Warming weather is triggering the crappie spawn on the lake, and that simply means one thing: Huge crappie are moving to the shallows, and there are plenty of them.
Local angler Tony Cortellini fishes them year round, but he particularly focuses solely on crappie during this time of the year And his many years of experience have taught him how to make the best of his time on the water.
Living on the lake gives Cortellini an advantage when it comes to knowing when, where and how to find the lake's crappie. Also, he not only knows how to find them, but he knows how to get them in the boat, as well.
His main fishing area is around Terrell Island because the fish there are as great in quality as they are in quantity.
"I've been fishing right around Terrell Island and catching very nice crappie," Cortellini said. "Some of them are upwards of 2 pounds — 16 inches."
And no fancy jigs or other rigs are needed: Cortellini fishes a shiner under a cork with a 12-foot B&M pole paired with a very light reel spooled with 6-pound-test line.
"I can cast a mile with that combination," he said. "You need to be able to take up a lot of slack fast, and you need to be able to work the fish soft, especially a big crappie.
"You can't horse them. You have to work them in soft."
His techniques allow him to use the simplest of rigs to land the best quality fish.
"I'm fishing shiners on a cork rig about 6 feet deep," Cortellini explained. "The big shiners."
That last factor — the size of the bait used — is important.
"The bigger shiner size seems to catch the bigger fish," Cortellini said.
But success is not all about choosing hefty bait.
"The key to catching fish under a cork is patience," he said. "When fishing under a cork, I am very patient; I don't move it any more than taking the slack up in the line."
Living on the lake gives Cortellini the chance to observe things normal anglers do not. He mainly focuses on watching the birds and the shad to locate crappie.
But shad are critical to putting fish in the boat.
"The pattern is find the shad and you will usually find the crappie," Cortellini said.
Of course, weather can have an effect on the fish.
"A lot of fresh water will shut down the crappie bite," the angler said. "So will extremely hot and dry weather."
Cortellini can always be found hitting his favorite spots before a low-pressure system comes through.
"Fishing before a low-pressure system is a no-brainer," he explained. "The fish usually bite better when there are storms coming in."