October 04, 2010
From the famous to the underfished, these crappie hotspots could become your favorite fishing holes. (April 2006)
Lake Marion is known for the huge crappie it produces. Not too long ago, I fished with a father-and-son operation (Pete and Barry Pritchard's Guide Service) out of the Goat Island Resort, and had a fishing experience I will long remember.
This father-and-son team has around 300 brushpiles in Lake Marion. Most of the brushpiles are made from oak trees that still have the green leaves on them; crappie will often go to these trees overnight. The Pritchards like to stick the butt of the tree into the hole of a cinder block to make the brush stand up straight. Brush installed in the winter months when no leaves are on the wood has to wait several months for the slime to accumulate before these brush really produce.
The Pritchards fish from a pontoon boat that has a cover on it. They use fly rods like cane poles. Pete tells customers, "The reel is strictly on the rod to store line, and not to crank."
The reels are loaded with 14-pound-test line. The line has a large clamp-on sinker and a 1/0 hook at the business end for use with live bait, though when crappie are really aggressive, Pete Pritchard will use jigs (he notes that any color is good, "as long as it has chartreuse in it"). In April, he usually finds fish in 20 feet of water as measured from the floor of the lake to the surface of the water, but the brush, of course, rises above the lakebed and he'll be fishing at the 10- to 12-foot depth.
Pete said, "If you are not bumping the brush every now and then, you are not over the brush, or you're fishing too shallow. Some fish will be down in the brush, and some on top."
The Pritchards fish vertically, and when they feel a strike, they set the hook immediately, raising their rods straight up as far as they can reach. With this equipment, the angler's free hand catches and pulls on the line. The combination of the rising rod tip and the shortening of the line will lift the fish right into the boat.
Pete will drive over his brush, and drop a marker in it. He will motor downwind, and return to the marker using an electric motor to hover over the brush.
He's looking to fish in the 10- to 12-foot range even in April for a reason.
"Fish don't all spawn at the same time. Sometimes the spawn will be scattered out over several weeks. Fish seem to be spawning in deeper and deeper water these days," he said. "You can catch some crappie around cypress trees in 3 feet of water in April, but the big numbers are caught in 20-foot depths fishing down 10 to 12 feet."
Obviously, not everyone who fishes has hundreds of pre-set brushpiles in the lake, but that needn't stop you from finding fish, Pete said.
"If you don't have your own brush in the lake, you might want to try around exposed trees, and snags that are in 20 feet of water fishing 10 to 12 feet deep. If you don't catch a fish within five minutes, move on to another spot."
When I fished with Pete, he would travel from brush to brush like he had a road map, and then drop a marker in it, and fish as previously mentioned. Many of his brushpiles were a mile or more from shore. Using triangulation to get a line, and his depth recorder to pinpoint brush, he quickly located his hotspots. We would usually catch three to five crappie on each pile of brush. When the action slowed, we would move to another place. I liked the way Pete fishes. If crappie were there, we stayed until the action slows. If we were on brush but we didn't catch a fish in a few minutes, we left to fish another spot.
The day I fished with Pete we kept 42 fish, and threw back about half that many that didn't measure up to his standards. Of those fish we kept, 30 were in the 1- to 3-pound category. I have personally never seen that many slabs in a cooler box on a single trip. I have caught individual crappie larger than that but never that many on one outing. If you want to book a trip with Pete, give him a call at (803) 478-7533. April is a good month; limit catches of big fish are common.
Lake Greenwood also has its fair share of lunker crappie. Huge black crappie are all over the lake.
Mark Danqui runs the Crappie Hole in Chapin (803/345-5606), and fishes Lake Greenwood on a regular basis.
Danqui recommends fishing the 6- to 8-foot depths in April, as crappie start spawning in March and continue up into April.
"April is a good dock month; stumps, piers and boathouses hold fish then. As water temperatures climb up around 55 to 60 degrees, crappie move back into the coves in preparation to spawn. The backs of the creeks are prime places to fish."
He usually fishes with leadhead jigs that have a rubber body and feathers in the tail; this is his "go-to jig." He uses light-colored jigs under dark conditions, and dark-colored jigs when conditions are bright.
"June bug and chartreuse is a dynamite color combination when the water is dark; blue and white is a better color when the water is clear," he said, and noted that "when the fishing gets rough, tip your jig with a minnow to crank up your success rate."
Gene Hayes, freshwater fisheries biologist for the SCDNR, notes that Danqui is not alone in looking for crappie on this lake, and for good reasons.
"Black crappie are one of the most targeted fish in Lake Greenwood," Hayes said. "About one in four fishermen target crappie here; the overall health of the crappie population is excellent."
Ray Frick is an expert crappie fisherman who lives on Lake Greenwood (865/543-3701). When Frick gets in the area he wants to fish, he kills the outboard, and switches on his electric motor to ease his boat around piers and boathouses.
"These are excellent places to find crappie in April. If you run across a pier that has rod holders and lights on it, spend a lot of time fishing there. Usually there are brushpiles under and around this pier. Wooden stakes, and cane poles stuck in the mud are good fish attractors, too; it doesn't take long for crappie to be attracted to them during the spawn."
Frick's favorite jig is a 1/16-ounce in a black and chartreuse color. When the catch rate slows down, Frick often lip hooks a minnow to improve his chances.
To fish the upper part of Lake Greenwood above Highway 72, use Skipper's Landing, Mary and Judy's Landing, Moon's Landing and Cane Creek Landing. Use Leader's Fishing Village Landing and
you can fish either the top or bottom portion of the lake. The West Side Fishing Access is ideal if you only want to fish the bottom end of Greenwood.
A little-known crappie hotspot in the Piedmont is Stumpy Pond. This relatively small fishing destination is overlooked by all but a few locals who refer to Stumpy Pond as "our secret lake."
The entire lake is around three miles long and has excellent crappie fishing, not to mention the largemouth bass and stripers that call this impoundment home.
To get to Stumpy Pond from Great Falls, drive south on Highway 97 toward Camden. After you cross the Catawba River (the Fishing Creek Dam can be seen on the left), Highway 97 makes a sharp right turn as it separates from Highway 200; 2.8 miles from this junction you will come to a paved crossroad. Turn right on Highway 20, and drive a little over three miles. A large brown sign will direct you to Stumpy Pond, which has a paved ramp and parking lot.
When this lake was filled, many trees were still standing. Depending on the water level, some will be visible, but many are just below the surface. Drive slowly to avoid damage to your boat and motor.
As you leave the landing, motor to the right to get to one of my favorite April crappie hotspots. At the upper end, you will see a long row of large, dead cedar trees. By fishing around the edges of these trees, I have caught my limit of crappie on numerous occasions. Sometimes, the fish are right up around the trunk of the tree. Fishing jigs or minnows 3 to 5 feet below a float would be my recommendation here.
Chris Curtis runs Crappie Masters Guide Service and Stumpy Pond is one of the impoundments he fishes. Curtis rigs his boat to fish using a spider rig, and is quite successful. The day I fished Stumpy Pond with him, we had a blast! We caught our limit, even though we spent some time fishing "catch-and-release" when it became clear a limit was not going to be a problem. To book a trip with Crappie Masters Guide Service, phone (803) 285-1730.
April is prime time to catch crappie in South Carolina and our state is blessed with many lakes and rivers in which to find these fish. By fishing one of the waters covered in this story, it can be the start of a wonderful experience!