Don’t look now, but the crappie are starting to head out to deeper water in Lake Claiborne near Homer. They aren’t as frantic as Black Friday shoppers, but you know where they are headed. And things will only get better the next couple of months.
Lake Claiborne isn’t one of Louisiana’s waters that gets a lot of attention. But for the fishermen who know it, there’s no better time than now and no better fish than crappie. You won’t catch slabs like a lot of lakes, but there are plenty of pound and pound-and-a-half fish out there for the taking.
And one good thing about the Claiborne fish is that when they bite, they bite. Crappie on some lakes with high fishing pressure have started showing a disturbing trend. Fish there are spooky and often, even when you see them on the electronics, they’ll just look at your bait and swim away.
Not so when things are right at Claiborne.
North Louisiana crappie guide Wesley Miller, known better as “Sasquatch,” likes Claiborne this time of year for several reasons, including smaller crowds and good numbers of fish. But the fact that they bite when you find them is high on that list, too.
“One good thing about Claiborne is they don’t just get pounded like on some lakes, so they are not as soft of a bite or as spooky under good conditions,” he said. “When crappie get stacked in the tops and the fallen timber this time of year, you can still rack up and catch an ice chest full of crappie in the deep water. There’s a large area out here that has a lot of structure and the crappie tend to stay bunched up on that structure until they head to shallow water to spawn. You can catch them from 20-30 feet deep.
“There’s a bonus way to catch them, here, too, and it can be done by anybody. Often schools of crappie will roam all over the area. Generally these fish are a bit more shallow and are chasing schools of baitfish. When they are doing that, you can catch them spider rigging or by chasing the schools and casting jigs and spinners. And when they are on the move, they are aggressive feeders.”
For that reason, using electronics to find tops isn’t the only way to catch fish here this month. It’s a great time to spider rig with several poles and several different baits. When you find the right depth and bait, put all the poles the same depth and use the same bait to increase your catches.
Claiborne crappie like small baits. Miller’s favorite is a hair jig, but small plastics work also. Shad colors are always good. And live shiners are always a good bet.
If the fish aren’t in the very deepest water yet because of warmer water late in the year, the same patterns still work, only in different areas. Shallower tops and sunken trees in the 15-20 foot water near deep water will hold fish and bait until they make the final move deeper. These spots are good to remember in the spring, too, because the fish move back to them before going shallow to spawn.
One thing Miller reminds people, especially in the deeper water, is to keep the bait above the fish. Crappie feed up and if it goes below them even six inches, they’ll never see the bait. That holds true for crappie everywhere.
Claiborne is a great place to visit and spend a couple of days fishing. There is an excellent state park there and several good marinas. The state park offers a good ramp and parking area that is just a few hundred yards from where the fishing starts getting good this time of year. The lake covers 6,400 acres just south of Homer in Claiborne Parish. Additional ramps on the lake can be found at Port-Au-Prince area off Hwy. 146 and on the far north end off Hwy. 2 between Homer and Lisbon. You can find out more from Miller at Big Sasquatch Outdoors on Facebook.
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