September 30, 2010
Most fishermen turn to large reservoirs for papermouth action in the spring -- but there is another option. These state lakes harbor some crappie as well. (April 2007)
South Mississippi state lakes give up a lot of crappie like the ones caught by Mississippi Game & Fish editor Jimmy Jacobs.
Photo by Polly Dean
Springtime is the ideal season to fish for crappie. As temperatures rise and begin to warm the waters of the Magnolia State, crappie head for the shallows to spawn. Beginning in March most years, the males move up into the warmer shallow water to stake out beds in hopes of luring the females to lay their eggs. As water temperatures continue to rise well into April, more and more fish move toward shore for the peak of the bedding period. There's no better time than this for finding papermouths concentrated in small, easy-to-target areas!
Bedding crappie are invariably attracted to concentrations of any type of wood. Look for stumps and downed trees, brushpiles, standing timber that has been flooded, or wooden docks. Crappie use the wood for cover when building the nests and continue to guard the beds until the young fry can fend for themselves. Place your lure or bait above the woodpile or stumps. Crappie move up for a bait but rarely go down after one.
During earlier days of spring, while temperatures are still cool and the fish are in pre-spawn mode, they are more spread out and are found in depths of 8 to 12 feet of water. Depthfinders and GPS units come in handy for locating and marking the brushpiles that hold the fish. Eventually in just a few weeks, the consistently warmer April afternoons and evenings bring the fish up into very shallow creeks and coves, where they can be caught in just a foot or two of water.
Fishing a live minnow almost always brings success, especially in colder water. If fishing from an anchored boat or the bank, hook the minnow just under the dorsal fin for a more natural swimming movement. When trolling, hooking the bait through the lips or eyes works best.
Leadhead jigs with a 2-inch curly-tailed grub are also very effective. In many situations, using a jig will out-produce a minnow. A slow and steady retrieve works best with the wary papermouths. A 1/16-ounce jighead with a chartreuse grub is a popular combination. Other bright colors such as blue, yellow and green work well in stained water. If the water is clear, try more-natural colors like white or brown. Varying the color of the jighead can make a difference also.
While the northern portions of Mississippi offer several good options for finding papermouths, anglers who live farther south do have a selection of smaller lakes from which to load the livewell with a limit of springtime slabs.
Usually, very large bodies of water foster better populations of crappie. The fish have plenty of room to spread out, and predators like largemouths, striped bass and pickerel prevent crappie from overpopulating and stunting their size. The larger waters also generally contain larger populations of baitfish, such as shad.
Very small lakes do not normally provide ideal habitat for crappie, but there are a number of medium-sized state lakes in southern Mississippi that have been stocked with the species and provide some excellent fishing opportunities.
There are five state lakes located in the southern coastal plain of the Magnolia State. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks manages these state lakes in their District 6. Let's have a look at these ponds, which are well worth a try for springtime crappie fun!
LAKE JEFF DAVIS
Lake Jeff Davis covers 164 acres and is located in Jefferson Davis County. Numerous stumps litter the lake's south shores, where the water shallows to less than 3 feet deep. Abundant wood cover and stumps can also be found in the lake arms, especially the southeastern arm, where the main-creek channel runs.
Two handicapped fishing piers make this a popular bank-fishing lake. The boat ramp can accommodate boats of all sizes. The daily creel limit is 30 crappie.
Mims Griffith set the lake record for crappie with his slab caught in 1982. The record fish weighed in at 3 pounds, 8 ounces! The Mississippi Sport Fishing (MSFish) Index gives Lake Jeff Davis a rating of 40 for crappie fishing. This index rates lakes on a scale of 1 to 100, with high numbers indicating better fishing possibilities. The highest-rated crappie lake in the state is Bee, with a score of 80.
Recent data also indicates that only 17 percent of the anglers on this water are targeting papermouths, but their success rate is 1.7 fish per hour.
To access Lake Jeff Davis, go east on State Route 42 from Prentiss for three miles. Turn left onto Ed Parkman Road, then right onto Lake Drive. Follow the signs to the lake. For more information on Lake Jeff Davis, contact the Lake Officer Jerry Burkett at (601) 792-8225.
Lake Perry is located three miles south of Beaumont in Perry County. Its 125 acres are fed by Little Creek. The two main arms of the lake, which extend south and northwest, hold numerous stumps and downed treetops. The shallow water in these creek mouths warms up quickly in the spring, attracting the spawning fish.
Boats on the lake are restricted to idle speed at all times, except when water-skiing is allowed on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to sunset. Two handicapped-access piers and the clean shoreline on the western shore make Lake Perry a pleasure for anglers to fish from the bank. The boat ramp accommodates boats of all sizes.
Statewide creel limits apply on the lake, with the daily take for crappie at 30 fish. The MSFish Index gives Lake Perry a rating of 42 for papermouths. The record crappie taken from this reservoir weighed 3 pounds, 4 ounces.
For more information on Lake Perry, contact Lake Officer Marlin Lee at (601) 784-6119.
LAKE MIKE CONNER
Lake Mike Conner contains 83 acres and lies in Covington County eight miles west of Collins off of U.S. Highway 84. The lake has been open since 1990, after draining and restocking.
Two handicapped-access piers and several dirt piers along Lake Mike Conner's borders give bank-fishermen great access. Brushpiles are scattered throughout the eastern areas of the lake, and fish attractors have been placed in various spots along the eastern bank, as well as a couple put in deeper water close to the main-creek channel near the center of the lake. The drain valve near the dam is also a key spot for picking up some crappie.
Skiing is only allowed on this reservoir Wednesdays and Sundays from noon until sundown, making Lake Mike Conner angler-friendly the rest of the time. The boat ramp accommodates boats of all sizes.
The lake officer for Mike Conner is Leo Smith. He can be reached at (601) 765-4024 to obtain more information.