Ouachita River’s great crappie bite continues in September

Late summer hasn’t slowed down the spunky Ouachita River crappie, as these two 1.90-pound slabs held by Jason Thomas show.

Slabs move from lakes to main channel

For years, the Ouachita River’s summer crappie fishing sort of flew under the radar. Some folks fished the river’s lakes and the fallen tops and brush along the river channel with good success. But now, the river has become one of the go-to crappie holes in north Louisiana.

Meandering almost 100 miles from the Arkansas line to below Jonesville, the river’s backwaters have been on fire with crappie the past couple of months. And with the river now dropped down to pool stage, the fishing has not let up. The focus has switched from the river lakes, many of which are cut off from the main-river access when it drops to pool stage, to the main river channel.

“One thing never changes, though: find the bait,” said fisherman Jason Thomas of Monroe. “When you find the big wads of shad, the crappie are close by. 

“This time of year, the river itself is a prime target. There aren’t fish in every top, but it’s something you can’t pass by. You may pull up and find two or three on a top, or you might come up to a big fallen tree and find 200 on the electronics. It’s the same for the river lakes. The deeper ones still have crappie in them.”

Thomas loves to fish the river for fun, but he also competes in several major crappie tournament circuits. This time of year, he never heads to the river without shiners.

“My boat doesn’t leave the landing without minnows,” Thomas said. “We do fish with a lot of artificial lures, like the Jenko Mermaid in lucky leprechaun color or hair jigs like the Jimmy Watt jigs, but we also put shiner trailers on sometimes. If the bite is slow, we’ll try a bladed jighead like the Jenko Slasher Spin.” 

Tips for September fishing

Two things are key to river fishing in September. 

First, Thomas looks for something many people hate: wads of gar. “If you see the gar swirling around and feeding, there are probably crappie in the same place,” he said. “I was skeptical until I saw it so many times for myself on the LiveScope.

“The second thing is the thermocline. It’s hot now, and the thermocline is visible even on less-sophisticated depth finders. Never fish below the thermocline. Trying to catch fish below that would be like looking for somebody eating supper under their table instead of above it. It just doesn’t happen.”

The bigger, black crappie usually prefer the river itself. Fish aren’t all on the tops there, either. Sometimes, crappie find big balls of shad off the sandbars along the river’s big bends, and they will be stacked around them there as well. The white crappie, which run a bit smaller, like the river lakes this time of year, according to Thomas, who fishes the river “lock to lock” — from the Arkansas line to the dam at Columbia. He said there are crappie up and down the river; you just have to spend some time finding them, and this is a good time of year to do just that.

Improved public landings, including the Alabama Landing near Marion, the Sterlington ramp, Forsythe Park, Riverton and Columbia all offer multi-lane concrete ramps and good parking.

About Kinny Haddox 597 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.