“Hot enough for you?’ That’s something we are hearing a lot these days as our temperatures have been consistently in triple digits. I suppose you can just forget about fishing when temperatures are baking our brains, right? Hold on; in case you don’t know it, you can catch crappie, big slab crappie, when temperatures are as hot as what we’re experiencing.
Most perch jerkers know that crappie tend to bunch up in deep water in winter and lots are caught by anglers willing to brave the cold. However, what about the blistering days of July and August? Do anglers seriously fish for them while risking heat stroke? You bet your best Bobby Garland Electric Chicken jig they do.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of fishing with a crappie expert, Bill Pettit, and came away with a tackle box full of valuable information about summertime crappie fishing from this dyed-in-the-wool perch jerker.
I met Pettit on Ross Barnette Reservoir just out of Jackson, MS where I was fishing as a guest of the B&M Pole Company. Pettit, a retired postal employee in Jackson, was a veritable walking encyclopedia of crappie knowledge and while we caught fish, he shared tidbits of lore that has helped me over the years to know a bit more about these popular and sought-after fish.
One thing that stood out in my mind was Pettit’s comments about fishing for and catching crappie in the heat of summer.
“In spring, you can find crappie on most any lake in shallow water where spawning takes place. However,” Pettit noted, “once hot weather gets here, you can forget about fishing for them in skinny water. They’re going to be suspended in deep water and it takes some searching to locate them. Once you locate them, you can catch one big old slab after another, provided you can stand the heat.
“Lots of times, I’ll get so hot sitting out there under the broiling sun that I’ll quit fishing for awhile, crank my big motor and tear out across the lake at full speed with one purpose in mind to cool off. After I cool down a bit, I’ll go back and start catching crappie again.”
As Bill Pettit and others attest, crappie fishing can be downright super in summer, provided you know where to locate the fish. In general, once the spawn is over and the weather begins heating up, crappie head for cooler water, which is usually deep water. Being school fish, once you catch a crappie this time of year, chances are excellent that plenty more are where that one came from.
In big open water bodies, such as rivers and reservoirs like Toledo Bend and Ross Barnette, crappie congregate in or near channels. The moving water will attract pods of shad that the crappie will follow for easy feeding opportunities. In most deeper lakes in Louisiana, crappie will gather around structure that is located next to deep water. Drop-offs that lead to deep water that has structure near its edge are prime target areas.
In the heat of summer, one of the most productive areas to find the crappie stacked up is around the deeper piers and bridge pilings that may dot the lake you’re fishing.
When fishing bridge pilings, it helps to know where the bridge crosses the channel or the bayou or river. The pilings nearest the deep channels are where you’re more likely to find the fish bunched up because likely as not, schools of shad will have taken a liking to the cooler depths as well. When you find shad, no matter the time of year, you’re likely to find crappie as well.
It’s August and I don’t have to remind you that the heat is on. However, if you follow this expert’s advice and if you can handle the hot sun beating down on your head, you stand a good chance of bringing in a box of slabs.