Fishermen don’t fish for the picture-perfect scenery. If they did, you wouldn’t be able to get a boat into Black Lake at Campti this time of year.
The beautiful cypress studded lake actually has two names. West of the Highway 9 bridge is called Black Lake, while below the bridge is called “Clear Lake.”
To make it even more confusing, when you leave Black Lake and cross Clear Lake, you end up in Black Bayou. That’s important because Black Bayou is the place to be this time of the year because the scenery improves greatly when you are holding up a couple of slab black crappie.
“Black Lake is basically shallow, so when it turns cold, the fish head down the channel into Clear Lake,” said Brandon Jennings, a regular on the lake and the director of the Bayou Crappie ETC crappie tournament circuit. “The colder it gets, the farther down the channel the fish go all the way to Black Bayou.
“One thing is for sure, the fish are in deep water this month.”
Another sure thing is that crappie like hair jigs on the 13,500-acre lake. Shiners come in a close second, but hair jigs are No. 1.
“Some days they are not picky, but if the bite is not really on, you want to use a hair jig,” Jennings said. “The gray ghost is the most popular. You can’t beat any of the gray or dark-colored Black Lake Series hair jigs. That jig is a local product made just for this lake.”
Navigating the Black Lake part of the complex is difficult: The channels are not well marked and it is stumpy.
But anglers can find the Highway 9 bridge area fairly easy. That area is one of the deepest spots on the lake.
And the “hourglass” effect of any crappie migrating having to come through that area makes it popular.
Clear Lake is easier to navigate, aptly named because it is clear of stumps. But on down in Black Bayou, you run into lots more structure.
“Structure is the key to finding the big groups of fish,” Jennings said. “Most of the crappie on Black Lake are black crappie. They like structure. They’ll be on the old sunken bridge near the Highway 9 bridge or on the stumps and laydowns along the channel of Black Bayou,” Jennings said. “Usually crappie like the bait moving somewhat, but on days when the weather has just changed, they won’t hit it unless it’s right by the structure and kept totally still.
“Another thing fishermen here notice is that crappie hit the jig on the way down.”
That means you have to be attentive to detect bites.
“You better watch your line,” Jennings said. “If you are dropping your lure down in 20 feet of water and it stops at 10, you probably have a fish. Set the hook quickly, or you’ll lose him.
“Line watching is synonymous with catching Black Lake crappie.”
There are numerous landings on the Natchitoches Parish lake including Chandler’s Camp, Black Lake Lodge and Sandy Point, the landing closest to Black Bayou.