When discussing April’s options for Mississippi’s outdoorsmen and women, the talk begins and ends with crappie. Turkeys, of course, are a close second.
Crappie is the king of gamefish here, just like the Magnolia State reigns over all others for crappie-fishing destinations. Boasting of stops like the I-55 corridor’s royalty (north to south): Arkabutla Lake, Sardis Lake, Enid Lake, Grenada Lake and Barnett Reservoir, with the crown jewels of the Delta being Lake Washington and Eagle Lake, Mississippi has every right to brag.
It shines brightest in April when the dogwoods bloom and crappie spawn. Going shallow makes them vulnerable to more fishermen, and limits leave the different lakes on a daily basis.
“With modern electronics, fishermen with deep-enough pockets to rig out a boat can catch fish all year,” said angler Roger Wilson of Brandon, who fishes every opportunity he gets on Barnett Reservoir. “During the spawn, all those modern gizmos don’t really come into play. Everybody, even waders, can get to where the crappie are and catch fish. I’ve got a big boat with all the electronics, and I’ve caught just as many fish in April from my old john boat as I do now.
“When they are spawning, it’s just a matter of putting a jig into as much structure as you can in a day. Of course, you still have to learn the areas where the most fish spawn, which comes from experience more than anything else, or from watching where all the boats head from the dock.”
The spawn can begin in March and can last as late as June on some lakes, but April is the peak. Longtime perch-jerker Rabbit Rogers of Brandon has a saying he swears by: “If I had to pick one day that every year would put you close to the peak of the spawn, I’d say April 15. That’s tax day, so it’s easy to remember.”
What Rogers means is, if a fisherman wants to arrange his schedule to be off from work and hopes to coincide with the spawning peak, the time around April 15 is the best bet. Not all crappie spawn at the same time, not even all the crappie in the same lake, but Rogers feels the time frame around mid-April is when the majority of fish will be getting busy.
The biggest segment of Mississippi sportsmen who could care less about crappie spawning are the avid turkey hunters.
“It’s not that I don’t like crappie fishing; it’s just that I spend every free minute I have either chasing turkeys or planning my next chase,” said Fred Wilson of Meridian. “I wouldn’t be lying if I said I even think turkey when I sleep, because I dream about it, too.”
Mississippi’s spring turkey season began in mid-March and ends May 1, putting the full month of April in play.
“My favorite time is April, because I know that my No. 1 competitors, turkey hens, start leaving the gobblers alone more during the day to nest,” Wilson said. “In March, the hens keep the gobblers pretty busy and make it tough to get a trophy tom’s attention and call him into gun range. As more and more hens start heading to nest, my odds get better. Don’t get me wrong; the odds are always on the gobbler’s side, but the slightest tip in my direction is a wonderful thing. That happens more in April, even mid-April, than at any other time.
“I used to limit out in March on 2-year-old birds, but over time, I learned that it was more fun to battle the older, stubborn gobblers, and the sight of a hooked spur of a mature bird gets me going. Over the past 10 years, I bet that 90 to 95% of the gobblers that I’ve killed or have called up for other hunters have come in April. A lot of that success came from the time I spent chasing them and losing to the hens in March but learning about their habits and areas.”
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