John's Journal... Entry 184, Day 1
HOW TO CATCH PRE-SPAWN CRAPPIE
EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of the biggest crappie of the year are caught just prior to the spawn, because not only are the female crappie full of roe then, but often they are still carrying their winter weights. Since pre-spawn crappie can be in various places at different times of the year in reservoirs throughout the country, any writer who tells you exactly where to look for pre-spawn crappie more than likely is talking about where to search for them on the lakes and rivers he knows. Here are some examples of where and how I have found pre-spawn crappie in the past, and where you may search for them at this time of year.
In February of 2003, pre-spawn crappie already are biting in Alabama where I live - in the southern part of the state on Lake Eufala and in the northern section near the Georgia border on Lake Weiss. In late February in North Georgia, the weather is still cool, but the big, slab crappie often will spawn about the end of February - mid-March, as in many other parts of the country. Three to four weeks before the spawn, these fish usually are hunting warmer and shallower water in preparation for the spawn. A friend of mine, Robert Holland, had found a small stream that was used by a major factory near Rome, Georgia, to dump warm water discharge. The stream flowed into a nearby river that had plenty of crappie in it.
"I've seen some folks fishing down by the bridge, and they had some pretty nice-sized crappie," Holland told me one day. Since the stream was not very far from either of our jobs, we decided to give it a try one afternoon after work. Using jigs and corks, we cast out into the warm water and let our jigs wash downstream. After taking about eight or 10 crappie that afternoon, I decided to move further down the bank to see if I could locate a better place to fish. I noticed a narrow point jutting out into the current and forming an eddy pool on the backside of the point. I cast my jig out and allowed the cork to carry the jig around the point and into the eddy hole where the cork sank. My rod bowed, my line sang, and I brought a fat, 1-1/2-pound crappie to the bank. Quickly unhooking the fish, I threw out again -- letting the cork drift the jig into the same eddy hole. Once more the cork sank, and I took a nice crappie. After I had put my 15th fish on the stringer, Holland yelled out from upstream, "Hey, John. You catching any fish? These up here have just about quit biting."
"Yeah, I'm catching a few," I replied, trying to sound unexcited. In a few minutes, Holland came down the bank, pulled up my stringer, and said, "Golly, why didn't you tell me you were catching these kinds of crappie?" Barely managing to keep a straight face, I explained that I wasn't really sure how good the place was where I was fishing and that I wanted to be certain there were plenty of crappie there before I told Holland to move down and fish with me. Holland, who recognized a lie when he heard one, told me to, "Move over boy. I'm gonna catch me some of those slabs." Anywhere you can find warm water discharge in small creeks and streams that run into major reservoirs, often you will locate a honey hole for big, pre-spawn crappie.
On major reservoirs, crappie that are preparing to spawn generally will run up creek and river channels and wait for the warm weather and the correct water temperature to move out on the flats to spawn. Often a hole or a deep spot at the very end of a ditch or a small creek channel will be where large schools of big crappie will hold just prior to the spawn. "During the pre-spawn and post-spawn times of the year, I usually can find crappie ganged-up along ditches and the backs of little creek channels," Charlie Ingram, a fishing guide with the Lake Eufaula Guide Service on Alabama's Lake Eufaula, explained. "Many times in the backs of these little ditches, I can sit in one spot and limit out on crappie. If there is any cover at all in these holes, you can expect to locate numbers of crappie. Any place you can find a ditch, a cut or a small secondary creek channel close to a spawning area, you can expect to discover crappie. Most of the time these crappie will be very aggressive, because they are trying to feed up ahead of the spawn. Although most anglers think that during the spawn is the best time to catch big crappie, I've learned that the pre-spawn is when I find and catch the largest crappie.
"To be an effective pre-spawn fisherman, you must be able to read a depth finder and a topo map. The topo map will tell you where the small ditches, secondary creeks and little cuts are in the lake's bottom. The depthfinder will help you get on this structure and show you the cover and the fish holding there. During the pre-spawn, I personally prefer to fish the 3/4-ounce jigging spoon, because I can angle vertically with it. It's a big spoon and produces large crappie. Because of the jigging spoon's weight, if I get tangled in cover, I can shake it free."
To learn more about crappie fishing, you can contact Jackie Thompson at the Lake Eufaula Guide Service, (334) 687-9595 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TOMORROW: STUMP CRAPPIE