There has long been a tradition of wintertime crappie fishing at the Chicken Coop on Toledo Bend reservoir. That area is north of Milam off Highway 87. There are, however, some really productive crappie fishing areas on not only Toledo Bend but also Sam Rayburn and Lake Livingston. Our local bayous were once very productive crappie fishing waters, but I have no reports since Hurricane Ike’s saltwater surge.
The Toledo Bend crappie have now begun to move into more shallow water. They do gang up around submerged brush or other structure. The fish in a given area tend to be mostly of like size. Should you locate crappie that are too small, I’d recommend moving on to locate some fish in another spot.
There are numerous submerged creeks, roads, points and the like on Toledo that hold crappie during the pre-spawn and spawning time. I’d look for 6 to 10 foot deep areas where there is plenty of submerged concealment. Brush tops that are either natural or placed there for the fishing are always super places to give a try. One never knows for sure where the better action will be. That’s why it is a good idea to have several spots to try.
One method of crappie fishing that has been productive on Toledo Bend is casting small jigs along brush or grass lines. By holding the boat in deeper water it is possible to allow the jig to free-fall as it is slowly retrieved. This makes it possible to cast shallow and then allow the lure to sink deeper as it goes into the deeper water. Once you have located a fish or two, it is likely that there will be many more at that depth and in that area.
When using lures, the strolling method has long been popular on Toledo Bend. By setting the jigs off several locations on the boat and placing them at various depths it is possible to find the fish’s preferred depth. Then by using an electric troll motor to move the boat along slowly, it makes the jigs swim along at various depths. Once a crappie is located, then continue to either stroll in that area or stop and drop your lures to the productive depth. Crappie will likely be ganged up in that spot. Strolling may also be done using shiners.
On Sam Rayburn, many of the more productive crappie catching spots are manmade. Anglers that fish mostly for crappie will take the time to submerge some brush piles that are crappie hotels and buffets. By placing these brush piles in various places and at various depth, it is more than likely that the fish will be at one or more of the spots.When fishing the brush piles, it is a good idea to use a float set at the proper depth. This will allow for keeping the jig in the fish area, but also out of the brush.
Don’t overlook the many natural structures that might hold crappie. There are brush piles as well as vegetation growing in shallow water that are crappie areas. Usually, nearby deep water is necessary to attract crappie. These types of places require the use of light or ultra light fishing tackle that will allow the casting of the small jigs, spinner lures or grubs. Lures in the 1/16 to 1/32 ounce size require light equipment.
Lake Livingston is a super crappie producing lake. At this time, the fish have moved up to near the bank. This lake was mostly cleared of its timber and brush. The better natural structure is along the creeks and near the banks of the many sloughs around the lake. There are also many shallow submerged hills, roadbeds and bridges under the lake that hold crappie. There are also many submerged manmade brush piles that seem to be crappie holders not only now but all year around.
When fishing for crappie along the banks, a jig under a float is a good idea, but casting and retrieving is also productive. Even non-boaters fishing from the bank score well during the spawn. The many marina boat docks, bulkheads and riprap are great for producing Livingston crappie.
It is a good idea to have a variety of different size jigs and tails as well as various colors. One never knows which one will be better on a given day. Also since crappie like thick cover, it might be necessary to replace broken off lures from time to time.
Lure fishing for crappie is both fun and productive right now.