Crappie become fierce, lure-snatching, eating-everything-in-sight creatures right about now. I catch some of the heaviest fish of the year in November and early December, and when conditions are right I catch as many as I want and more than I should most days.
Now don't read me wrong here. I never keep more than the legal limit, which on most Mississippi waters is 30 per day. In fact, oftentimes I release my day's catch hoping to see the same monster fish another day.
Look, we haven't eaten fish at my house in years. So I either give away the crappie I keep or turn them loose before I leave the lake.
As I write this article on Halloween day, I've just come from Barnett Reservoir, where I spent two hours trolling crankbaits and did not, I repeat, I did not get a bite of any sort from anything.
I'm blaming the current full moon cycle - we're less than 30 hours past the official full moon time. I really believe that most days just before a full moon and just after a full moon are a waste of time for catching crappie.
Also, Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest hurricanes to ever hit North America swam ashore only a couple of days ago on our country's Northeast shoreline, and for us here in the Deep South it has brought us extremely high pressure and blue-bird days.
Plus, it's Halloween. for crying out loud. Trick or treat - the crappie tricked me this morning.
But I'm not worried. Some things I saw this morning point to "good times" in the coming days and weeks.
First, I believe every shad in the lake has moved to the bottleneck in the main river channel called the Highway 43 bridge. There were so many shad this morning that when they'd come to the top and start flickering around it sounded like it was raining.
We see this every year about this time. I know, some "experts" claim the shad go shallow this time of the year, and in places I'm sure some of them do. But, at Barnett Reservoir at this time of the year it seems that every shad in the lake swims to the deepwater channel just above and just below the Highway 43 Bridge.
Maybe that's why I didn't get a bite this morning - too much competition from natural bait
Naw, I don't believe that for a minute. I know for a fact when the shad gather en masse at the bridge that the fishing is as good as it gets most days.
I also noticed that, for the first time this fall, the surface temp was in the 50s. We've had some cold nights recently - down into the 30s, and the surface temp fell a full 10 degrees in less than a week.
That dramatic of a temperature change can be problematic, too. Quite frankly, I couldn't figure out whether I was fishing too deep, too shallow, too fast, too slow. I tried everything in the tackle box, and even threw a couple of secret trolling tactics at them with absolutely no effect.
I believe some "turnover" of the water column - an annual happening on most large lakes in the state - may have started with this sudden surface-temp drop. You see, as the surface temps get cooler and cooler, this surface water becomes denser (heavier) than the water beneath it.
A churning effect or "turnover" occurs. The surface water drops to the bottom, forcing the lowest layers of the water column to rise to the surface.
With this churn comes debris from the bottom that I often see on a calm day on the surface of the lake. And the water becomes stained for a day or two. Although I didn't see floating evidence that the lake had flushed itself, the dramatic drop in surface temps indicates that it is at hand.
And my experience is that you can forget catching a crappie until that annual churn or flush or turnover calms itself.
But once the lake does stabilize, it's on, brother!
And, up until today, the last several trips to Barnett - and I hear to Grenada, too - pulling cranks have been very productive. I've heard tales, seen pictures and caught a few myself in late October that were just giants.
Don't be afraid to try different tactics this fall. Jig fishermen, minnow fishermen, crank pullers, long-liners, and spider-riggers all will have great days on the water this fall. The weather is nice. It's not too hot, not too cold, usually not too windy - so give yourself a treat, a change of pace this fall.
Head to your favorite crappie hole and do it the way you like to.
At Arkabutla, expect to find them in water less than 5 feet deep. At Grenada, my crankbait-pulling buddies tell me they're catching great big slabs. On Barnett, go almost anywhere you like - upriver with a jig pole, down around the Highway 43 Bridge with some trolling poles, to the S-Curve minnow-fishing below some spider rigs, or way on down in the lower lake on the main river runs and ledges long-lining jigs or pulling crankbaits.
I'm so glad we've finally eased into fall. I'm going every day that I can to catch as many as I can as big as they grow.