John's Journal...

Catch Fat February Crappie

Day 3: Tactics to Find February Crappie

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.

Read the Weather:

Click for Larger ViewFind beaver ponds, cut-offs, sloughs, coves and/or bays of major river systems that hold crappie during the winter months. Then, when a warm spell occurs, like in February, that water will warm-up quicker than river water. The crappie often will move into these shallow pockets, hold on submerged trees, stumps and/or the roots of live trees and become more active. In a warm-water region just ahead of a front, both fish and animals tend to feed more aggressively. In a fast-moving front, anglers can catch the most and some of the biggest crappie ever. But generally as soon as you feel the temperature drop only slightly, the crappie will quit biting.

Locate the Thermocline:

Click for Larger ViewDuring the cold months, many lakes turn over, which means the coldest water will flip to the top with the warmest water on the bottom. Because crappie seek a comfort zone, often they will search for that warmer, deeper water. But usually the slabs prefer some type of cover to hide in and hold on so they can attack baitfish. To pattern wintertime crappie, anglers must look for cover along the thermocline where crappie can hole-up. In many lakes and rivers, you may locate this cover on the edges of old creek and river channels and along stump rows where you find warmer water close to the bottom. Remember that during February, the crappie's body metabolism has slowed down and the fish won’t chase bait as far as they will later in the spring and summer. The crappie angler has to fish his bait slow and deep to get bites. Although most fishermen don’t think of trolling as a slow method of angling, actually you can troll as slowly as you drop-fish. Many crappie anglers troll for crappie using crappie rigs with two minnows on them along underwater creek and river channels in cold-weather months on 4-pound-test line. If you watch an effective crappie fisherman trolling, you may not even realize that his boat has moved. As one of my crappie–fishing friends says, "The slower you can go, the more fish you catch." The term bumping may describe February crappie trolling better. I hit the trolling motor just enough to make the boat move slightly. When the boat comes to a full stop, my fishing partner or I will bump the motor again just to make the boat move forward 1 to 1 1/2-feet. Using this slow-trolling method, we drag the minnows right in front of the crappie's nose. The fish will take the bait if it’s there. If we catch a fish, we attempt to stay in the same area and troll back and forth with our minnows to take more crappie out of the school.

Use a Depth Finder:

Click for Larger ViewIf you fish minnows on humps and creek channels in 30 to 40 feet of water near a dam, you can take February crappie. At this time of year, crappie will search for bottom breaks where there's plenty of oxygen in deep water with a comfortable water temperature. With a depth finder, you can locate the deep-water crappie and catch them easily in February because you’ll usually find them in large schools.

Cast for Cold-Weather Crappie:

Click for Larger ViewIf an angler has studied deep-water structure and knows where stump rows and old creek channels usually home good schools of crappie, he can fish these areas by casting and retrieving in February. The late Elbert Parker of Leesburg, Alabama, a long-time guide on Lake Weiss on the Alabama/Georgia border, didn’t fish the shoreline in February but instead fished open water. He knew where the middle of the lake homed plenty of brush, stumps and underwater structure. "During the cold weather, crappie get down in and under the stumps and the stumps' roots along the old river and creek channels," Parker told me. "Many times these fish won't show-up on a depth finder because they are holding under the stumps and the roots. The only way you can discover the crappie are there is to fish for them. Crappie hit very lightly in the winter. You must be able to see your line as the jig falls, since the papermouths often will take the jig on the fall. Unless you see that light strike, you can miss the fish. However, if the crappie don't take the jig on the fall, then I use a slow, easy retrieve – trying to bump the cover without getting hung on it. But I expect to lose jigs when I fish in February. If you're not losing jigs, then you're not fishing where the crappie are. If you’re not prepared to lose 50 jigs a day, then you shouldn't plan to fish for February crappie."

Tomorrow: Use Concrete Solutions for February Crappie

Check back each day this week for more about "Catch Fat February Crappie "

Day 1: Some Key Places to Catch February Fish
Day 2: More Productive Places to Catch February Crappie
Day 3: Tactics to Find February Crappie
Day 4: Use Concrete Solutions for February Crappie
Day 5: Catch Concrete Crappie in February

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Entry 653, Day 3