• March 2012 - Volume 14, Number 8


    Your best bet for catching a 3-pound crappie is at Grenada Lake this month. Here’s an expert’s advice on where to find them and how to catch them.

    Grenada Lake. To anyone who has ever dreamed of catching a monster crappie, the name speaks for itself. Day in and day out, Grenada Lake probably produces more trophy-sized crappie than any other fishery in the country. Fish over 3 pounds are so common at Grenada that the local tourism board has nicknamed the lake “The Home of the 3-Pound Crappie.” Grenada’s fertile waters and intensely managed fishery have become a nationwide success story.

    Mississippi hunters kill some great deer every year, but the 2011-12 hunting season might go down in the books for producing more monster bucks than ever.

    The Mississippi Delta has long been known for the big bucks that wander this fertile area of the state, and the Magnolia Records are replete with examples of Delta trophies.

    Sure, monsters have occasionally shown up from other areas of the state, but the Delta has been the star.

    Until the 2011-12 season, that is.

    "It’s definitely been a phenomenal year," Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ Chad Dacus said. "We’ve had reports of more 160(-inch)-plus deer this year than in years past, and they’re coming from places that traditionally haven’t produced big bucks."

    That is backed up by just looking at stories published on MS-Sportsman.com: 23 stories on bucks green scoring at least 160 inches had appeared on the site as of the end of January.

    Fifteen of those deer had green scored at more than 180 inches. And the season was still under way.

    So what happened? What produced such an explosion of massive bucks?

    Dacus believes there are a few facets to the causes of what could be a record deer season.

    One factor has been the weather over the past few years.

    "We’ve had some pretty mild winters over the last few years," he said. "Those deer have not been stressed; they come out of winter in good shape."

    That means nutrition can quickly go to antler growth instead of rebuilding body weight.

    But one of the most-important reasons for the recent crop of monster bucks is that deer are being allowed to grow up before being killed.

    "The changes from the 4-point regulations to spread-and-main beam regulations have led hunters and landowners to think more about protecting those younger age groups (of deer)," he said. "And they’ve put themselves on higher regulations.

    "They’re letting deer get older."

    The fact of the matter is that a buck cannot express its potential if it’s killed when it is 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 years old. Even a 3 1/2-year-old buck has yet to really blossom in terms of its rack.

    While every 4 1/2-year-old-plus buck won’t carry trophy-quality calcium growths, Dacus said age is a critical component to increasing the quality of bucks that walk the state’s woods.

    "It’s a testament to the hunters," he said of the 2011-12 season. "They realize it takes age.

    "Three-year-olds were about average at taxidermists, but now that’s getting progressively older. I’m seeing deer that are 5 to 6 years old."

    Here are some of the late-season trophy bucks that have been killed in Mississippi.

    Follow this veteran hunter’s advice, and you’ll be plucking a bird this opening day.

    Mark McPhail set up quickly beside a large tree under the cover of darkness in the spring woods. As the night sky slowly melted into day with an orange glow rising on the horizon to the east, he sent a few soft tree yelps in the direction of an old gobbler that he had roosted the night before. McPhail was met by a lusty gobble that indicated the old monarch was game and meant business.

    A few minutes later, the gobbler pitched out of the tree and landed a mere 7 to 8 yards away. Before the gobbler had a chance to make another move, McPhail’s shotgun roared and another Eastern gobbler met its maker.

    This year’s mild winter has left a lot of cover on Ross Barnett’s flats, and the bass have definitely noticed.

    Bass anglers are visual creatures. We like blinking metal flake on our boats. We like crankbaits that push the limits of the color wheel. And we like throwing to targets that we can see.

    That’s why I was so impressed when Kenny Churchill idled into Cane Creek on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson. My eyes immediately told me that Cane Creek is what I would call a target-rich environment.

    The co-owner of Performance Outboards wanted to show me how to fish the winter remnants of lily pad flats that carpet Ross Barnett Reservoir during the summer.

    After being decimated by damming of the state’s rivers, the Gulf strain of striped bass may be making a comeback.

    In the early 1940s, the Gulf of Mexico held a large population of saltwater striped bass. Like the salmon out west, these stripers remained out in the Gulf until they were mature and then moved inland to fresh water to spawn. After spawning, they returned to the Gulf. The baby stripers born in fresh water also swam back to the Gulf of Mexico.

    By the late 1940s and the 1950s, these fish almost had vanished, leaving only remnant populations of this strain of striped bass in coastal waters.

    Elevated positions afford redfish anglers optimal vision and response.

    The prominent V wake was unmistakable, even from my camera boat positioned 50 feet from the anglers working a grass line.

    Capt. Travis Holeman spotted this easy target well before I did and he also spotted a lot of subtle ones that I simply would not have seen — even if our boats had sat abreast to one another.

    Fish the 10 Grenada spots discussed in this issue, and you'll fill your own stringer with crappie.