Rarely, outside of the spring spawn, will one find die-hard crappie fishermen chasing fish in shallow water. Especially not on big open expanses of water, like Barnett Reservoir and Sardis Lake.
However, that’s exactly where you would have found a lot of them in the last week.
“Oddly enough, I’ve had to go shallow,” said Rabbit Rogers, the Barnett Reservoir guru. “I fished around and didn’t find anything so I moved up and that’s where they were. I was fishing in 6-8 feet of water and cover and started catching fish. Bass fishermen will laugh at us calling 8 feet of water shallow, but for crappie that is shallow.”
Rogers’ report included some big fish, too, and comes with one caveat worth remembering.
All of his fish, he said, were on shallow cover very near deep water.
“They won’t get too far from deep water,” Rogers said.
That echoed the report from Sardis, where trollers started finding fish on shallower parts of the main lake points.
“With the water temperatures falling into the 70s, we’re seeing the fish move up slightly in depth,” said Peter Jenkins of Grenada, who has fished both Sardis and Grenada in the last week. “I had been catching most of my fish at Sardis trolling deep, over 20 feet, and getting the best results on crankbaits in 18-20 feet deep.
“That changed in the last 10 days. I moved up on the points where the water was no more than 18 feet deep and eventually found the best fishing in areas with 15 feet of water. The fish were down about 10 to 12 feet and I caught a limit of solid 13- to 14-inch fish.”
Jenkins took that knowledge back to his home lake, at Grenada, and found similar results.
“My biggest fish this week was a 2.67 pounder I caught on a Bandit 300 crankbait trolling at Grenada, in 18 feet of water,” he said. “I think it came on a line I was pulling at 12 feet. I had two fish on at the time and I think it was on the shallowest set I had.”
This brief run of shallower crappie is not expected to last long.
“They will move back to deeper water soon enough,” said Ronnie Willis of Jackson, who fishes Barnett and Eagle Lake regularly. “Seems like every year we see this one little spurt of movement when the fish move up in the water column and I also thought it was directly related to water temperature and oxygen levels.
“And I guess it is, but not for the reason I thought. It’s because the shad start moving up, and the crappie go where the shad go. At Eagle, I had been catching fish in deep brush off the ends of a few piers, but the other day I moved up the pier closer to the bank and found them.”
As Rogers said, the shallow water is a relative term, and what is shallow to crappie fishermen would still be deep for bass fishermen, who can be found a lot closer to the banks this week.
“I found a school of fish blasting shad on the surface in two feet of water,” said Shannon Denson of Brandon, who was fishing on Barnett. “When I moved over to them and made a cast, I found it was stripers and hybrids. Can you believe that? In late September? It’s true and it happened last week. I think that is an indication that the shad are moving shallow quick. This is a weird year, for sure.”
Denson, of the 140 to 150 fishermen entered in the upcoming BASS Central Open on Barnett Oct. 17-19, wouldn’t discuss where he did find largemouth.
“Good luck finding somebody to tell you where they’re finding largemouths,” he said laughing. “They’re gonna be pretty tight-lipped about that for the next few weeks.”
That appears to be holding true for anglers on most of North Mississippi’s major bass holes. Most local tournament circuits are closing in on their end-of-the-year championship events, and fishermen are quiet.
“I’ll just tell you that you can still catch them pretty good at Pickwick,” said Bill Turner of Tupelo. “I don’t fish tournaments but I have some friends who do and they can’t fish weekdays like I can, so I have been helping them. I caught a bunch of big largemouths this week, and they were shallower than where I had been finding them two weeks ago. That’s natural for October up here. I’d pull up on a bar, catch a fish or two, and leave not wanting to pressure the fish. So I can’t really tell you if they were in big schools.”
In South Mississippi, fishermen aren’t reporting much change in fishing behavior.
“I’m still catching fish on my normal summer patterns,” said Harry Bounds of McComb, laughing. “That means I’m not catching many. I hate the summer and will be glad when the cooler weather gets here and starts pushing the bass back up on the banks.”
Fishermen are bemoaning the loss of two of their favorite destination lakes, thanks to the federal government shutdown.
Two U.S. National Forest Service waters, Davis Lake in Northeast Mississippi and Okhissa Lake in Southwest Mississippi, are currently closed and will remain off limits until the shutdown ends.
Before being sent home Monday, Jackson-based Forest Service personnel said that many of the smaller watershed lakes that are scattered about the state on Forest Service lands are open to fishing.
“Only those with facilities, like campgrounds and gated areas, like Okhissa and Davis, will be closed,” Rick Dillard said.