The first report of spawning crappie came Monday afternoon (April 15) on one particular spot on Barnett Reservoir. By Tuesday afternoon, it was over in that honey hole and Wednesday bites were tough to come by. “But we found them again, in a very similar area, about a mile up the lake,” said Joe Alford of Brandon, who fished with his son Jace. “I was in on that tremendous run between the islands Tuesday but it was over on Wednesday.
“So instead of giving up, we thought that if we could find the same kind of situation, a backwater pocket off the main lake with a mix of cut grass, primrose and pad stems, with the same shallow depth (1½ to 3 feet) that nobody had fished, we might replicate it. That’s what we did about a mile up the lake.”
That kind of story could play out across the entire state of Mississippi over the next 10 days. Blink and you could miss that magical peak of spawn, that period of time when males and females are both in the shallows.
But, open your eyes, look around, and you could find another hot spot.
“The way you can tell you’ve hit the peak is when you catch females that are actually in the process of spewing eggs when you catch them,” said avid crappie fisherman James Nowell of Jackson. “Look at the females you catch and look for eggs. Half of the females we’re catching are spwewing eggs. My boat deck, heck even my clothes, are spotted with yellow eggs.”
This has proven to be the magic week on Barnett Reservoir, but no way will it end that quickly, at least not on the entire system. The full moon is next week (April 25) and there’s a pretty good chance the peak of the spawn will take place in many areas around that time.
A lot of fishermen are still working the edge of the main river channel and catching fish 10 feet deep.
“Remember, I won a tournament on Barnett in June fishing for spawning crappie on the lower main lake,” said Rabbit Rogers. “It doesn’t all happen at one time on this or any lake. Just because they bite like crazy in the shallows around the islands this week doesn’t mean they won’t spawn in the stumps at Oil Well Woods and other old lake beds.
“Every lake has more than one or two segments of crappie populations. Some fish like to spawn in shallow grass, while others like to spawn on stumps a little deeper. Some like to spawn on rocks, which warm quickly and offer some early opportunity, and some like to spawn on old road beds or other hard bottoms.”
Most crappie fishermen at the bigger North Mississippi flood control lakes and the uppermost pools of the Tenn-Tom are looking for a late spawn this year.
“I think that heavy rain we got late last week assured that,” said Tommy Locke of Oxford. “We were starting to see crappie move up at Sardis and at Enid, and I heard the same from Grenada, but then we got that rain and the water levels shot up. We had like five more feet of water at Sardis and they said 10 at Arkabutla. That will throw the crappie off and delay what I already thought was going to be a late spawn.
“On Tuesday of this week, me and a couple of buddies in three different boats fished at Sardis and we went shallow and got like five bites between us. It got windy but we went out to some deeper secondary and main lake points and we found more fish. I say the full moon will be a peak for us up here.”
In other fishing news, the bass spawn is over in most of Mississippi with the big females moving back into deeper water and entering that short period of time when they go nearly dormant.
“We always see about a 10-day or two-week period right after the bedding period when the fish just don’t bite,” said Tommy Jenkins of Columbia. “I think we’re seeing that on all the lakes in South Mississippi right now, like Bill Waller. Last week I saw a lot of fish on the beds. This week, the males are still there but the females are gone.
“My friends and I went to Eagle Lake last weekend and it was the same thing. But, there, we were able to find some good fish. They were females and they were thin, but they were already starting to bite again. We caught them two ways, flipping cypress trees out from the spawning areas (like float row) and by casting swimming jigs around the pad stems below Buck Chute. They were in those stems and knocking the fire out of those jigs.”
Mississippi bream fishermen are looking at next week’s full moon as the start to the bluegill bedding season. While the peak is usually on the full moon in May, this year’s moon phases set up differently.
“With such late full moons in April (25th) and May (25th, too), I’m betting we’ll have a mix of redear and bluegill on the beds in April and it should be wild,” said L.J.Watts of Canton. “Anytime we see a late April full moon we catch both species on the same beds. I still think we will see another peak bedding period around the May full moon, but by then it will just be bluegill.”
The May full moon sets up perfectly for the reopening of one of Mississippi’s all-time great bream holes. Jeff Davis Lake near Prentiss is scheduled to reopen for children 15 and under on May 17 and for the general public on May 22.
“You’re right about that,” said David Berry, the state lakes coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “It will be a great time down there at Jeff Davis. We open it up for everyone on the 22nd and then the full moon is the 25th and Memorial Day is the 27th.”