"Paul, you need to come on up here right now," Mrs. Cordell told me over the phone as I tried to make a reservation for a cabin on Lake Washington. "Robert (that's Mr. Cordell) is catching limits of big fish every day. If he goes by himself, he comes in with one limit. If he takes someone with him, they have two limits. Been doing it since that last 12-inch rain. Honey, it just doesn't get any better."

The crappie are absolutely burning it up, folks. As I write this column, it is early in the fall fishing season, and this year's fall action got a head-start about half a month early. I'm guessing the abundance of heavier-than-normal rainfall produced by a couple of passing hurricanes and some unusually cool September nights kicked fall crappie outings into high gear even before fall actually hit the calendar.

Reports of limits of big fish are coming to me from numerous places like Lake Washington, Arkabutla Reservoir, Wolf Lake, Chotard Lake and Okatibbee Reservoir.

Crappiemasters tournament staged their Mississippi State Championship out of Tunica in September. Day one of this two-day event was held on Arkabutla Reservoir. The winning string from Arkabutla weighed over 16 pounds! That's seven fish weighing an average of more than 2.29 pounds each. That's an unbelievable tournament catch any time, anywhere - especially in mid-September.

I didn't make that tournament, but some of the other Magnolia Crappie Club fishermen did. The best our MCC bunch could do was a little over 13 pounds on Arkabutla. Charles Talley of Brandon and Lonnie Hannah of Pelahatchie were doubly proud of their "big catch" - before they got to the scales.

"Lonnie and I caught lots of good fish that first day," Talley said. "We were pitching pound-and-a-half fish back in the lake by 10 o'clock that morning. I told Lonnie we stood a real good chance of winning this thing.

"Then as we pulled into the weigh-in area, someone told us 15 pounds was leading it. We weighed our best seven still optimistic about the whole thing, and then right behind us Capps and Coleman (former national champs) came in with some real hogs, making our nearly 2-pound average look sick."

More than one of the MCC boys came back telling tales of local fishermen talking about 4-plus-pound crappie being caught from this North Delta impoundment in the same way the rest of us talk about the 2.5-pound slabs we catch out of Grenada or Washington. One local fellow up there reportedly has 17 Arkabutla crappie hanging on his wall - each weighing more than 4 pounds!

Another MCC buddy of mine, Allen Morgan of Foxworth waxed the Chotard/Albermarle crappie fishing visible structure in late September. Allen also reported that some of the fishermen on Chotard were catching good numbers of white perch out in the middle on straight jigs.

As I said, all of these reports are from very early fall - all in September. Traditionally, peak fall action for me really kicks in around the third week in October and lasts until Christmas. Hey, I'm betting that November this year will be absolutely outstanding - could be the best year ever. If you haven't done so already, shake the dust off your crappie poles, and head to the lake, brother. You'll find me out there, too.

Barnett fall fishing

One of the best days ever for me came on Barnett on Halloween a few years back. Barnett stratifies in the summer time, and this forces all the crappie in the lake into a very predictable hot-weather pattern. Every darn one of them finds the deepest holes they can in the lake and holds on standing timber no deeper than 11 feet. They have to. All the oxygen in that hot water is in the top third of the water column. Below the stratified layer - the thermocline - is a real dead zone.

But with cooler weather and water, the Rez turns over, mixing oxygen from the surface to the bottom of the lake. In early fall, crappie follow the shad into shallow flats and the backs of upriver bays. Then something triggers the baitfish to migrate back toward the main river channel and its deep ledges, and, of course, the crappie follow right along with the shad.

Look for the signs of flickering shad in the river during the fall. I can tell you from personal fishing trips that it didn't take Barnett shad and crappie long to come back to the river this year. Late September showed signs of life in the main river run, and produced some good catches.

What I'm telling you is times a-wastin'. Get your butt out there today.

Wolf Lake in November

I risk life and limb by letting this out, but Wolf Lake near Yazoo City is an outstanding November crappie lake. MCC is holding its second tournament of the 2008-09 season Nov. 8 on this beautiful 22-mile-long snake-of-a-lake. It's really crooked, long and skinny, but it is jam-packed full of some of the most aggressive white perch anywhere in the state of Mississippi.

The fine folks with the Yazoo County/Yazoo City Tourism Board, the Yazoo County Board of Supervisors and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks have just completed a brand-new boat ramp and parking area on the very south end of the lake. This new facility can be found on Highway 49 W at the bridge that crosses the very end of Wolf Lake (about 8 miles west of town).


Now, don't get me started. I'm about to run out of words for this month, but my personal, absolute favorite place to spend a day on the lake in the fall has become Albermarle/Chotard. I've been waiting 11 months to hit Chotard.

Eleven and not 12 months? That's right. I'm starting a full month earlier this year. It seems that last year, my good buddies from MCC were catching monster white perch for darn near a month over on this ancient oxbow before they finally decided to call me.

Move over Mr. Culpepper, Mr. Thornton, Mr. Anderson and other friends. Yours truly is moving in. I plan to relax and relocate over on your favorite pond catching November crappie as big as they grow.