Pre-Spawn Slabs: Where to Catch Alabama Crappie
February 05, 2018
With the weather warming, Alabama crappie are getting ready to spawn, which means anglers are getting ready to catch them. Here are a few places you should consider this year.
By Greg McCain
Alabama anglers rarely lack opportunities to crappie fish. From one end of the state to the other, both large and small lakes feature good crappie fishing.
Of course, good is relative. At the least, most Alabama lakes are good in an average year and can be exceptional at their peak. The traditional favorites, such as Weiss, Martin, Eufaula and Millers Ferry, remain go-to stops, but many less-publicized fisheries offer quality slabs as well.
According to state fisheries biologists, Alabama anglers can anticipate a strong class of fish spawned in 2014, especially on the Coosa River, with those crappie mostly in the 12- to 14-inch range.
COOSA REMAINS STRONG
Weiss and Jordan, bookend crappie fisheries on the Coosa River in east-central Alabama, rank among the best spots in the state. Weiss, in fact, continues to enhance its reputation as the "Crappie Capital of the World."
A traditional favorite that draws anglers from across the country, Weiss enters the state out of Georgia near Centre. Like any fishery, the lake cycles from good years to that type of fishing that is potentially ahead.
"Right now, I would send them to the 'crappie capital,' and that would be Weiss," said Mike Holley, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division District II supervisor. "2014 was a phenomenal year, the highest year-class numbers we've seen since we started sampling the lake. We used to judge our year-class numbers by the 96 year-class, our previous best class we've sampled in that lake. In 2014, we saw about two times as many young-of-year fish as we did in 1996."
Anglers discovered those fish last year as keeper fish — 10 inches is the minimum on the lake — and those crappie should start growing to trophy proportions this year.
"It should be just a phenomenal fishery," Holley said. "By the time they get to 4 years old, you should see some really good fish coming out of Weiss on a regular basis."
BLACK CRAPPIE ON JORDAN
To the south near Wetumpka, Lake Jordan continues to yield better-than-average crappie, although the overall population is not as high as on Weiss. Jonathan Phillips of Team Phillips Guide Service (334-391-9735) puts his clients on big blacks on a regular basis.
"In peak months, you're looking at pound-and-a-half fish as the norm up there," Phillips said. "They are plentiful with some 2-pound fish as well."
Phillips spends most of his time longlining during the pre-spawn and the spawn, switching to other trolling tactics and vertical jigging later in the year. In general, Jordan is a deep-water crappie fishery.
"It's deeper than most of the lakes on the Coosa chain," Phillips said. "I'd say you normally target fish early in the year from 12 to 20 feet. Later, you will find them that deep or even deeper. I've caught them out to 35 feet on Jordan."
Damon Abernethy, assistant chief of Fisheries for WFF, lives on Jordan and has adapted to the deep-water nature of crappie on the lake.
"I tried the typical shallow approach of casting jigs at stumps and laydowns, and I finally gave up crappie fishing for a while," Abernethy said. "What I knew just didn't work. It was only when I learned to fish deep that I consistently begin to catch fish."
Abernethy now finds fish on electronics — saying 18 to 22 feet is the optimum depth year 'round — and vertical jigs over wood structure. Both Phillips and Abernethy generally target the lower half of the lake for crappie.
"They really, really wad up on Jordan," Abernethy said. "The schools can be so big they look like shad on the graph. They don't appear to ever leave the deep water."
The biggest crappie on Jordan are likely remnants from an excellent spawn in 2010, while another good spawn from 2014 has good keeper-size fish into the lake now.