April is the month when winter has finally had its last gasp in Mississippi. The weather begins to moderate, plants bloom and fish begin to move into their spring patterns.
All of those factors combine to make this a great month to be on the water in the Magnolia State. Regardless of the species of freshwater fish you want to target, somewhere in the state you can find them biting.
For bass anglers the fish are either headed to the shore to spawn, or are already there. That equates to some great shallow water action for these fish.
Meanwhile, panfish are likely to be in the same areas as well. Crappie are most likely bunched around shall wood structure as they spawn.
Out on shallow mud or sand flats, redear sunfish will be fanning their saucer shaped beds as the full moon nears. The virtual moonscapes these fish — commonly called shell crackers — create as they pock mark the bottom are beacons to bream fishermen.
While the possibilities for catching these fish are wide spread, there are some better places to get into the action. And, between the four species, there is good fishing to be had throughout the state this month.
Let's have a look at four destinations for finding this outstanding fishing action this April. We'll start in the northern end of the state and work out way south.
Sardis Lake is a 31,400-acre flood control reservoir that was constructed on the Little Tallahatchie River in 1940. Located 9 miles east of the town of Sardis and 20 miles west of Oxford, the lake has 220 miles of shoreline.
This is a relatively shallow impoundment, averaging around 25 feet deep. There are some depths pushing 60 feet near the dam, but also a lot of water in the 5- to 10-foot depths as well.
It is those shallow areas, particularly in the many creek arms on the reservoir that attract the spawning crappie in the spring.
Although there was a lot of sunken timber left in the lakebed during construction, most has long since rotted away. But, abundant brush piles and fish attractors have replaced that lost cover. The best of these for crappie fishing are located along the drop into the old creek channels.
Some of the better arms for finding crappie are Blackwater and Hurricane creeks on the upper portion of the lake. Farther to the southwest on the lower lake the arms of check out are Clear, Greasy and Toby Tubby.
White crappie are the predominant species, although some black crappie are also present. These fish are quite popular on the impoundment. Surveys have found that up to 90 percent of all anglers on Sardis Lake are targeting crappie.
The chance at some real slabs is one appeal. Local angler Peyton Robinson hoisted a 4-pound white crappie from Sardis last year.
Several tactics work for crappie in the month of April. Probably the most popular is simply dangling a minnow under a cork. However, some anglers prefer to cast and tight line a jighead dressed with a grub or tube lure.
Also, the technique of trolling can produce some slabs on this lake. Moving slowly, either a minnow or jig can be rigged for this mobile method of fishing.
Jigs with red heads and white trailers are popular on Sardis, as are red-and-chartreuse color schemes. But, it€šs always a good idea to have a variety of colors on hand. If the fish aren't biting, then keep changing shades until the crappie tell you what they want.
Regardless of the bait or lure, the places to concentrate you effort are along the creek channels mentioned earlier, paying particular attention to water 6 to 10 feet deep.
The creel limit for crappie on Sardis Lake is 20 fish per angler. Crappie must be more than 12 inches to be legally harvested.
While fishing on Sardis you can use no more than five poles per angler.
ROSS BARNETT RESERVOIR
Spotted bass take a back seat to their cousins the largemouths on most waters in the Magnolia State. But one of the exceptions to that rule can be found on the upper end of Ross Barnett Reservoir to the northeast of Jackson.
This lake on the Pearl River was impounded in 1965 and covers 33,000 acres. For spotted bass angler, however, the honey hole is much smaller. Far to the northeast and upstream of the Mississippi State Route 43 bridge, the reservoir is more like a slightly flooded river.
Throughout Ross Barnett spots make up only 10 percent of the black bass population. However, on the extreme upper portion of the lake, they compose 50 percent of the bass.
From Ratliff Ferry Boat Ramp — which is located just east of the Natchez Trace Parkway — upstream to the Low Head Dam between Canton on the west and Lena to the east, spotted bass find the habitat very much to their liking.
Spots are very fond of rock bottoms and shorelines, so anywhere you find that type composition is worth some casts. Also sharply dropping bluff shorelines attract these fish.
Don€št expect to catch a lot of big fish when targeting spotted bass. But, you can expect to have some fast action when the bite is on. Most spots run only 10 to 14 inches long and a 2-pounder is a good fish.
For fooling these fish you need to down size your line and baits. Mini-sized crankbaits, such as a Bill Lewis Tiny Trap, or even inline spinners like Rooster Tails can be deadly on spots.
Also, you probably need to go light on line size as well. Six- to 8-test line can handle these fish and the smaller diameter of the line is less likely to spook the fish.
Good places to launch a boat for a day of targeting spotted bass at Ross Barnett are found at Ratliff Ferry, Coal Bluff Park and Campground or Low Head Dam.
CALLING PANTHER LAKE
If there's a better place to catch a trophy largemouth bass in Mississippi than on Calling Panther Lake, it is a very well kept secret.
Indeed, the most recent MSFish survey done by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks awarded the lake a rating of 69 for largemouth bass fishing. That was the highest score for the specie earned by any body of water in the state.
This 512-acres state fishing lake in Copiah County was stocked with Florida-strain largemouth bass in 2003. Those fish have found the waters to their liking and have grown big.
In 2011 the lake record for the specie was broken twice. In Feb. 20 David Howell wrestled a 14.1-pound "hawg" from the lake, eclipsing the previous record by almost half a pound. His record, however, was very short lived.
On Feb. 26 James Allen of Crystal Springs boated a 26 3/4-inch bass that tipped the scales at 15.4 pounds!
On this lake fish of more than 7 pounds are commonly caught.
Not only does the lake have big bass, it has too many bass. Thus, the regulations on bass at Calling Panther are a bit unusual. The daily creel limit is 30 bass per day. But, only one of those may be longer than 20 inches.
The keys to the great fishing on Calling Panther are some deepwater areas and plenty of cover. About 90 percent of the timber was left standing with lake was built. That standing timber is spread throughout the impoundment. There are also 13 fish attractors along the northwest and southeast shores of the lake.
Water near the dam is 40 to 45 feet deep and the old creek channel along the lower end of the southeast side has 30 to 35 feet of water. The two smaller creek arms on the northwest side shallow up to 10 or 15 feet.
April is the month to find redear sunfish — more commonly called shellcrackers — spawning throughout the Magnolia State. And fishing for them is most enjoyable in smaller ponds.
Down in the southeast corner of the state in Wayne County, Waynesboro Lake offers 12 acres that have a population of these feisty bream. The pond is also referred to as Lakeland Park Lake.
These fish eat lots of snails and other crustaceans, so they are primarily bottom feeders. The best bait to offer them is a gob of earthworms. Look for their beds in shallow flats areas. They'll look like a moonscape of craters on the lake bottom.