September 28, 2010
Hankering for a honeyhole slap full of slabs? Then look no farther: We've compiled a roster of 25 prime Bayou State waters whose crappie fishing promises the extraordinary this year. (March 2008).
Photo by Keith Sutton.
I had my sights on the Stowe Creek area of Lake D'Arbonne, believing that what I'd just encountered on Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi would also work on my home lake in Louisiana.
I slipped my boat off the trailer and slowly motored my way under the bridge and up the channel, keeping an eye on the scattered cypress trees draped with Spanish moss. I had a hunch that the swollen boles and cypress knees next to the trees offered the crappie for which I had come.
Cutting the engine, I lowered the trolling motor and eased up to a cypress standing in 2 feet of water. My crappie pole was strung with line colored gold, a hue I'd chosen to enable me to detect even the slightest twitch indicating a bite.
Tied to the end of the line was a blue and white tube jig -- just the type and color that had worked so well two days before in Mississippi.
The Ole Miss Rebels and the LSU Tigers may not see eye to eye on the football field, but the same cannot be said for the fat and feisty crappie to which both states lay claim. The twitch on the line under the Stowe Creek cypress was exactly the same as the twitch I detected on Ross Barnett, and soon I was experiencing the fight of a fat crappie.
March is the time of year that sees crappie perpetuating the species. Once conditions are right in early spring, the spawn is on, and the most exciting fishing of the year heads into overdrive.
West Monroe crappie fishing expert Bobby Phillips believes that water temperature is one of the most important parts of the puzzle in catching springtime crappie. "Once water temperatures reach the upper 50s, provided other factors such as the passage of a cold front, heavy rain and such are absent, look for the fish to be headed for the shallows to begin spawning," he said. "Weather changes affect the fish and determine where they'll be. A period of stable weather where the water temperatures rise pushes the fish to the shallows. A spring cold front comes through and they move. They don't leave the area; they just push back to deeper water. The spawning urge is on and they're not going to move very far from where they want to spawn. Once the water temperature approaches 58 degrees, you might find them in a foot of water."
It's a well-established fact throughout Louisiana that crappie head for the shallows to spawn in spring. What lakes provide some of the best chances to spend a day enjoying a slugfest with one of the most popular game fish swimming in Louisiana's waters? We sought out some experts around the state to answer that very question -- and to improve your perch-jerkin' this spring.
This region of the state features some of the state's best springtime crappie fishing in some well-known fishing holes, as well as some that most anglers have never fished.
One of the more popular fishing lakes in Louisiana, Lake D'Arbonne really shines in the spring when the crappie spawn. According to Mike Wood, a fisheries biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, one feature of the crappie spawn on D'Arbonne guarantees good crappie fishing longer than on some lakes.
"We have determined that crappie don't all spawn at the same time on D'Arbonne," said Wood. "You'll find crappie on the beds earlier up the arms of the lake from Four Mile Creek to Stowe Creek, while they may not begin until a week or so later further down the lake. This gives anglers the opportunity to catch some good spawning fish for a longer period of time."
Lake D'Arbonne, which consists of about 15,000 acres, lies adjacent to the city of Farmerville. Several public boat launches are sited around the lake.
Poverty Point Reservoir"This fairly new lake is becoming known as a super crappie fishing lake," said Wood. "The main problem with fishing the spring spawn on Poverty Point is the competition. The word gets out once the crappie start coming in and folks come from all over to get in on the fishing."
Crowded or not, Poverty Point holds the promise of some serious slabs during springtime.
Poverty Point Reservoir consists of 2,850 acres and near Delhi.
Caney Lake's 5,000 acres are known primarily for producing some of the state's biggest bass, with the majority of the fish listed in the state record book coming from its water. That includes the current state record of 15.97 pounds, which has stood for 10 years.
What some anglers may not realize is that Caney Lake is also home to the state-record black crappie, a fish caught in February 2003 by Chet Tidwell. This big slab weighed 3.55 pounds and is tied for the record with a fish caught on Toledo Bend Reservoir in March 2003. Three of the top five black crappie in the state records were caught at Caney Lake.
