With the weather warming, crappie are getting ready to spawn, which means anglers are getting ready to catch them. Here are a few crappie fishing hot spots you should consider this year.
Anglers are itching to get out on the water, and for many the slightest hint of spring in the air indicates that the crappie are also getting the itch and soon will be moving shallow to spawn.
The weather is crazy this time of year in Georgia, being hard to predict if spring really is around the corner or if "Old Man Winter" has decided to set in for a while longer.
Last year, Georgia had temperatures in the 70s and 80s in winter, followed by blasts of frost in spring. As frustrating as this is for the angler, fish don't seem to mind. In fact according to Scott Williams, president of the Peach State Crappie Club, this likely helps boost crappie populations.
Even with temperatures all over the place, crappie are going to spawn when it's time. And that time is going to vary from lake to lake. What works for fish ends up being difficult for anglers to figure out.
Williams grew up fishing with his dad, who was a tournament angler. In 2005, Scott and his wife started fishing tournaments, and eventually Scott partnered with his dad to fish as a team all over the country, winning numerous titles.
Then, Williams and his dad started the Peach State Crappie Club. In addition to sharing a passion with other like-minded anglers, the club interacts and sponsors programs for veteran and children's groups and more.
They also sponsor tournaments every month from September through June, taking a break during summer while kids are out of school and families are spending time together.
While many anglers only think of targeting crappie in early spring when the fish are in the shallows, Scott says they are missing out if not fishing the summer months.
"A lot of people think that the crappie season is only when they are spawning," said Williams. "Crappie have to eat all year. When they are in their summertime pattern, they're so predictable that it's almost like taking candy from a baby. The fish are loaded on structure and this is the time to easily catch a limit."
Being on the Humminbird prostaff, Williams' biggest tip is to purchase good electronics and then take the time to learn how to use them by reading the manual and watching videos.
"A mistake that people make is that they think if they buy the sophisticated units with all the advanced features that all they have to do is turn it on, and unit does all the work," said Williams. "Taking the time to learn how to use it is time well spent."
Those without electronics need to obtain and study maps of lakes, looking for where creek or river channels hit a bank, as well as ledges and points. Luckily, the Peach State has countless lakes with these features where anglers can pursue crappie year 'round.
CLARKS HILL LAKE
Clarks Hill (also known as J. Strom Thurmond) is Georgia's largest reservoir at 71,535 acres. This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir is located 30 miles northeast of Augusta on the Savannah River. The numerous creeks feeding the lake, over 1,200 miles of shoreline and large areas of open water provide a wide range of fishing opportunities.
State samplings indicate some great crappie fishing in the reservoir, with catches averaging a half pound, along with bigger fish weighing 2 pounds and more. Most anglers fish small jigs, both with and without minnows, using an assortment of colors to determine what fish are hitting.
For pre-spawn action in the winter, try the backs of creeks, such as Big, Hart, Dry Fork, Knoblick and Cherokee. In spring, target Soap, Grays, Pistol and Newford creeks or Little River near Raysville. During late summer and fall, fish under the bridges.
Fisheries staff recently refurbished fish-attractor sites in the deeper areas. These sites are marked on Corps of Engineers Navigation Charts. Mistletoe and Elijah Clark state parks sunk Christmas trees along their banks in 8 to 15 feet of water. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries staff dropped pine and sweetgum trees into the lake in Little River near Holiday Park, as well as Big, Hart, Germany, Fishing, Pistol and Newford creeks.
Lake Oconee, located mainly in Greene County, is a popular destination for crappie anglers. A fair share of crappie tournaments are held on this lake as well. The 19,050 reservoir is operated by the Georgia Power Company, with Lake Sinclair as a pump-storage hydropower generation facility. This usage, along with the lake's long, narrow shape, produces a noticeable current during power generation and pump back. Fish tend to be more active and feed aggressively when water is moving.
For larger numbers and bigger fish, target them from February until May and again October to December. Early in the year, concentrate toward the mouths of creeks near the main lake, gradually moving up the creeks to shallow water as temperatures rise in the coming weeks. When water temperatures reach the low 60s, look for bedding crappie in the shallows around shoreline cover.
Using minnows and jigs, target standing timber and man-made brush piles in Sugar Creek and the upper end of the lake. Other major creek arms to target are Richland, Sandy and Lick creeks.
When the fish are in full summer mode they can be found in deeper water. Look for them in timber about 10 to 20 feet deep. Electronics are helpful in locating the schools. They can be enticed with live bait or jigging. During the fall, concentrate on the mouths of the creeks, river channels, standing timber and bridges.
