, said North Texas reservoirs feature great angling opportunities for bass, catfish and stripers, but there remain a number of fantastic fishing locales for crappie. Hysmith said crappie should be exceptionally good this year for one reason: Rain.
“Most of our reservoirs in my district are full and above with the exception of Lake Bridgeport, which is still low despite the fact that the West Fork Trinity River is still running,” he said. “The high water favors spawning, affords protection to young sport fish and baitfish, floods vegetation that provides nutrients upon decay to fuel plankton that feeds small and larval fishes, and, lastly, it creates more habitat.
“Deep-water habitat created by lots of rain will pay dividends if we have a harsh winter. The crappie will be able to find deep water and keep on eating and growing.”
Hysmith pointed to some specific hotspots he feels anglers should fish this spring.
“Some of the top places in my district consist of lakes Coffee Mill, Davy Crockett, Texoma and Lavon,” he said. “Coffee Mill, if you recall, is in the Caddo National Grasslands in Fannin County and they have just recently ceased overflowing their respective spillways. They are in great shape and trap net surveys in Crockett produced some barn-door crappie, and plenty in the wings for next year.”
Hysmith said Coffee Mill is the “go-to” crappie lake in his region, and the small body of water supports the highest crappie population in an eight-county fisheries district.
“Texoma has been 2 to 4 feet above normal for a while and lots of terrestrial vegetation has been flooded and is in various stages of decay,” he said. “Finally, Lake Lavon is very high and has flooded acres of terrestrial vegetation. Lavon is a consistent producer of crappie in the first place, and all this rain is just going to push the envelope next year. You’ve got to watch crappie, however, because they can be so cyclic in their production, but we probably can lay that aside for this year because of the rain in the fall. And, if we get good spring rains, then all the much better!”
Other North Texas bodies of water to consider are Benbrook, Lewisville, Ray Roberts and Ray Hubbard, which all are rated good to excellent for crappie by the TPWD.
This region offers the densest amount of water per acre in the state and there are some whopper opportunities in a number of them. Among the best crappie fisheries are Fork, Lake O’ the Pines, Livingston, Conroe, Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. Fork, like Lake Alan Henry and Choke Canyon Reservoir, is known more as a trophy bass hotspot, but it also is an excellent crappie fishery. In the spring, the angling effort of those seeking crappie centers on the bridges that run over the lake in the form of highways and county roads. The same vegetation that holds stupendous largemouths also will provide cover for crappie. Dropping minnows in and around any variety of timber and vegetation should prove fruitful.