By Josh Gowan
There is no greater time of year for us outdoor-folk than fall. The deer are moving about, the squirrels are cutting, the ducks are preparing for their migration down the Mississippi Fly Way, and the fish are gorging themselves! I’ve seen plenty of posts from people on Facebook about fall bringing hoodies, campfires, and football, and while I’m a proponent of all three, my thoughts are drawn more towards big bucks, mallard ducks, and plucking crappie from Reelfoot stumps! (The rhymes are free, you’re welcome.)
I had plans to ease over to the Missouri Ozarks with my new Elite bow and see if I couldn’t embed a Swhacker broadhead into the vitals of a young, tender, whitetail doe, being that I’m quite tired of just shooting at a target, and my freezer is void of venison. That plan changed when my Saturday afternoon became inundated with honey-do’s, and Chippy got rained out of the field and insisted on a Sunday crappie fishing trip before the Richardson’s cotton began to bloom and he disappeared for a few months!
Sunday morning was the fall equinox, and we figured that that had to get the fish as active and excited as it did us. We swung by Bo’s Landing and picked up a pound of minnows and put the Lowe in at Keystone Ramp. The water clarity could only be described as a dingy murk, with less than three inches visibility. The lake had turned over, which happens on most lakes as soon as we get a week of cool nights. This can be very detrimental to fishing, depending on the severity of the turnover, but it’s a necessary part of the cycle. Basically, in the heat of the summer, a thermocline develops, which separates the warm, oxygen-rich top layer of water with the cool, oxygen-poor bottom layer of water. As temperatures cool the water mixes up, or turns over, and the dead vegetation on the bottom layer comes up and the oxygen spreads back throughout the water. This creates dingy, sometimes rank water and a general confusion among fish. (While at Wappapello Lake a few weeks ago, Chippy dropped three of his double minnow rigs to a depth of 25 feet., and a few minutes later pulled up six dead minnows due to the lack of oxygen at that depth.)
All of that being said, outside of the poor water clarity, the fish were very active and there was no smell or dead vegetation floating. The many cool nights we had throughout the summer probably contributed to a mild turnover. The crappie were in fact very active on the equinox, and were holding tightly to the stumps, the problem was, the stumps were under water!
We slow-trolled through areas we know to be very stumpy, and picked up fish here and there, and if a pole got hung, we left it hung-up and vertically jigged around the snag. This method put most of our 19 crappie in the boat. If the water will just drop a foot and a half, the jig fishing will get outstanding, but with these intermittent rains we’ve been getting, it probably won’t happen.
While I did get a picture of one MONSTER buck that was killed in the area, which I swore not to report any details on, (some folks are like that with their deer!) most of the region saw a big harvest moon keep the deer moving at night. The nuts still aren’t falling from the trees and there’s a lot of corn still in, but it’s just a matter of a few weeks and everything should get right!
I got a report from Kentucky Lake that the schools of shad are moving shallow into the bays with the cool weather, and the crappie and bass are following them. Some really nice crappie were caught in 5-7 ft. of water over the past week, and this bite will only get better!
I’ve got a couple new videos up on www.joshgowanoutdoors.com, click on videos, and the one with Chippy and I fishing Reelfoot this past weekend will be up within the week.
I’m always looking for pictures or stories, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com