In recent years, hydrilla problems at Caney Lake have been compounded by non-native grass carp that virtually wiped out all the vegetation in Caney within a year of their introduction. But Wood confirms that the lake is loaded with crappie, and that the angling is improving. "Fishing for crappie and other species is improving each year," he said, "and I look for the spring crappie spawn in 2008 to be a good one."
A small sleeper among crappie lakes, this is, according to Wood, a first-choice destination for many anglers each spring. "Woolen is the first lake to turn on in spring when the crappie begin spawning," he said. "It is a fairly shallow lake that warms quicker than deeper impoundments. It has a lot of open water and has a shad-based population, which means the fish have plenty to eat. You can fish the treelines or along the banks for some super fishing early in the year."
Woolen Lake, near Hebert in Richland Parish, consists of 240 acres. A private boat launch affords access to the lake for a daily launch fee.
The northwest portion of the state features some top-quality crappie destinations, especially during the spring spawn.
Toledo Bend Reservoir
This mammoth pond of some 186,000 acres is a crappie haven. In spring, the shallow shorelines from one end of the lake to the other produce literally thousands of crappie.
Look for the coves and shallow stretches that warm quickly to trigger the spawn before deeper areas kick in. Jigs or shiners fished around shallow structure are almost guaranteed to produce plenty of fat crappie.
This 17,200-acre lake touches Bossier, Webster and Bienville parishes and is a hideout for crappie in spring.
James Seales, a fisheries biologist working out of the Minden District LDWF office, says that Bistineau is a great lake to try for spring crappie. "This lake has lots of islands that produce more shorelines around the lake," he observed. "Fishing the trees and brush just offshore with shiners or jigs is the way to go for crappie here in spring."
Grand Bayou Reservoir
"This is probably the lake holding the most hope for fantastic fishing this spring," said Seales. "The lake has undergone a significant drawdown and should be full again by spring. The new flood ground that had been laid bare by the drawdown should trigger some super crappie fishing action."
Grand Bayou, a 2,500-acre lake, is in Red River Parish just east of Coushatta.
This 9,000-acre lake on the outskirts of Shreveport is a popular lake for a variety of freshwater fish, with channel catfish probably garnering the top bill. However, Seales confirms that crappie fishing is quite popular here in spring.
"This lake has lots of shallow shorelines and can be quite good for catching crappie during the spring spawn," he said.Lake Claiborne
Just east of Homer, Lake Claiborne features 6,400 acres of quality fishing, especially in springtime.
"This lake is known for its super wintertime crappie fishing, as crappie suspend over deep water out from the dam. However, it can be quite good in spring fishing jigs and shiners around shallow structure up the creeks and run-outs," Seales noted.
This region of the state covers a number of good crappie lakes from the Texas line in the west to the Mississippi River in the East.
This 2,125-acre lake just outside the city of Natchitoches is the source for the town's drinking water. The lake is governed by a commission that sells inexpensive annual fishing permits.
According to LDWF fisheries biologist Ricky Moses, who works in the department's Pineville office, Sibley Lake is full of crappie.
"The crappie here are generally not too large but they make up in quantity what they lack in quality," said Moses. "Fishing along the alligator weed line in spring or around the docks and coves produces plenty of crappie. Most fishermen use shiners here, but jigs will also work."
Black Lake is a beautiful 13,800-acre body of water laced with cypresses and tupelo gum trees, and crappie fishing here in March can be good, according to Moses.
"Fishing jigs or shiners or jigs tipped with grass shrimp in water 3 feet deep or so will produce some fine crappie here in spring," said Moses.
This lake, much like its neighbor Black Lake, features great springtime crappie fishing around brush and trees in the shallows. "This 8,400-acre lake has some really big crappie," noted Moses, "and most of them are black crappie."
CLECO Lake's 3,070 acres, just outside Alexandria in central Louisiana, offer some big black crappie during the spring spawn.
"The lake has had a bad aquatic vegetation problem, and grass carp were introduced. While the carp removed the grass, bass fishing on the lake declined," Moses said. "However, the crappie apparently weren't affected because you can catch a bunch of them here."
