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Catch Crappie Now in February, But Watch the Weather with John E. Phillips

Day 5: Look For Warm-Water Runoffs in Springs for Early-Season Crappie

Editor’s Note: You can fill your freezer with crappie during February and the early season in many areas of the country, if you watch the weather and look for warm-water intrusions in the major waterways.

Click for Larger ViewIn many lakes and rivers, you’ll pinpoint underground springs that run into main rivers and reservoirs. We often think of a spring as coming from underwater and containing cold-water discharges. Oftentimes, during February and March, the water coming from the springs is warmer than the water where it empties. Therefore in the areas of these springs, you often can locate and catch early-season crappie. Two tournament fishermen I met several years ago consistently won early-season crappie tournaments on Lake Eufaula in southeast Alabama with a tactic that will work anywhere. These tournament anglers found an underwater spring that was about 30-feet deep out in the middle of the lake. The spring didn’t show-up on any map, and no one could it, unless they had located it themselves.

Click for Larger ViewThere was no brush around and no structure near it, but when these two tournament fishermen were cruising the water with their depth finder, they spotted large numbers of baitfish and other fish holding out in the middle of the lake. As they dropped their crappie jigs down, they started catching more and more crappie – particularly big ones. When they put a temperature gauge down, they found that this water coming into the lake at this spot was 3-to 4-degrees warmer than the other water in the lake. They determined this was a warm-water spring. Year after year they could go to this spring in February and March and consistently catch really big crappie in deep water.

Identifying these types of springs is not easy, but by using a depth finder and doing research on springs or possible springs in your section of the country, you may find one of these honey holes. An easier way to find springs is to know where they are located by finding them in the summer. If there are springs that run year-round, oftentimes during February and March, these springs will be putting warmer water into the lake or the river than you’ll find anywhere else in that body of water

Click for Larger ViewYet another way to find warm water coming into a cold lake is to pinpoint warm water runoffs. In Alabama where I live, we will often get 3 or 4 days of weather with temperatures of 50 to 70 degrees. Often these warm fronts collide with cold fronts and create warm rains. When these rains hit the ground and runs-off into lakes and rivers, that runoff water will be warmer than the river or lake into which it runs. That water’s carrying dirt, insects, worms and invertebrates, and often will be more nutrient-loaded than the water into which it is running. Warm water that’s highly fertile attracts shad and baitfish, which draws-in crappie and bass. A few years ago I went to a river near home and found one of these warm-water run offs right after a warm rain with temperatures that were 60 to 65 degrees during the month of February.

Click for Larger ViewAt the point where I found a muddy runoff little stream dumping into the main lake, I cast a crappie jig to the muddy water. Then just as the jig came to the edge of that mud line, the crappie would attack. I was able to fish that little muddy water intrusion until I filled my limit of big crappie. To catch some of the biggest crappie of the year during February and March, when the crappie are fat and getting ready for the spawn, identify warm-water intrusions into lakes and rivers near your home. Look for nutrient-loaded water coming into the waters that you fish. Search for underwater springs, sewage-treatment plant discharges, factories that discharge warm water and often power and/or nuclear plants that discharge warm water at this time of the year. Now is the time to find and catch big crappie before the spawn. These tactics will help you load your cooler.

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:

Check back each day this week for more about "Catch Crappie Now in February, But Watch the Weather with John E. Phillips "

Day 1: Little Waters Mean Big February Crappie
Day 2: Shallow Water Warms-Up First for February Crappie
Day 3: February’s Crappie Glory Holes – De-Watering Areas
Day 4: Follow the Sewage to Find Big Crappie in Early Spring
Day 5: Look For Warm-Water Runoffs in Springs for Early-Season Crappie


Entry 600, Day 5