No better time for slabs than now

William Clark of Clarksdale pulls a big crappie to the surface as Shelton Culpepper of Bay Springs looks on during a recent outing on Chotard/Albermarle.

March can be one of the best months of the year for Mississippi’s crappie fishermen. Looking for that once-in-a-lifetime 3-pound wall hanger? March is the month to getcha one.Since most of our Mississippi crappie spawn in April, we find females in March at their weight limit just prior to dropping tens of thousands of eggs.

To me, pre-spawn crappie are more fun to catch than the predictable “on-the-bed” targets we go after next month. Hooking into that huge slab makes for some memories that will keep you coming back time after time.

I’ve caught thousands of crappie in my lifetime, but only two over 3 pounds hang on my wall. Both of these monsters came in March — one from Barnett Reservoir and one from Grenada.

Let’s talk some about a few great early spots. My home lake is Ross Barnett Reservoir, and I know that certain areas of that great big body of water turn on a little earlier than others. I’ve found great March action in Pelahatchie Bay, Cane Creek, Roses Bluff and Clear Lake.

Everyone knows that Pelahatchie Bay is located on the southeast corner of the big lake. Pelahatchie Bay fishes like a different lake from the rest of Barnett.

The trick is to know where to fish in Pelahatchie Bay. I recommend the Plummer’s Slough area and the edges of the main creek channel this time of the year.

The Cane Creek area is north of the Highway 43 bridge. Put in at the boat ramps at Tommy’s Trading Post. Go out to the main river, and run upriver for approximately ½ mile. You’ll see a well-marked channel intersecting the main river channel. That’s Cane Creek. Stay inside the marked channel until you get to the stump fields, which are on both sides of Cane Creek. Jig fish the stumps. Be sure to hit the deep ditches on the north side of the marked channel for the big females.

Roses Bluff is on the south end of the big lake. Launch at the Madison County Landing, and go east to the yacht club. Start fishing inside the rocks and on the lake side of the rocks with jigs or minnows. Work your way around to the north side of the Bluff. Fish within 100 feet of the steep bank in water depths from 13 to 20 feet.

These fish will be in a pre-spawn mode and still a little deeper than most of the rest of the reservoir. I firmly believe the biggest fish in the lake live year round in the Roses Bluff area. Admittedly, it’s a huge area to master. Success for me has come fishing the drops on the bottom with jigs doctored with a scent attractor.

The Clear Lake area is located almost right smack-dab in the middle of the big lake. To get there, start at the Highway 43 bridge. Go south following the marked navigational channel. Stay in the channel until the double channel markers, green on your right side and red on your left side, turn into single marker poles. Once you hit the single pole markers, they continue in a perfectly straight line all the way down the lake to the dam.

The second single pole, No. 16, is just 100 yards south of Clear Lake. Fish inside the stumps, run the edge on both sides of the stump patch, fish the ledge that runs east to west at the No. 16 marker pole, and the deep slough and its ledge about 100 yards east of the Clear Lake stumps. Jig fish in the stumps and drift fish minnows outside the stumps.

Other great March crappie hotspots in Mississippi include all the lakes in the delta. My personal delta favorite is Lake Washington, located on Highway 1 at Glen Allan.

Most of the delta lakes tend to turn on a little faster than the rest of the state’s lakes. Don’t be surprised to find a few of the “big mamas” already in the shallows in delta lakes like Bee, Dump and Washington.

The connected lakes of Chotard/Albermarle/Tennessee, located 15 miles north of Vicksburg behind the levee, can be great in March, too. Because the Mississippi River is cold and high in March, the slabs here still think it’s winter.

Even so, the white perch at Chotard, heavy with this year’s crop of eggs, start heading toward the bushes.

North Mississippi hotspots include the Tenn-Tom in practically all the pools from Bay Springs down to Columbus. The same pre-spawn methods apply. Fish the ledges and the drops for the Big Mamas.

Extreme Northeast Mississippi runs almost a full month behind the rest of the state. The corps lakes in northcentral Mississippi, from Arkabutla down to Grenada, will be in pre-spawn, too.

We all know that the world-record white crappie was caught decades ago in Enid Reservoir, and her genes still swim there. Grenada is the state’s No. 1 lake right now for 3-pound-plus perch, and March is the month to catch Grenada’s heaviest monsters. My personal best came from Grenada in March 2004, weighing in at 3.41 pounds. I caught her on a brush pile in 6 feet of water in the Choctaw Landing area.

I feel a responsibility here to implore all of us to practice some restraint and not take too many brood-size crappie. Certainly, take that once in a lifetime wall hanger, but don’t abuse the resource. Leave some for seed, as they say. We’d all like to catch ’em as big as they grow years into the future, wouldn’t we?


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