Saline Lake/Larto LakeA little to the east of Alexandria, this system of lakes, bayous and streams has long been known as one of the best crappie fishing spots in the state. According to Mike Ewing, fisheries biologist with the Ferriday district LDWF office, this area continues to be quite good for crappie anglers.
"It's probably one of the most consistent crappie fishing lakes anywhere," said Ewing. "It's located in one of the few areas where the bottomland hardwoods remain, and when it floods, it creates some super spawning habitat in the flooded timber."
Old River-Deer Park And Old River-VidaliaThese are two active oxbow lakes that are affected by the rise and fall of the Mississippi River.
"Barring too much rain upstream, these two areas are prime fishing spots for crappie fishermen in spring," Ewing said. "They continue to undergo falling and rising water, which introduces nutrients into the lakes continually. This makes for some really big crappie."
This lake near Sicily Island was impounded when a lock and dam was constructed on the Ouachita River.
"Now that a system has been installed to allow river water to flow into the lake during certain times, the lake is constantly the recipient of fresh water, which makes for some good (crappie) fishing," said Ewing.
This 4,200-acre lake near Leesville has long been known as a good crappie fishing lake.
"It's like a smaller version of Toledo Bend, having some of the same characteristics as the big lake," said Bobby Reed, fisheries biologist in the Lake Charles LDWF office.
"Lake Vernon is known for the size of crappie that are caught here in spring," he added. "There are some really impressive black crappie that come out of here every spring."
Bundick Lake/Anacoco Lake
According to Reed, these two lakes in his region are quite similar. "While Vernon produces more big fish," he said, "Bundick and Anacoco are known as 'numbers' lakes. Both are home to mostly white crappie and since they frequently flood, some really good crappie spawning habitat is created."
Bundick Lake is situated southeast of DeRidder, and Anacoco Lake is west of Leesville.
Fisheries biologist Jody David, who oversees the fishery on Henderson Lake, is encouraged by what he has seen after Hurricane Rita devastated this region in 2005.
"It's amazing how Henderson Lake has responded since the hurricane. The fish are there and the growth rate is outstanding," David said. "This should be a super crappie lake this coming spring."
Henderson Lake consists of 6,500 acres at pool stage.
utside Ville Platte, 1,642-acre Lake Chicot has long been a good producer of crappie, David reported. "With its many cypress trees and lots of aquatic vegetation," he said, "the crappie have unlimited areas in which to spawn. Fishing here is usually outstanding for crappie in spring."
This lake near Marksville in Avoyelles Parish is another good crappie fishing lake in spring, according to David. "The lake has had a big problem with hydrilla infestation," he stated, "but it has been treated with herbicides. Openings have been created, which should give fishermen better access to areas where the fish will spawn."
This 3,200-acre lake northwest of Ville Platte is another topnotch crappie lake in spring.
"The crappie are there, no doubt about it," David said. "However, because the lake is quite shallow, there is a vegetation problem. But once you find areas that are more open, you'll catch the crappie."
This lake with the exotic name is a prime producer of crappie in spring, according to LDWF fisheries biologist Mark Lawson.
"The lake is located in Jefferson and Lafourche parishes and is a small lake just above Lake Salvador. The Davis Pond diversion system allows water to flow into it and with the water has come the weeds.
"However, we're spraying to open up lanes, which will give fishermen better access," said Lawson. "There are plenty of crappie in there; the fishermen just need to be able to get back to where they are."
Lac Des Allemands
This 2,000-acre lake features good crappie fishing both in the lake and bayous that feed it. "It's fairly shallow," Lawson noted, "but offers some good fishing around the bridges and trees along shore."
Long known as a big bass lake, False River, which is an old oxbow lake, also provides some good crappie fishing in spring. "(The) best fishing in spring for crappie seems to be the tributaries that lead into the lake," said Lawson.
* * *Looking for a honeyhole in which to catch some crappie this spring? Then this litany of lakes strewn from one end of the state to the other is bound to guide you to water that suits your fancy.
Find more about Louisianafishing and hunting at:LAgameandfish.com