Winter crappie fishing in smaller watersheds

Over a decade ago, Troy Casey set out on what would become nearly the final fishing trip of his life. He was asleep in his bunk on his way out to a fish a wreck when the vessel he had chartered collided with an abandoned drilling platform while the boat was on autopilot.

Nearly everyone on board the fishing vessel had to be transported via stretcher for various degrees of breaks, fractures, and spinal injuries, though all survived.

“I was able to spend a lot of time with my oldest hunting and fishing, but after the accident, I didn’t get those same chances with my boy.”

Mr. Casey came down from Kentucky for a three-day fishing trip with Oxford, Miss., guide service Barton Outfitters in hopes of catching some winter crappie with daughter Katelin and son Kaeden.

“We fish around the weather in the coldest parts of winter, and sometimes that means having to travel from where we like to fish on the Big Four flood control reservoirs of North Mississippi (Sardis, Grenada, Enid Lake, and Arkabutla),” said Aaron Barton, full-time guide and owner of Barton Outfitters.

“Anyone who wants to catch winter crappie has a number of options (in addition to the Big Four) for smaller lakes that are intensively managed fisheries with prime bank and boat fishing opportunities for anglers of all skill levels.”

These options include any of Mississippi’s 20 state fishing lakes or 18 state park lakes. Successful techniques will vary but usually involve some combination of minnows, jigs or other small live or artificial baits.

“Crappie will roam no matter how small or large a body of water, but when you’re fishing Enid at a summer pool of 40,000 acres, they have a lot more places to hide then when you’re fishing Lake Monroe (a state fishing lake of roughly 90 acres),” Barton said.

This doesn’t mean crappie are easier to catch, but many would argue they are easier to find in smaller watersheds.

LiveScope or other active sonar will benefit those who have and know how to use them, but if not, almost all of the aforementioned lakes have fish attracting structure with published coordinates and/or contour maps that can aid the angler fishing without electronics.

Over the three day trip, Troy, Katelin and Kaedin ended up with a nice mess of fish caught spider rigging, trolling, dropping on and casting to fish. To find a place to go fishing near you check out the following resources:

Mississippi state fishing lakes


Interactive map of ramps and piers to launch and fish


Aaron Barton
Barton Outfitters

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