Chuck Morgan travels all over the region crappie fishing for fun and competitively, but he also enjoys being home for the Christmas season, looking for crappie on the Christmas trees or other assorted sunken tops and structure right in his own backyard.

That’s one of the advantages of living on the shores of the 2,000 acre Lac Terre Noir just outside of Natchitoches.

The 2,000-acre lake is actually the city water supply, and most people recognize it by its more modern name, Sibley Lake, instead of the original Lac Terre Noir, a swampy area that was drained, improved and turned into a lake in the 1960s.

The water body doesn’t have a lot of defined natural structure like creek channels and deep holes, so old Christmas trees, PVC “fish houses” or other man-made structures put in around the fishing hole by lake organizations provide most of the habitat. 

“This lake is relatively flat on the bottom with only slight, slow drops and rises, so traditional deep-hole fishing won’t work here in December,” Morgan said. “There are deeper areas, and if it’s cold that is where you need to look. But the lack of loads of deep water doesn’t mean fishing isn’t good.

“You just have to find the tops and fish in them (not over them, but in them) to catch fish. That means working your lure down into where the fish are holding for the most bites.”

Sibley doesn’t have large numbers of huge slabs, but there are plenty of 8- to 12-inch fish — and some reach the 2-pound mark.

Popular lures this time of year are black/chartreuse jigs and double shiner rigs. Electric Chicken is another popular color.

Most fishermen single-pole this time of year, although a few still try spider rigs.

Another technique that works well is using a shiner or jig with a slip cork. Find tops with fish, get the depth right and use a slip cork to hold your bait at just the right level for maximum time in the fish’s feeding zone.

“From my experience, you do need to find the deeper parts of the lake and the tops there, and that is where you’ll catch fish,” Morgan said.

The best time to catch crappie willing to bite is when it is a bit colder and the shad and crappie have bunched up. That’s especially true when the weather is consistent for a few days before you go after them.

And if you don’t have any idea if the fish are biting or where they might be biting, just look around: If you see 10 to 12 boats in one area, that’s the place to go. 

Fishermen do need to pick up a $5 Sibley Lake permit at a local business before using the lake.

There are public boat ramps on Highway 504, Oak Grove Community and at Sibley Lake Marina on old Highway 1. There is no charge for public boat launching.

There is one commercial ramp at Settles Boat Marina on Highway 6 West.