Toledo Bend’s slab sac-a-lait smackdown

Zachary Dubois of Kaplan has been catching quality black crappie (sac-a-lait) at midlake in Toledo Bend.
Zachary Dubois of Kaplan has been catching quality black crappie (sac-a-lait) at midlake in Toledo Bend.

Sac-a-lait have transitioned to deeper structures along the submerged Sabine River channel. Here’s where and how to catch Louisiana’s cherished and official state freshwater fish.

Many’s Zack Gagnard was on target after experiencing a couple of weeks catching limits of sac-a-lait (crappie) in deep brushpiles in Toledo Bend waters.

So Tuesday, May 28, the 29-year-old angler with Elite Guide Service  (318-308-7574) had no misgivings whatsoever about fishing deep at midlake near Lowes Creek and the Indian Mounds.

“The fish were there,” Gagnard said. “We launched at 9 a.m. and fished some natural structure 30 feet deep and had 29 in the boat by 11. We caught the remaining 21 at a brushpile ending the trip with 50.

“The fish were mostly black crappie ranging from ½ to 1 ¼ pounds with one white – a 1 ¾-pounder.”

Gagnard was fishing small and medium shiners when using a Bass Pro 6-foot crappie rod and spinning reel combo. His reel was spooled with K9 Hi-Vis 15-pound braid with a 6-inch K9 fluorocarbon leader. The angler used a ¼-ounce egg sinker to get the shiner down to the structure.

Near Negreet, Cajun Lures’ Zachary Dubois also found sac-a-lait and a few other species on main lake brushpiles in 30 feet of water Saturday afternoon, May 25.

“On my sonar unit, I noticed the fish were bunched tightly and we had to keep our jigs in one small spot,” the 27-year-old Kaplan angler said. “There was also a school of white bass next to the brush pile.

“By the end of the day we caught sac-a-lait, white bass, Kentucky bass and largemouths using salt-n-pepper and opening night Cajun Slim Jimmys and some shiners,” Dubois said.

The angler also uses light spinning tackle fishing his Slim Jimmys on 1/32-ounce jigheads adding a No. 7 crimp weight to his line above the hook to get his offering down deep.

“Some of the sac-a-lait were nice measuring 14 inches,” he said. “But we also had many small ones.

“We would catch three to four fish on one pile, then move on to another and catch three to four more until we had a mess of fish.”

Just the beginning

Having spent more than just a few years fishing Toledo Bend waters, both Dubois and Gagnard know that this is just the beginning.

From now to mid-July, Toledo Bend’s immense sac-a-lait population will move to both natural and man-made structures situated along the main river channel running north to south on Toledo Bend. These fish will be found deep in depths ranging from 12 to 30 feet of water.

“From now on to the middle of July, anglers will be able to come to Toledo Bend and catch all the crappie they want,” Gagnard said.

“And in July, bream will also show up in schools situated just above the brushpiles,” he said. “You can catch a bunch of them tightlining crickets to where they are sitting.”

In July, bream begin suspending in schools above the crappie on brushpiles and other natural structure located along the main channel. These can be taken in good numbers tightlining a weighted cricket to the depths.
In July, bream begin suspending in schools above the crappie on brushpiles and other natural structure located along the main channel. These can be taken in good numbers tightlining a weighted cricket to the depths.

But it’s the sac-a-lait that is of major interest here when on any given day in June there will be more anglers fishing sac-a-lait than bass.

“There have been plenty of crappie and white bass taken at day and at night under the Pendleton Bridge over the past month even with the rising lake level,” said inland fisheries district 10 biologist manager Villis Dowden with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

“Bridge pilings No. 8 to No. 12 have always been favorites for anglers as they have the old-style feed pallet tree structures clustered around the bases,” he said. “As the water warms into late June, pilings No. 14 to No. 19 always fish better with their placement in slightly deeper water.

“Right now the majority of lights under the Louisiana side of Pendleton Bridge are currently out and the Sabine River Authority has been trying to make some repairs for quite some time. The rough weather has been their main setback but I know they’ll get to them.

“Many anglers fishing the public reefs at night are using those floating green-light fish attractors and catching quite a few fish,” Dowden said.

As lagniappe for Toledo Bend sac-a-lait anglers, the biologist also added that net samples beginning in the fall until recently have resulted in the recording of higher numbers of larger crappie compared to the many younger fish taken in previous years.

Top public artificial reefs

Man-made brushpiles found along the edges of the river channel are often set out by anglers and guides to enhance the natural habitat in the lake as well as attract and hold crappie.

Once set, these structures can be easily located again along the main channel with a sonar unit or by precise GPS coordinates.

There are many public artificial reefs set out by both the LDWF (east side) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (west side)

A few are quite productive for sac-a-lait, white bass, yellow bass, bream and largemouths.

Many’s Zack Gagnard displays a hefty white sac-a-lait taken on Toledo Bend.
Many’s Zack Gagnard displays a hefty white sac-a-lait taken on Toledo Bend.

The following are public, artificial reefs recommended by Gagnard, Dubois and biologist Dowden.

Anglers only need a functioning cellphone with a GPS coordinate mapping app to locate these reefs. Also, nighttime anglers may find some lighting under bridges not working but portable green-light fish attractors are a popular option.

There are three sections under the Pendleton Bridge. These include the following (from the Louisiana side):

  • Pilings 2-12: GPS Coordinates N 31.46850° W 93.71259°
  • Piling 13: GPS Coordinates N 31.48557° W 93.71422°
  • Pilings 14-27: GPS Coordinates N. 31.48537° W 93.74157°

Other artificial reefs include the following (Louisiana LDWF artificial reefs):

  • Megastructure 1: GPS Coordinates N 31.19825 W 93.57508
  • Boon’s: GPS Coordinates N 31.35968 W 93.64302
  • Turtle Beach: GPS Coordinates N 31.40886 W 93.65217
  • Lanan (west of Pendleton Bridge): GPS Coordinates N 31.51867 and W 93.673274

On the Texas (west) side, those placed by the TPWD are:

  • Lowes Creek: GPS Coordinates N 31.23589 W 93.41279
  • Indian Mounds: GPS Coordinates N 31.20061 W 93.40721

Anglers are reminded the daily creel limit for crappie on Toledo Bend is 25 per angler – not 50 as found in most all other waters in Louisiana. On Toledo Bend Lake, the crappie possession limit is 100.

There is no length limit on crappie at Toledo Bend.