Saline-Larto is a crappie hotspot

In addition to good numbers, Saline-Larto is producing more and more big crappie like these.
In addition to good numbers, Saline-Larto is producing more and more big crappie like these.

‘Small-lake mentality’ key for success

If there was an A-list of the most celebrated and sought-after slab crappie lakes in Louisiana, the Saline-Larto Complex in central Louisiana probably wouldn’t make the cut.

But now is a good time to consider changing that.

Saline-Larto can be the life of the party, despite it’s lack of glamor shots and a PR department. The lake complex is a large, natural backwater area of lakes, bayous and cuts covering part of Catahoula, LaSalle, Avoyelles and Rapides Parishes.

“One reason that Saline-Larto isn’t more heavily fished is that it is not like a normal lake you just ride up to, back down the ramp and go fishing. It can scare some folks off because it is a maze of about 8,000 acres of lakes, bayous and backwater,” said Larto Lake guide Tony Fuqua. “The key is just to stick to the basics and approach the complex with a small-lake mentality. By that I mean just fish one portion of it, find the fish and enjoy yourself. You can’t cover the whole thing.”

A good place to do that in February is to hit the deep channels near Larto Lake, Saline Lake, Shad Lake or Larto Bayou, some of the most popular spots in the waterway.

“When you find shad, you’ll find fish.”
“When you find shad,
you’ll find fish.”

There are a lot of 15- to 20-foot-deep channels, and like many other spots this time of year, the fish will follow the bait balls — big wads of shad that you can see on your electronics.

Bends of the channels, cuts and bayous are good spots to start. Some days, the fish will move up on the edge of the channel and you can even catch them 4 to 5 feet deep on hair jigs and a slip cork.

“When you find shad, you’ll find fish,” he said.

While a cold front may shut off the bite on big reservoirs, it actually seems to bunch up the crappie on Saline-Larto. You may have to fish a little slower and present your bait with a smaller weight to slow the fall, but you can literally mop up when that happens.

Fuqua likes black and chartreuse or brown and orange jigs, and doesn’t have an outright favorite brand. He even uses big 2-inch tube jigs and large shiners. (You can get an up-to-date fishing report by calling Tony at 318-446-4943.)

You can access the complex located east of Alexandria and south of Jonesville at nearly a dozen concrete ramps and landings, including Youngblood’s, Saline and Muddy Bayou campgrounds, Big Creek and Woodson’s.

Be cautious because in the rainy winter season, roads can be in disrepair this time of year.

Kinny Haddox
About Kinny Haddox 334 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.