Categorized | Opinion

Warmer Weather Turns on Fish

By Josh Gowan

Pro angler and Reelfoot Lake guide Jeff Riddle poses with a huge stringer of black crappie from the shallows of Reelfoot Lake

Pro angler and Reelfoot Lake guide Jeff Riddle poses with a huge stringer of black crappie from the shallows of Reelfoot Lake

Today would have been a fantastic day to own a carwash, apparently there are a ton of folks who not only share a peculiar affection to shiny vehicles, but also have an abundance of quarters without a job that requires them to be at work on Monday. Personally, waxing my pick-up was the furthest thing from my mind.
I was more preoccupied with the water temperature at Reelfoot and if the run-off from the snow melt was muddying up the water. I’ll find out first-hand in a few days!
This abominable winter has been great for the crappie (and bass, catfish, etc…) for a couple of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is the lack of fishing pressure. Those of us living in close proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line have very limited experience with ice fishing, so most of the fish have remained unmolested for the last few months.
The other factor that plays a big role and is effecting Reelfoot anglers right now, is the shad kill. When the water gets cold enough to ice over for extended periods of time, or when it drops fast, a shad kill will happen, and we’ve had a massive shad kill this year. The evidence is easy to see, with tons of birds flocking and diving to get the shad that float up. Only a percentage of the shad float, most of them sink or suspend, and this makes for a smorgasbord for predator fish like crappie.
The south end, or Blue Basin area if you’re on a map, where the only deep water on Reelfoot is found, is experiencing this very phenomenon. I know a lot of guys who have tried the “big water”, generally a go-to this time of year, with no luck. As long as the birds are hammering the top of the water, the crappie are laying on the bottom chewing their cud, and once the birds stop it may still be a week before the crappie become active and catchable.
The only tactic in this situation is to use small baits, clear line, and barely move, making an offering no fish could refuse. The other tactic is to head over to Kirby’s Pocket with the other 100 boats and catch black crappie and occasional whites that are living in the 3-5 feet water and not stuffed on dead shad.
Regardless of the issues keeping fishermen from catching, the fish are getting huge, and as this warm-up continues (and I believe we’re all praying it will continue), the fish are going to continue to get more active.
I keep an eye on the fishing to the south of us, and last weekend we were catching fish in southern Mississippi, (by the way, our most popular video to date, “Crappie Fishing on Lake Washington, Miss.” is up at, enjoy!) throughout the week the northern Mississippi lakes turned on, and now Kentucky Lake is getting going, and as the water temperature rises, the fishing is going to get great!
This Saturday is the first Reelfoot Crappie Club tournament, and all you have to do is be at Bo’s early in the morning (they’ll have someone there at 5am for registration) and pay the $60 per boat, an optional $10 for big fish, and your one-time $25 per person membership fee. The only difference between this tournament and most is that you weigh 10 fish instead of 7. You have to stop fishing at 2 p.m. and be in line at Bo’s by 3 p.m. I’ll be there and I look forward to seeing a lot of you all!
Slabber Dave Maddox said the crappie at Wappapello Lake are on fire right now, and he’s weighed four fish over 2 lbs. this past week! The fish are starting to go shallow and a lot are being caught in 4-5 feet of water using minnows.
The old lake bed has been productive, as well as the north end of the lake, which is clear and forcing guys to cast to stay off them. Minnows have been best, but yellow and chartreuse tubes and scaleheads when it’s cloudy have been good as well. The Wappapello Crappie Club are also having a tournament this Saturday, and Slabber Dave’s is the host sight.
Comb’s Lake in Kennett has been active with anglers over the last week.
Dunklin County Conservation Agent Eric Heuring said that they would be sinking more cover this week, and fishermen have been taking advantage of the healthy crappie and catfish population. Smaller lakes such as Comb’s warm faster, and that means the spawn gets going sooner than in big lakes, so go get them!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine,

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March 2014
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