It could happen today, but then, again, it might be tomorrow.
Or, it could even be next week or the one after.
Only one thing is for sure, at some point very soon, the crappie on Barnett Reservoir will move up and spawn. It is also probable that when it happens, it will be a lot like someone turning on a light switch.
“This has been one sure-enough whacky spring,” said Greg Thomas of Brandon, one of the thousands of perch-jerking fanatics who crappie fish on the 33,000-acre lake near Jackson. “The water warmed quickly earlier in the year, actually in winter, and the males started showing up looking for beds in the shallow vegetation. People started catching them in one, two and three feet of water. They were turning black in mid March.
“Then, boom, they were gone. We were expecting the females to come running in on the last full moon (April 1), but, instead, not only did the females not move in, the males moved back out to deep water.”
Freakishly cool overnight April temperatures — at least six nights out of the first 13 sank in the lower 40s or upper 30s with another one forecast for the weekend — have wreaked havoc on the annual fishing cycle. Most fishermen around Barnett have called it that “bleep-ing 5-day weather cycle,” referring to a passing cold front about once or twice a week. The cooler days and nights are followed by a few warm, sunny days with temperatures reaching near 80 daytime and hanging around the upper 40s to mid 50s at night. The water temperature reaches back into the mid 60s.
“Just enough to make you think they are going to move up and spawn at any second, but, then, boom, another passing front with storms and even tornadoes blows through and the temperature bottoms out again,” said Tommy Harrell of Morton. “I got buddies who were catching them shallow two weeks ago who are now fishing out deep and catching big slabs 8 and 9 feet deep. The males are still black but the females are still full of eggs.
“You can still catch them, at least they can, but you have to know where and how deep to fish. I don’t. Now, you let them move up shallow around the vegetation and stumps, and buddy, you better believe I can catch them. I just hope it happens pretty soon.”
Most Barnett experts use April 15 as the average date of the peak crappie spawn on reservoir. That will be Sunday, but the temperatures are forecast to be around 38 degrees in the Jackson area in the morning hours. Sunday is also the new moon.
“Interesting … it will be interesting to see how that cool morning and the new moon phase will work,” Thomas said. “I would have bet money on them moving up on the new moon since they didn’t on the full moon and the next one isn’t until April 29. I’m starting to think it’s going to be one of the latest spawn peaks we’ve ever had.
“Sooner or later, the water temperatures are going to reach the upper 60s and stay there, and when that happens, look out — the spawn will be on.”