High-Cotton Crappie: Tips for cold-water sac-a-lait

The only thing more consistent than a cold-water crappie bite is the speed at which news of the bite spreads.

Such was the case not too long ago when I met Tony Peters, a Saline Larto crappie guide, and his fishing buddy Glenn Birkicht at a little store to the south of their home lake that spans Catahoula and LaSalle parishes.

I had heard through the grapevine that there were some sure-enough slabs biting at the Central Louisiana complex, and I wanted in on the action. One thing I’ve discovered since I stopped being so mad at the bass is that I absolutely love catching — and eating — crappie.

It was readily apparent that a lot of other folks feel the same way as Peters idled his Triton TX20 toward what looked like the New Orleans Boat Show floating on the surface of Larto Lake. Boats of all ages and sizes with what looked like those old whippy CB antennas sticking out of their sides were spread as far as the eye could see in every direction.

“You don’t have to look at a calendar to know it’s Saturday,” Peters quipped. “Word gets out pretty quick when these fish start biting. It’s not as bad during the week, though. I was out here a couple days ago, and there probably weren’t 12 boats out. This morning it looks like there are 112.”

The morning was dead calm and the air icy cold — perfect conditions to know if any of the other boats were catching fish without actually having to look at them. It was easy to hear that none of the hundreds of jig poles that hovered over the water were bent over under the weight of a slab.

“It might be a little slow this morning,” Peters said. “They bit really well the other day, but it was the coldest day of a cold snap. It’s warmed up a little. That might affect them somewhat, but they’re going to bite sometime today. After all, this is Saline Larto — they kind of have to.”

That declaration may sound a little boastful, but Saline Larto has the goods to back up that kind of talk. Tony Fuqua lives in Kolin, and he recounted a conversation he had recently with an elderly couple from Missouri who was fishing the lake.

“They told me they fish for crappie all over the country,” Fuqua said, “and they had never been to a better crappie lake than the Saline Larto complex. This was a retired couple, and they could go anywhere they want at any time, but they choose to come here during the winter.”

Peters also recalled a magazine article he read several years ago that had Saline Larto ranked in the top-10 crappie fisheries in the United States.

“They actually had it ranked third,” he recalled. “The ranking was based on consistency of limits caught, how many fish over 2 pounds wound up in those limits and the average size of crappie caught. I don’t know where it would be ranked today, but I’d venture to say it’s definitely still in the top 10.”

Peters believes this complex continues to churn out slab crappie because it gets naturally stocked from the Red River at least once a year and sometimes twice. The Red River is full of huge crappie, and every time the lake floods from the Red River and the Catahoula Lake Diversion Canal, which is fed by Little River and Old River, a lot of those crappie stay in Saline Larto.

“The lake gets high with all that water coming into it,” Peters said, “but it recedes pretty slow. The lack of a fast drop means that several of the fish that found their way into the complex during high water stay put as the water starts dropping.”

Click here to read the rest of this article, which first appeared in the January 2006 issue of Louisiana Sportsman magazine.

About Chris Ginn 778 Articles
Chris Ginn has been covering hunting and fishing in Louisiana since 1998. He lives with his wife Jennifer and children Matthew and Rebecca along the Bogue Chitto River in rural Washington Parish. His blog can be found at chrisginn.com.

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