When it comes to catching crappie this month, at least on one northwest Louisiana lake, here’s something you can “take to the bank.”
Your bait — and your ice chest.
“Every year about the first of March, the crappie on Black Lake at Campti leave that old river channel and make their way shallow,” says long-time guide Charlie King. “And when I say they head shallow, I mean they usually go all the way to the bank.”
King looks for fish in 2 to 3 feet of water, just about anywhere around the bank in certain areas.
“When you start catching one or two, work that area good, because they are there,” he said.
When they leave the old river channel and head to the bank, they’ll usually stop along the cypress tree break lines that you find close to the bank. King likes to float shiners under a cork, , always fishing 6 to 8 inches above the depth at which he thinks the crappie are holding.
“You can also throw out a jig under a cork, twitch it or pop it slowly and catch crappie, too. If they are being a bit sluggish, I always add a crappie niblet to the hook and try again. Sometimes that makes a difference,” he said.
King’s favorite jig colors are pink head/chartreuse tail. Gray Ghost jigs with plain silver heads are also good, especially when the water is more clear. Anglers shouldn’t expect to catch fish everywhere and have them bite all day-long. The fish are, as he said, “time and depth” sensitive.
“They head in shallow and get at a certain depth when they are ready to spawn,” he said. “They sometimes bite early and late and sometimes in the middle of the day. But they don’t hardly ever bite all day long.”
King (www.redriverfishingla.com) has one other method he uses, and he gets to cover a lot of water. He fishes an ultralight spinning or spincast outfit and throws a Beetle Spin in caterpillar color or a Road Runner in shad color. He’ll sometimes throw a Mr. Twister Teenie tail or larger Meeny tail plastic tail. He retrieves those slowly and tries to come as close to the structure as he can get. The old Black Lake hair jigs are also a lake favorite.
And never forget a plain old minnow. Sometimes the fish just like a live bait, and fishing a minnow is one of the most-popular ways to catch Black Lake crappie. They take a little extra work, but sometimes it pays off.
King has a special rig he uses for minnow fishing. He fishes the minnow under a cork with a small, No. 1 split-shot to hold it down and ties on a No. 6 Aberdeen bream hook, impaling the minnow in the eye socket to allow him to swim better and live longer.
“An old man who has fished here forever told me about that,” he said. “You don’t have to have a huge hook to catch crappie. When they bite that minnow and feel the hook, they are less likely to hold on. With that small hook, they hit it better and hold on better.”
Some of the best areas to target crappie this time of year include the Cloud’s Crossing area north of the Hwy 9 bridge and the Bull Run and Public Boat Ramp areas to the south. If you don’t know where to go, just keep your eyes open and follow the other boats. Usually, when they are biting, they’ll be plenty of boats in the areas where there are fish.
“This goes on for a month or six weeks each spring, varying a little bit each year because of weather and water conditions,” King said, “but it’s time.”