Question: What happens to crappie and crappie fishermen when the hottest days of the summer hit?

Answer: They both disappear, unless you know when and where to look.

Hot, dry weather is here, and chasing white perch may be the last thing on some people's minds. Staying next the air conditioner takes top priority for lots of us from now until mid-September. But let me tell you, quit sucking up all that refrigerated air, and get your behind out on Mississippi's rivers and lakes.

They are biting again over at Chotard/Albermarle/Tennessee on the Mississippi River north of Vicksburg. Shelton Culpepper, known around Chotard as the "Albermarle Almighty," loves fishing for crappie this time of the year on the deep mats in Albermarle.

Gar can be a problem in the hot weather on these oxbow lakes, but Shelton sticks to straight jigs on deep structure on the edges of the lake to limit the gar nuisance.

Let me tell you about a great side trip for some of you more adventurous types. Put in at Chotard and go out the west end ditch to the river. If the river is above 16 feet on the Vicksburg gauge, you can make it to the river from Chotard in a bass boat.

Now, here's the adventure part, and, brother, let me tell you, if you've never done this before, it's well worth the price of admission. The ditch is about two miles long, and is full of alligators, white egrets and beautiful scenery. I'm telling you, they'd charge admission for this little ride if you were at Disney World.

Once you hit the Mississippi River, take her all in. Listen to the power of the water rushing below you. Look for the great abundance of wildlife in and out of the water. Feel the majesty of the Mighty Mississippi.

Get there at sunup if you want a real jumpstart to your day. This is absolutely one of God's greatest creations, and it is right here in our backyard. If you're not absolutely blown away by the natural beauty and power of this "adventure," then somebody needs to check your pulse.

Turn north - that's upriver, rookie - and run approximately 20 minutes. Eventually, you'll see a white grain storage bin on the west bank as you travel up the river. Before you get to the white storage bins, hang to the east bank and into a large pool, behind a white sand bar. You'll see the rock dike as you enter the large pool.

Try the stripers around the rocks and try the white perch in the deep pool below the dike. I don't care if you don't get a bite, this trip is wonderful. This is the closest you'll get to heaven before you die.

The river is dangerous for fools who don't go prepared or who ignore basic safety rules. And, folks if you get in trouble here, you're on your own.

I highly recommend you use any of the Internet mapping and satellite imagery services to look at this river trip before you hit the water. If you don't know how to do this, ask the nearest 11-year-old to bring this up on Google Earth or any other mapping service on your computer. It's a free bird's eye view of where you're going and how to get there.

You can zoom in and find the Chotard Ditch and see the rock dikes up the river as well. Print the satellite images, and take them with you if this is your first river run. And, take that 11-year-old with you if want to knock his socks clean off. He'll be talking about this adventure for the rest of his life.

Another crappie hotspot every summer is Lake Washington. Known for its early season draw of crappie fishermen from states as far away as Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa, Lake Washington goes through a whole new season when hot weather sets in. (Whatever you do, don't tell those guys from up north. Shoot, they're liable to come back.)

The key is that the surface temperature has to get into the 90s. Once this happens, the fish in the lake appear to turn on. Actually, what happens is that, in hot weather, the oxygen layer is restricted to the surface. All the crappie in the lake live at the top, regardless of the water depth. Drifting minnows and/or jigs really shallow in open water is the key.

At Ross Barnett Reservoir, the site of the Magnolia Crappie State Championship this summer, it is as good as ever. Fish the deep standing timber. Downsize to 1/32-ounce jigs and 6-pound line. "Swing" your jig by enough stumps in water more than 20 feet deep, and you'll fill the cooler.

This year's state crappie champs, Rabbit and Jane Rogers of Brandon, walked away with the two-day event using straight jigs on deep structure. Rabbit said the fishing only gets better the hotter it gets.

"Go early," he recommended. "Fish the deep stumps in the middle of the lake. Watch for bites on the way down. Slow your presentation. Crappie will bite on a stump in 20 feet of water from 2 feet down to about 11 feet. It's not uncommon to catch several good crappie off one stump this time of the year."

We Mississippians are blessed with mostly great weather and magnificent waterways and lakes. Our summertime hot weather and long days can serve up some of the most memorable crappie moments. You'll never know unless you get out from underneath that air conditioner and go catch you some as big as they grow.