Lake Sinclair is located north of Milledgeville off U.S. Hwy. 441. The reservoir covers more than 14,750 acres and stretches over Baldwin, Hancock and Putnam counties. The Georgia Power Company owns and operates the reservoir, but the Georgia Department of Natural Resources manages the fishery.
Samplings indicated 10- to 12-inch fish and along with 12- to 15-inch fish. Expect abundant fish in all sizes due to stocking and successful reproduction, along with a fair number of 2-plus-pound fish.
Small minnows hooked through the back or lips using long-shanked small hooks are good. Trolling with jigs, as well as pitching jigs under docks and casting small crankbaits are also effective.
In the spring, concentrate in the upper ends of coves. When the water warms, target deeper submerged treetops and areas around docks with brush or fish with lights at night under bridges or lighted deep-water docks, deep brush in coves or around deep-water structure. In the winter, target deep-water structure or the warm water discharge in the Beaverdam Creek area.
The DNR recently conducted aquatic habitat enhancement projects at Lake Sinclair, including installation of fish attractors built with artificial materials. Another piece of the enhancement program consists of shoreline enhancement and protection through bioengineering. Division personnel continue to plant maidencane, pickerel plant and water willow in suitable habitat areas in the lake to provide cover for fish and help stabilize erosion problems.
LAKE WALTER F. GEORGE
Lake Walter F. George, also known as Lake Eufaula, is a 45,180-acre Chattahoochee River reservoir encompassing 640 miles of Georgia and Alabama shoreline and 85 river miles between Columbus and Ft. Gaines.
Spring crappie fishing can be spectacular, both in numbers and in size. There are good numbers of 8- to 10-inch fish and crappie up to 15 inches are not uncommon. During mid-March through May, spawning fish can be found in water as shallow as a foot or two. Both daytime and night fishing under lights are effective during late winter and spring.
Favorite spots are creek mouths and under bridges. Bank anglers should try the fishing piers at Hardridge Creek and Florence Marina or the marked fishing areas at East Bank and River Bluff boat ramps. These fishing piers also are accessible to anglers with physical disabilities. Additionally, shoreline anglers can find success at Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge south of Rood Creek. Other hotspots include Pataula, White Oak, Rood and Grass creeks.
The Corps of Engineers is concerned with the increase in hydrilla in recent years. Anglers can help prevent the spread of this invasive weed by inspecting tackle, boat motor and trailer and by removing all plant fragments before entering or leaving boat ramps.
WEST POINT LAKE
West Point Lake is a 25,900-acre reservoir operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Chattahoochee River at the Georgia-Alabama border.Excellent facilities and proximity to Atlanta makes it a great option for many anglers.
West Point crappie are abundant, with fish 9 inches and larger being common. The best action is found by trolling jigs, but jigs and minnows are also productive.
Target the upper portions of Beech, Whitewater, Wehadkee and Stroud creeks. Fishing these areas around the bridges at night is also worth a try. Rocky Point and McGee Bridge fishing piers have PVC fish attractors for bank anglers.
Lake Nottely is a 4,180-acre Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir located in Union County near Blairsville. This spring, anglers should catch plenty of crappie in the 8- to 10-inch range. Minnows and minnow-tipped jigs are the most effective baits, but small curlytailed or hair jigs are suitable for those who prefer artificial lures.
Crappie are most abundant from Reece Creek to Canal Lake, but good numbers of crappie also occur in the backwater areas and pockets of the major coves like Ivy Log, Youngcane and Jacks creeks, or Chastain Branch.
As the water begins to warm up in March, a fish finder is helpful for locating fish in about 15 feet of water in the creek channels and under boathouses. By April, crappie move into very shallow water to spawn around visible structure. For the remainder of the year, crappie typically reside in deeper water near submerged structure, especially timber and around DNR fish attractors.
Baits To Consider
Choosing a bait can be as difficult as choosing a location, as there are so many great crappie baits available.
The Original Road Runner Marabou boasts superior breathing action that triggers strikes.
The blade underneath causes a turbulence that activates the marabou during the retrieve.
Once the retrieve is stopped, the light and airy hair breathes on its own. The center of the Marabou Road Runner is made from chenille, which acts as a scent holder for finicky crappie.
The Mr. Crappie Slabalicious by TTI Blakemore is a great all-around lure for crappie.
It is available in plenty of colors to adapt to all situations of water clarity and cloud cover. The hinged tail provides super action and vibration that crappie pick up on their lateral lines.