With spring still about a week away, now is a great time to get out on the water and prepare to take advantage of some cool weather crappie fishing, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“If you plan on hitting the water, we have information on some great ‘hot spots’ for excellent crappie fishing,” said John Biagi, chief of fisheries management. “There is sure to be lots of action while fishing for crappie, so be sure to bring a friend or family member with you – and bring your camera!”
During winter, crappie congregate in deeper water, generally 15-30 feet deep, near the mouths of major tributaries and in the main lake. Large schools are easily located with sonar electronics.
As the water warms in late March, crappie will move to more shallow water toward the middle and back of major tributaries, preferring to congregate around woody cover such as stumps, logs, downed trees, fish attractors and creek ledges. Minnows and small jigs are favored bait, and light spinning tackle spooled with 6- or 8-pound test line is recommended.
Cool weather hot spots
Northwest Georgia: Lake Allatoona hot-spots from north to south include the Etowah flats, Little River, Sweetwater, Kellogg, Illinois, Tanyard and Clark creeks. Downed trees or man-made fish attractors in these areas are good bets (location maps online at gofishgeorgia.com); the Coosa River, concentrating in the river immediately below the Lock and Dam Park and the tributary backwaters off the main river channel, especially in the Brushy Branch area of Big Cedar Creek.
Northeast Georgia: Lake Lanier’s upper part of the reservoir, especially the Chattahoochee River arm. Crappie will be holding tight to downed trees in the Clarks Bridge area as well as Wahoo Creek and Little River. In Lake Hartwell, crappie are most abundant in the Eastanollee Creek area, especially upstream of Buoy EC3, and in the upper reaches of Lightwood Log Creek. Lake Nottely, near Blairsville, also supports a decent crappie fishery. Look for crappie in downed timber along the main shoreline upstream of the Deavertown Boat Ramp and in the upper reaches of Youngcane Creek.
East Central Georgia: Clarks Hill Lake, especially at Soap, Fishing, Grays and Newford creeks, and the Little River arm; Lake Oconee at Beaverdam, Sandy, Rocky, Richland and Sugar creeks and the Appalachee River arm; Lake Russell at Rocky River, Beaverdam, Coldwater and Allen creeks; Lakes Blalock and J.W. Smith in Clayton County both offer good bank fishing near boat ramps and additionally Lake Blalock offers good fishing at areas of standing timber and at J.W. Smith anglers are urged to concentrate on Panhandle Road Bridge, the overflow structure near the dam and the submerged pond and dam on the south side of the lake; Lake Varner and Randy Poynter Lake provide great crappie fishing opportunities.
West Central Georgia: West Point Lake has fish attractors, deep water areas, creek mouths and bridges; Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center anglers should visit Bennett, Shepherd and Margery Lake and fish deep water, flooded timber and fish attractors; Big Lazer Public Fishing Area; Lake Sinclair at Beaverdam Creek, around larger islands (Optimist, Budweiser and Goat), riprap along Highway 441 at Little River, Beaverdam and Rooty Creek. Bank or boat anglers at Sinclair also can try riprap at Twin Bridges and Potato Creek along Highway 212.
Southwest Georgia: Lake Walter F. George at Pataula Creek, Rood Creek, Sandy Branch and Sandy Creeks; Lake Seminole at the main river channels around Ford Scott Island, the Chattahoochee River mouth (between river miles three and four), the mouth of Spring Creek and the old river channels and submersed structures; Lake Blackshear at Swift Creek, Collins Branch, Cedar Creek, the main channel above Highway 280 and the numerous sloughs located off the main river channel between Highway 27 and Highway 30.
South Central Georgia: At Dodge County Public Fishing Area (PFA) and Hugh M Gillis PFA, the most effective methods are long-line trolling with curl tailed grubs or small crankbaits. At Paradise PFA drifting or slow trolling tube baits or curly tail grubs can be productive. Lakes Patrick, Paradise and Horseshoe 4 are best bets at Paradise PFA. Fisheries staff also recommends casting towards the bank as fish move to shallow water to spawn. Anglers should note that live minnows are now allowed on these PFAs. Backwaters of the Altamaha River can produce excellent catches of crappie when the level is right. Fish cover in the numerous oxbow lakes with minnows or tube baits for the best success. The crappie population is high right now, so give the river oxbows a try.
Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license to fish in public waters. Where can you get a license? Buy it online or find a list of retail license vendors at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.
By purchasing a license as well as fishing equipment and related items, you and your fellow anglers have helped fund sport fish restoration programs for years, thanks to the Sport Fish Restoration Act. This Act allows funds accumulated from a federal excise tax on fishing equipment and related items to be directed to activities that benefit recreational anglers. A portion of these funds is provided to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources based on several factors, including the number of paid sporting licenses. Sport Fish funds make the following activities possible: managing sport fish populations, raising freshwater fish in hatcheries and stocking them in public waters, maintaining and operating public fishing areas, boat ramps, fishing piers, and much more!
For more information on crappie fishing in Georgia, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com/fishing or call a Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Management office.