It's a learned fishing tactic that usually pays off in huge filet dividends.
My dad was trapped in this loop. Every year he would head out to exactly the same places to drop a silver minnow after white perch. Only if those regular holes were dry did he venture off to try some new places.
Even then, he was never happy that the old favorites did not play out that day. They always eventually did, though.
Unlikely fishing holes
"I have consistently fished Chotard Lake for more years than I care to admit," stated Harry Barkley of Jackson. "Even though I was a fisheries biologist with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in the old days before Parks was added to the agency, and worked on the development of the Ross Barnett Reservoir from its conception, I still had my own favorite places to fish.
"Each time I would put in at Laney's Landing on Chotard I would naturally hit all the best places on the lake I knew about.
"First off, I would head straight across the lake if the Mississippi River water level was just right. Since the Big Muddy backed into Chotard, it would flood the cypress trees directly across from the landing. That was always a hotspot with water up to 5 to 6 feet into the cypress timber.
"However, one of the best places I liked to fish for white perch on Chotard was the chute canal between Chotard and Lake Albermarle. It was tricky, though, because it was the main access route from one lake to the other, and it was a very narrow waterway passage.
"We always had to judge if the water level was right along with the traffic congestion through the chute. Sometimes, especially when the crappie fishing was fast and furious, the anchored boats would stack up in there."
I have been through this channel with Barkley, and it can be an interesting proposition to fish if too many boats are lined up along the sides of the canal or up into the flooded timber. Obviously boaters cannot block the channel to restrict the passage of boats going back and forth from one lake to another.
Boaters do have to be careful and courteous of others when motoring through the area. Minimum wake disturbance is welcomed.
A real micro-fishery
The Chotard Chute as it is called was only maybe 50 to 75 feet wide in the open channel, and lined with cypress trees and other timber farther out, maybe another 100 feet depending on the two lakes depth levels.
There is plenty of other ideal crappie-fishing structure in this zone supplied by Mother Nature and annual high-water floods.
"Anglers need to be mindful of submerged logs, limbs and other trash below the surface that will steal your crappie rigs in a Magnolia State second," said Barkley. "The trick is to settle in close to a group of trees in the standing water and drop a jig or minnow down beside the tree trunk or nearby. Work completely around the base of each tree, then go back and try again if you are catching fish as you work.
"The other tactic is to use a paddle or very slow trolling motor to move among the cypress groves, again fishing each tree or submerged structure as you go.
"For sure do not get into a hurry. Crappie fishing in such cover is a job for the patient fisherman."
As has been the case in years past, once the canal clears the tree line and starts to open up into Albermarle Lake, this more-open area can be a good place to fish, too.
Anchor out 10 to 20 feet from the trees, or just free float in the area if there are not too many boats already posted in these spots. The best fishing etiquette in these holes is to not crowd the other boats.
If the fishing is not productive, then ease on into the main lake and fish along the bank.
Other known micro hotspots
It seems virtually every lake has those well-known areas that almost always seem to consistently produce good catches.
If you talk about the Ross Barnett Reservoir, then somebody is going to mention the Oil Field area north of the Highway 43 marina or along the sapling cover near the highway bridge. If you fish Enid Lake, go to the shallow grass fields southeast of the south end of the dam across from Persimmon Hill.
Wherever you fish in Mississippi, always ask around at the marina, docks, or ramps where the "secret" hotspots are on that lake. Those micro-fisheries usually fill the ice cooler.