Horace Greeley was an 1860s farmer who heeded the call to “Go west, young man” because he saw the fertile farmland there as an ideal place for people to succeed.

Had Greeley been a Louisiana crappie angler, though, he would have been well advised to“Go north, young man” — where hard-working crappie anglers regularly succeed in filling livewells with larger-than-life crappie. 

“There is good to great crappie fishing all across the state, but the greatest of them all when it comes to crappie lakes are in the north end of the state,” said Mike Wood, the recently retired director of inland fisheries for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. 

Wood has answered questions about the best crappie lakes time and again throughout his career.

“Some folks don’t like hearing it, but the truth is that for a variety of reasons, South Louisiana doesn’t have the numbers and size of crappie that North Louisiana lakes boast. There are a number of reasons. But just like you can’t catch redfish or speckled trout at Toledo Bend, you can’t hit the crappie lottery in South Louisiana like you can up north. South Louisiana does have good crappie fisheries, but not great crappie fisheries.”

And there is a very good reason, Wood says.

“It’s habitat,” he explained. “ Below Alexandria, we just don’t have the big reservoirs that are conducive to large populations of open water forage fish like silversides and thread fin shad that crappie populations thrive on. And the truth of the matter is that the older these big reservoirs get, the better habitat they have for crappie populations to boom. 

“The standing timber is gone, and so have the heavy bushes, branches, grass and huge amounts of wood. That has given way to more open water, and is favorable to open water predators of a shad-based forage. That’s crappie.”