Catch Crappie Now in February, But Watch the Weather with John E. Phillips
Day 1: Little Waters Mean Big February Crappie
Editor’s Note: You can fill your freezer with crappie during February in many areas of the country, if you watch the weather and look for warm-water intrusions in the major waterways.
I had heard about a manufacturing plant that was releasing warm water into Weiss Lake, one of the best crappie-fishing areas in Alabama. The water was being released into a small stream several miles from the lake. Driving back roads, I found a bridge that crossed that little stream. I parked on the side of the road and walked down the bank, about 20-yards from the bridge. I located a small peninsula that jutted-out into the stream. At this point, the stream was no more than 10-yards wide or possibly even smaller. Assuming that the crappie were in the still water behind the peninsula, I was using a small crappie jig with 6-pound-test line and a bobber about 2- foot up the line from the jig. As I cast out into the back water several times, I failed to get a bite. Finally, I cast my jig and cork upstream and allowed it to wash around that small peninsula. As soon as the cork passed the point of the peninsula, the cork sank. The battle was on, and the first crappie I caught weighed 1-3/4-pounds. Every successful cast I made produced a crappie.
After I caught 15 crappie from the little stream, the fish stopped biting. I was fishing a red-headed jig with a chartreuse body and a white tail. Digging into my tackle box, I found another red-headed jig with a white body and a chartreuse tail. I tied this jig onto my line and cast upstream, again letting the jig and cork move with the current as it had when I started catching the crappie. Once the bobber sank, I set the hook and was able to catch big crappie. At that time, the limit for crappie was 50. In less than two hours, I put 42 crappie in my ice chest and was barely able to shut the lid. Even though the fish were still biting, I had no more room in my ice chest. Struggling to get the ice chest up the bank to where my car was parked and then load them into my car, I drove home and analyzed why the crappie were in this small, warm-water discharge area, and why the tactic I used to catch them worked.
• Crappie are in the pre-spawn mode during February in much of the South. The fish are looking for the warmest water they can find to begin their spawning ritual. Anytime you can identify a warm-water discharge into a lake or a river system that has plenty of crappie in it, you will have an extremely-good chance of locating and catching those big pre-spawn crappie near that discharge. The area I fished was about three quarters of a mile downstream from the plant that was discharging the water. Even though the weather was cold, the water was warm, and the crappie were in that warmer water.
• I had found the crappie, but that didn’t mean I could catch them. The crappie wanted the jig presented naturally. The baitfish they were feeding on were coming from upstream, riding the current around the point of the peninsula. As soon as the baitfish moved into the slack water, they were being picked-off by the crappie holding in the still water and moving to the edge of the current to feed. My jig needed to move at the same rate and in about the same water depth as the baitfish. This is the reason I didn’t catch crappie when I first started fishing and cast the jig into the slack water. However, when I cast upstream and let the jig ride the current to the edge of the warm-water, the crappie would attack.
• One of the secrets to catching crappie this month is to pinpoint warm-water discharges in large bodies of water. Move upstream until you locate the spot where the crappie are holding. Many times only a 2- or a 3-degree-temperature change will pull crappie into an area. In scouting for crappie this month, search for those warm-water discharges.
A new product coming to the market is the Mister Twister EZ-ScaleR. If you prefer to scale your crappie rather than fillet them, check-out this video: www.ez-scaler.com