Catch Fat February Crappie
Day 1: Some Key Places to Catch February Fish
Editor’s Note: You’ll find crappie fishing in February highly productive with plenty of fast action and big fish. Or, you may encounter fishing situations as slow as pouring maple syrup out of a cold pot on a frosty morning. Where you find the crappie makes the difference in the type of February fishing you do.
Jackie Thompson, a guide on Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Alabama, explains, "If anglers are on Lake Eufaula at the right time during the cold weather, then they can catch all the crappie they want.
Since a National Wildlife Refuge is on the banks of Lake Eufaula, each year several-thousand acres of the refuge are flooded to provide a home for wintering waterfowl. When the waterfowl season is over, these man-made ponds are pumped-out. The water from these duck ponds is pumped back into Lake Eufaula. Then the ponds will dry-up for the spring planting of corn and other grains to feed the ducks and geese through the winter.
“The water from these shallow-water ponds usually is much warmer than the wintertime water in Lake Eufaula. When the water is pumped-out of the ponds and poured back into the lake, plenty of warm water comes into a big area of cold water. That warm water being pumped into the lake draws crappie like a magnet. Within only a few hours after the pumps start running, the crappie begin showing up in large numbers at these sites. You may be able to find sites like this in your area to fish in the winter for crappie. Most of the time these winter crappie will be big fish. Because they are in such a confined area of warm water, they are easy to catch. I've seen two anglers fish for half a day and catch a limit of crappie that weighs between 1/2-pound and 2-pounds each. There's no doubt that if you crappie fish on Eufaula when the duck ponds are being pumped-out in cold weather, you can load up your cooler. Usually, the fishing is so fast, and the crappie so aggressive that jig fishing seems to be the best. The weather may be cold, but the crappie fishing can be hot."
Underwater Points and Islands – “One key to finding crappie in cold weather is to locate a jumbo-sized underwater point that slopes gradually out into the lake,” the late Buck Taylor of Nashville Tennessee, an avid crappie fisherman, once told me. “The ideal point will offer the crappie a variety of water depths, from very shallow to very deep. Then, the crappie can travel the slope, searching for the type of water they prefer. When the water gets so cold that being out on the lake is almost too miserable for anglers, crappie will feed daily up into shallow water. But, their holding area will always be in or near much-deeper water.
“Crappie also prefer to concentrate around underwater islands and/or on ridges featuring the same, wide range of bottom depths as an underwater point. These areas offer fish an easy way to respond to changing stimuli. The crappie can move-up the slope to feed or warm themselves on sunny days or back-down a few yards on days when things are cold and glum.”
Power Plants’ Tailraces – “A power plant produces great quantities of super-hot water in the process of creating electricity,” Taylor had mentioned to me. “Water at the discharge point is far-too hot for the fish to enjoy. However, as you travel further downstream, and the hot water mixes with the cold water, the blend forms a wide variety of temperature zones. So, find the comfort zone for the crappie. Do be careful in the tailrace areas.”
Treetops in the Water and Stumps on the Banks – The late Curt Edney of Birmingham, Alabama, another outstanding year-round crappier, once told me, “Wintertime is the best season of the year to catch crappie.” Edney located these crappie hot spots by watching the bank. “Look for stumps on the bank,” Edney explained. “Search for a stump of a tree that lightning has hit or that has rotted-down. If you don’t see the tree, then decide where the tree’s fallen into the water.”
Although using a depth finder would make pinpointing the underwater tree and its top easy, when I fished with Edney, he had no depth finder. “Once you decide about where the top should be, anchor about 10-feet from it, and start casting your jig,” Edney explained. “Allow the jig to sink all the way to the bottom, and start retrieving it. When you hit tree limbs or catch crappie, then you know you’re in the right place.” Edney always pinpointed from 30 to 50 submerged trees about 20- to 30-yards from the bank. During the winter months, he’d spot-fish. He’d go to a submerged tree, make 8 or 10 casts into it and try to take crappie. If he failed to get a bite, he’d leave that tree and move to another one.
According to Edney, “Sometimes crappie will be on one tree and not another. But, if you fish enough trees until you locate the crappie, you usually can take from 6- to 15-crappie per treetop. Crappie often will hit almost anything you throw right in front of them – even the tinfoil that comes on a pack of cigarettes that you squeeze onto a crappie hook with a piece of shot lead.”
Edney also fished successfully in the centers of the trees where crappie concentrated in the winter with homemade jigs made of knitting thread.