Spring break is typically characterized by college students throwing caution to the wind and heading to some exotic beach location to get away from school for a while.

For crappie anglers in the state of Mississippi, spring break means spawning crappie and bouncing bobbers. In North Mississippi, particularly at Enid Lake just south of Batesville, crappie have invaded the shallows and are busy in the act of reproduction, which puts them within easy reach of anglers.


Fishing's fountain of youth

Clarksdale native Torch Tindle has been making the short trip to Enid from his hometown since he was a young boy. Today, as a veteran guide and national crappie tournament competitor, Tindle still looks forward to getting out on the 44,000-acre flood-control impoundment when the dogwoods are blooming to enjoy what has become a lifetime tradition.

"I fish for crappie nine months out of the year in all different types of places, but there is nothing like getting out here on the water in April, jigging the shallows and catching slab crappie," he said. "Every time I come out here I feel like a kid again."

The guide reflects that back in his younger days, he would sit for hours watching a bobber with a minnow hooked on his line waiting for a crappie to come along and drag the bobber under the water. While he has learned much since those days, he still gets just as excited seeing his cork suddenly disappear after placing it in the fishiest-looking spot he can find.

"This time of year, I'm looking for crappie to be anywhere from 8 inches of water up to 3 feet," said Tindle. "Usually they'll be stacked up around standing trees, stumps or any piece of shallow cover they can find - any place where the males can find a spot to hold and protect the eggs and fry."

The crappie guide usually looks for spawning fish between mid to late March until mid to late April. Much of the timing depends on water temperature.

Enid's crappie population is comprised primarily of white crappie, which are known to spawn later and in warmer water then black crappie. This means Tindle expects to see Enid's fish move to their shallow-water haunts when daytime water temperatures climb into the 62- to 63-degree range.

"White crappie spawn after the blacks," he said. "That means that crappie anglers who time it right can visit some of the other lakes that hold more black crappie, then move over to Enid by the first of April and get in on the white crappie spawn."


New use for bobbers

Tindle's favorite tactic when crappie move shallow to spawn is to pitch a jig and cork into and around likely looking spawning sites. The guide says that by using a long rod with a small jig under the bobber, he can place his bait right in the face of a spawning crappie. He adds that by having a slip cork adjusted to the level he's fishing, he can let the jig bob right in the fish's living room.

"Sometimes they'll snatch it the instant it hits the water, but most of the time the bite comes when the jig has been floating motionless for a few seconds," said Tindle. "These fish aren't necessarily hungry - they're protecting a territory. When that jig drops in there and just hangs out too close to the nest, it sets the fish off, and he just tries to annihilate it."

Tindle refers to a spawning crappie as a "he" because the majority of the fish he catches are male crappie, which build and protect the nest before and after the females move in to lay eggs. The guide says that later in the spawn, he may have an afternoon when he catches a lot of egg-laden females, but for the most part, it's the slightly smaller males he's after.

"It seems like the males will pick one area and really gang up in that location," he said. "You definitely can't say that they're evenly spread out around the shallows."


Side-finding crappie

The big question for anglers is where those male crappie are going to be concentrated this month. Even if he drew you a map, Tindle indicated the areas tend to differ somewhat from year to year based on water levels and weather.

"The higher the water level, the farther back they'll go," he said. "There are several creeks that produce just about every year, and that's where I start. I'll usually go as far back in the back of the creek as I can get and fish my way back out. I've caught fish that were so shallow you'd think they were laying on their side; otherwise, you'd see their dorsal fin sticking out of the water.

"But if we get a big rise in the water level or a cold front, then the fish tend to pull back and be in water that's 5 or 6 feet deep."

Other than first-hand experience, Tindle points to the new side-imaging technology available in several sonar systems that take away a lot of the guesswork to finding crappie, even in extremely shallow water.

"My fishing partner has one of the Humminbird units, and you can set that thing to read out to the side about 40 or 50 feet and then ease down the bank and see them on the screen when there's a gang of crappie holding around a bunch of stumps or brush," said Tindle. "It's the neatest thing I've ever seen.


Where to look

Finding a good location to fish for spawning crappie isn't hard at Enid. In fact, on all four corners and sides of the lake are major tributaries that host acres of spawning flats at or near the headwaters of these creeks. Tindle suggests trying the northern- and eastern-most creeks early during the spawning season as these locales tend to warm faster with more sun exposure, then move to the opposite ends of the lake when those locations taper off.

"If I had to name the top-five creeks in order, they would be Long Branch on the south side of Enid about a third of the way up the lake, then there's Billy's Creek right near the Water Valley ramp and Bynum Creek, which is across and up the lake," he said. "Finally, Wallace Creek and Bean Creek are on opposite ends of the dam and do a little better as the months progress.

"But one word of caution I'd suggest to anyone who wants to fish Enid is to watch the wind; any wind with a W in it can get real nasty if it's more than 15 mph. You may not get it bad if you're tucked back in a creek, but crossing this lake with strong gusty winds out of the west can be real trouble."