John's Journal...


Here They Come

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason Tucker, who guides out of J.R.’s Marina on Weiss Lake near Cedar Bluff, Alabama, has guided and fished on Lake Weiss, known as the Crappie Capital of the World, for 18 years. He guides more than 200 days a year for crappie during the fall, winter and spring and for striped bass during the hot summer months. Tucker’s also a member of the Weiss Lake Improvement Association and Crappie Unlimited, and you’ll learn more about both these organizations. Crappie Unlimited has the most-unique inshore artificial-reef-building program ever that’s funded by crappie fishermen, for crappie fishermen, and improves the habitat for all the fish in the lake.

During the winter months when the power company draws down Weiss Lake 6 feet, most of the crappie from the shallow water upriver migrate down the river, or else they’ll be flopping on the bank. The Blow Hole is a deep-water bend Click to enlargein the river that’s loaded with nutrients and also contains a municipal-treated discharge water and warm water. That’s what makes this spot such a great place to catch crappie during cold weather. In the spring when the water level’s raised, the crappie will go back up the river. This spot is so popular and produces so many fish that on any given day 10 to 30 boats may be fishing there, and all the anglers will be catching fish. In one week at Weiss in the wintertime before, I’ve produced over 800-keeper size crappie (10 inches or more) for the clients who fish with me. We’ve tagged and released thse crappie back into the lake for the Weiss Lake Improvement Association’s month-long tournament. The money from this tournament’s entry fees then is used to stock 100,000 crappie each year back into the lake, to place buoy markers in Weiss so that fishermen know where the channels are and to help put brush in the lake to create habitat for the crappie. We try and tag 1,000 fish each year, with each of these tagged fish worth $25 to $1000. In 2003, a lady caught a tagged fish that was worth $10,000.

We’re often asked why we’re stocking Weiss Lake with crappie. Up until 2005, the State of Alabama’s Fisheries Section of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources never had stocked the lake. So, the fishermen and the business people around Weiss Lake created this fundraiser to make sure we had plenty of crappie in our lake for fishermen to catch since anglers took a tremendous amount of crappie out of this lake every year. Tourism is one of the main sources of income for this entire area, and fishermen are the number-one Click to enlargetourists who visit this region. We’ve also learned quite a bit about the crappie in our lake. In 1984, the area around the lake experienced a severe drought, and the crappie didn’t get off a very good spawn. We had two other bad droughts in 1991 and 1993.

When the crappie have a bad spawn, you can still catch keeper fish for a couple of years, but then the crappie will have a down year. Biologists have learned that the success of the crappie spawn is dependent on one of two things: stable water conditions, or more importantly, flood-water conditions. When a flood occurs during the crappie spawn, the crappie will give off a tremendous spawn. If the water’s stable, the crappie will have a good spawn. But when the area around Weiss has a drought, and the water falls, or the lake shrinks, the crappie will have a terrible spawn. This reason is why you see the boom-or-bust crappie cycles on most lakes throughout the country. To solve this problem, we’ve learned that if we put 100,000 crappie, 3- to 5-inches long in the lake each year, even if the lake has a drought, still the crappie can get off a fairly-good spawn. We’re stocking black nose crappie, which are supposed to grow faster than the native crappie. We can identify them because each of these crappie has a black stripe down it’s nose.
In the past, Alabama’s Fisheries Section haven’t believed that stocking crappie could stabilize a crappie population. However, because of our stocking program and the follow-up studies done by Auburn University, we’ve proven that stocking crappie every year and stabilizing the population keeps the lake producing large numbers of crappie. Weiss Click to enlargealso has a 10-inch size limit on the crappie that anglers can keep to ensure there’s plenty of young crappie coming on every year that will be harvestable fish the following year. Our program of restocking and the research done by Auburn University has been so conclusive that now the state of Alabama has helped us by starting to stock crappie in the lake. In early December 2005, the Fisheries Section stocked 100,000 crappie in Weiss. If the state keeps up its stocking program, and the Weiss Lake Improvement Association continues to stock crappie each year, the lake will be receiving 200,000 crappie every year.
To learn more about Jason Tucker, J.R.’s Marina and the fishing at Weiss Lake call (256) 779-6461 or visit


Check back each day this week for more about WINTERTIME CRAPPIE FISHING AT WEISS LAKE

Day 1: The Blow Hole
Day 2: Here They Come
Day 3: Why the Length Limit and Why Spider-Rigging
Day 4: Crappie Plus
Day 5: What is Crappie Unlimited



Entry 333, Day 2