John's Journal...

Don’t Bank on Bank-Bound Crappie in the Spring

Day 5: Catching Flood-Water Crappie in the Spring

Editor’s Note: To find bank-bound crappie, you must know the temperature of the water. Forget about the time of year. When the water temperature becomes warm-enough for crappie to spawn, they will move to the bank. With a not-just-right water temperature, the crappie will pull away from the bank. Throughout March and April, various sections of even the South may experience unexpected cold fronts that will cause the crappie to swim-away from the bank.

Click for Larger View"Come on down to my restaurant, John, about l:00 p.m.," my neighbor Danny Wiles of Birmingham, Alabama, told me. "I've been fishing, and I've caught a big mess of slab crappie." During that prespawn time a couple of years ago, our part of the country had had the worst floods in the history of the state for the 2 days prior to Wiles’ phone call. No one in his right mind would have gone fishing the day Wiles went in the wind, the rain and muddy-water conditions. But at lunchtime when I sat down to drag some tasty, fried, crappie fillets through a puddle of ketchup, I started picking Wiles' brain about how to catch bad-weather papermouths. Click for Larger View“I only seriously crappie fish for about 3 to 4 weeks during the early spring prior to the spawn," Wiles says. "I've found the best crappie fishing to be on the worst days imaginable for several reasons. When the weather's bad, lots of water is coming over the spillways at the dams, the wind's blowing, the current in the river is strong, and the water is muddy, rarely will there be another boat below the dam except mine. Therefore I don't have any competition for the fish. "Also I like to fish on those kinds of days, because the current forces the baitfish into eddy holes and pockets downriver behind rocks, below underwater drop-offs and behind trees that have fallen into the river. During these flood-water conditions, the baitfish will school-up in these eddy holes, and the big crappie will stack-up in these same areas, while gorging on shad in preparation for the spawn. Usually I can catch all the crappie I want to take in a half-day's fishing. If I have a limit of 35 fish, I'll generally have five to l0 crappie that will weigh 2-pounds each or more."

Click for Larger ViewWiles has found one of the best-kept secrets for successful prespawn crappie fishing. He fishes at a time and in a place when most other anglers doubt they'll find successful crappie fishing. When the spring floods come, and many rivers and lakes back up into woodlots and fields, often the crappie will follow the moving water into the newly-inundated lands. I like to fish for crappie along a flood plain on the Tennessee/Tombigbee Waterway. Using a flat-bottomed johnboat, I go to the river when the water's up and have made some large catches in freshly-flooded woodlots during the early part of the spring where baitfish concentrate. The crappie school-up and feed on these baitfish. To catch these shallow-water crappie, fish with minnows and jigs, and hold the baits only 1 or 2 inches under the surface. In muddy and rising water, light doesn't penetrate very deeply into the water. Click for Larger ViewMost of the baitfish usually will swim in less than a foot of water. The baitfish will follow the moving water into the shallows to feed-off the new plant life and microscopic animals coming into the lake as the water floods. By keeping your bait in that very-shallow water, your minnows or jigs will appear more natural to the crappie, and you'll take more fish. Most anglers' boats draft too much to move into these shallow-water regions. I prefer to use a small johnboat or a canoe for a one or a two-man type of easily maneuverable-boat and fish in backwater areas.

Members of the sunfish family, the same family to which black bass belong, papermouths will react to rising flood waters just as bass do. They'll position themselves near the edge of the shore in very-shallow water, facing toward the bank where the baitfish run. The crappie fisherman who understands how and where to find bass when rivers flood, also will know where to look for crappie under the same circumstances.

Check back each day this week for more about "Don’t Bank on Bank-Bound Crappie in the Spring "

Day 1: Fishing for Discharge Crappie in the Spring
Day 2: Catching Ditch Crappie and Stump Crappie in the Spring
Day 3: Fishing Docks and Feeder Creeks for Springtime Crappie
Day 4: Springtime’s Mid-Water Crappie, Sight-Fish Crappie and Planted Crappie
Day 5: Catching Flood-Water Crappie in the Spring

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Entry 605, Day 5