DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: Four early hot spots for crappie
Crappie fishing is one of my favorite pastimes. These large panfish are fun to catch and great to eat. Using minnows under slip-bobbers is my favorite tactic for catching crappie, but jigs work just as well or better. This time of year, you’ll catch crappie shallow in less than seven feet of water over solid bottoms. The crappie bite should remain strong for the next couple of months.
Crappie fishing is fun to travel for, because they are just about everywhere. These fish can be caught from coast to coast and border to border. But here in the Heartland, we have some of the best crappie fishing destinations in the country. Here are four of my favorite crappie lakes.
Patoka Lake – Indiana
At 8,800 surface acres, Patoka Lake is the second-largest reservoir in Indiana. The lake is an amazing fishery, with deep coves and standing timber scattered throughout. Crappie are numerous in Patoka, and they grow big. There are a bunch of river and creek arms in the reservoir that are top producing spots.
Patoka isn’t just a lake, it’s a nature experience. River otters, osprey and bald eagles call this place home. It’s wild and scenic. You can hunt, fish, hike, bird-watch, paddle and more. Plus, the Department of Natural Resources campground offers 500 sites with modern amenities and many activities.
Pomme de Terre – Missouri
Located in West Central Missouri, Pomme de Terre is recognized as one of the best musky fishing lakes in the lower Midwest. You can travel to this lake in hopes of landing one of these predators, but double up on your adventure by filling a livewell with slab crappie.
Fishing Pomme de Terre Lake with Kris Nelson of Tandem Fly Outfitters has spoiled me. When I step in his boat, my expectations are always to limit out and stock up on the number of filets in my freezer. Yet, even without Nelson’s crappie wizardry, stringers full of fish are possible.
Rend Lake – Illinois
It’s hard to argue Rend Lake is not the top crappie fishing destination in Illinois. If it’s not, it certainly seems to be the best known. At 19,000 acres with an average depth of 10 feet and a maximum depth of 35, there is a lot of water for crappie to spread out across.
In March, crappie anglers find success finesse fishing 1/8th ounce jigs on sunk brush in 10-12 feet of water. A 2019 study by IDNR showed 35 percent of crappie were over 10 inches and 30 percent were between 9-10 inches. White crappie dominate at 93 percent of the population.
Reelfoot Lake – Tennessee
Reelfoot Lake, located in the northwest corner of Tennessee is one of the most unique fisheries I’ve ever experienced. The lake is shallow throughout and filled with cypress trees. Crappie thrive in this well know destination lake. On any given spring Saturday, it looks like a boat parade of spider-rigging outfits.
Reelfoot is one lake where I suggest hiring a guide for at least a day. I know so many people who have gone to fish there and came up empty, only because they didn’t know where to fish. A lot of the lake looks the same, so a one day lesson can break it down for you and send you home with a cooler packed full of crappie filets.
See you down the trail…
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