Most of you know my first love is bass fishing but in this week's column I thought I would devote space to crappie coverage since I have had so many white perch/crappie questions.
In recent weeks Toledo has produced some really awesome white perch in numerous places on the lake but especially at the famous Chicken Coop. Most anglers who have lived in the lake area are aware of this part of Toledo lake, but numerous others may not. The results of the past two to three winters have been disappointing but not this year!! It has been off the charts.
The Chicken Coop is located on the Texas side of the lake about four miles (by water) north of Pendleton Bridge which is the mid-lake area of Toledo.
However, with low water levels and changing weather conditions, I would suggest driving to it via Texas Highway 87. Using Hemphill, Texas, as a reference point, travel north on Highway 87 to Milam, TX then on another six to eight miles to the intersection of Highway 276 where you take a right and it will take you straight there. A good place to get bait and info is Holly Park Marina located on Patroon's Bayou on the right of Hwy 276. You can launch there at Holly Park or proceed to the lake another mile and launch at Newells which does put you closer.
This well-known crappie hole was named such because of several large commercial chicken houses that at one time lined the top of the ridge near the river bank. It is here where a stretch of the Sabine River bed touches the west side of the lake and stays close to shore for nearly 2 miles. This deep stretch of the river is The Chicken Coop, and it has developed a reputation over the years of producing almost unbelievable numbers of crappie during the coldest days of winter (for) usually six to eight weeks, depending on weather conditions.
Ideal conditions include clear water conditions, low water levels plus water temperatures (of) 50 degrees and colder.
You got it:Those are all in place currently and should remain such at least into early February. However, when the water temps warm, these fish will leave the deep water and head up nearby feeder creeks to spawn because the females are loaded with roe(eggs). But, for right now, they are happy feeding on shad (gourmet bait-fish) and hanging out in the sanctuary of the Sabine River.
Last week, I thought I would take a day off from guiding/bass fishing and invited a couple of buddies from DeRidder, LA(Lynn Clayton and Victor Martin) to catch some crappie so we headed to the Chicken Coop. We started fishing that morning at 7:15 a.m and fished until a cold front hit, which was about 11 a.m. (about 3 1/2 hours) and ended up with over 50 crappie with nearly half of them weighing between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 pounds. We caught them in 32 feet with live shiners. It was a blast!!
Water temp at The Coop that morning was 47 degrees. All boats that we encountered were catching fish, and in my many years of fishing with electronics I have never seen so much shad (baitfish) and fish on the screens of my graphs/depthfinders. We used line from 8- to 12-pound test, and at sunrise it did not seem to matter what size line. However, later in the morning when there was more light, the 8-pound test Berkley 100 Percent Fluorocarbon definitely got more bites.
We rigged drop-shot style with the hook above the weight about 12 to 18 inches using as light as weight possible (mostly 1/8 ounce) which allows the shiner to move around more freely. We hooked the shiners in the upper back close to the tail and fished vertically. We were fishing over brush and we did hang up some but not so much that it was a real problem. We would let out rig work itself down through the brush to the bottom, and then reel up a couple of rounds and leave it alone letting the shiner work, which usually did not take very long. If the hook had a shiner on it you can work it through the brush easily.
Most of our hang-ups happened when a crappie would get the shiner and we would try to get the bare hook back up through the brush. That did not happen too often, as most of the time you were pulling a fish up through the brush.
We cleaned our catch and set aside some for an afternoon fish fry. We coated them with a light coat of mustard, (and) then came Tony's Seafood Seasoning followed by a good dusting of stone-ground yellow corn meal and dropped them in peanut oil at 325 degrees. 'Nuff said! They were awesome! What a day; two good friends, tight lines and fresh fried crappie!
LAKE CONDITIONS: At mid week the lake continues to slowly rise and registered 164.40 feet with one generator unit running from 6 to 8 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Water temperatures are up slghtly to near 50 degrees. North Toledo is slightly stained and mid lake and south Toledo are clear.