James Morgan spent several hours scanning the flats and edges of flats by the big curves in the channel of Bayou Bartholomew Lake, more commonly known as the “Cutoff” at Sterlington. He found lots of good structure for crappie on his electronics, but the crappie were scarce.
Or at least they seemed to be. Once he found them, they were there in abundance.
“It takes some time to find the crappie on the Cutoff, but there are loads of them there,” he says. “This is a great time to catch them as they transition from the flats to the edge of the channel. You won’t catch a lot of big crappie, but there are loads of eight and nine inch fish and plenty in the one-pound range. If you catch a fish or two, stay in that area and work it over and over. You’ll be surprised how many crappie there are in this lake.”
The Cutoff is just what its name implies. When the Ouachita River levees were constructed back in the 1930‘s, this long oxbow bend in Bayou Bartholomew was cut off by levees. It left an almost 20 mile long stretch of winding channel in a lake that has been popular for fishing.
“Most fishermen here are after bass and I think over the years, the crappie have been overlooked,” Morgan says. “That has left too many crappie in some areas and that’s why they don’t get too big. They are overpopulated.”
That sounds like an invitation for some good fishing. To find them this time of year, Morgan recommends spending some time scanning areas on the inside channel bends of the Cutoff. The fish will usually be grouped on structure near the channel, or sometimes right on the edge of the channel.
The average depth of the Cutoff is 14 feet and since crappie like deeper water, it’s a natural for the fish. Anywhere you find tops or laydowns, or brushpiles that people have put out, you can find crappie.
“You can catch a good mess of one pounders here, but the big ones are hard to find, especially this time of year,” he says.
Morgan’s best bet for catching fish is on a double-minnow rig or his favorite jig — a pink head with a bluegrass color plastic tail. He also rigs a minnow on a bare pink jig head for success. Black and green plastic also produces. There are also some boathouses and piers that reach into deeper water and dock shooting around them will produce this time of year.
The lake has one public ramp, but it has very limited parking. There is one commercial ramp at Barrett’s Boat Dock with gravel parking on the lake just off Hwy. 165 north of Sterlington. The middle of the lake is the boundary for the line between Morehouse and Ouachita parishes.