LAKE OCONEE — Anglers who target crappie and especially those who target crappie throughout the winter have seen their efforts rewarded this season with good catches of crappie. Lake Oconee’s early crappie season has been excellent thus far and should continue to improve in the days ahead.
Lake Oconee is better known for rewarding anglers with large crappie during the late winter months compared to downstream Lake Sinclair. However, Lake Sinclair is giving up some large crappie in the early season and numbers of crappie have been excellent of late.
Angling for late winter crappie can always be adversely impacted by the weather. We can normally expect some really cold weather during the late winter in middle Georgia and huge amounts of rainfall combined with the cold weather can negatively impact the crappie bite. Lately, rainfall has not been a serious problem but the weather is showing signs of more potentially heavy rain on the way.
The normal winter to spring crappie migration is usually fairly easy to follow and predict but the weather can always throw a wrench into those predictions. During a normal late winter, any warming trend where the water temperature rises a few degrees will cause the crappie’s biological clock to begin responding to the warmer water and they will begin a slight movement toward spawning areas.
When another cold front moves through and we usually have a few during late winter, the crappie will reverse their movements and move back toward deeper water. This back and forth movement may occur several times during late winter and early spring. Catching the crappie moving shallow after a few warm days can usually result in outstanding catches even in late winter. The entire migration process might actually take a month or two before culminating in the crappie spawning usually in mid to late March.
For many years, crappie anglers caught crappie mainly during the actual spawning period. That occurs when the water warms between 58 and 64 degrees. In more recent years, crappie anglers have learned that this fine table food can be caught throughout the year and especially in a period that begins weeks before the actual spawn.
Early season crappie fishing, especially when the weather is bad, requires the angler to be versatile because the crappie’s movements and actions seem to change almost constantly. Most early season crappie anglers target the crappie with various trolling techniques that include the use of both jigs and minnows.
The techniques used by crappie anglers vary mostly due to the result of their own experimentation through trial and error. Once those crappie anglers decide how to catch crappie, there is generally no convincing them that there are other ways that will also work. You seldom find two crappie anglers who have the same exact techniques for catching crappie.
However if you were to analyze the different techniques, there is one condition that will always be the same. Put a lively minnow or a brightly colored jig in front of a crappie and that crappie is generally going to bite. Some anglers are just better at locating the crappie and then presenting the meal. Locating the crappie is the single most important challenge and factor for crappie anglers right now.
Right now is also a good time, and maybe your last chance, to place structures in shallow water areas where crappie will spawn. You can really improve your private dock for crappie fishing by placing some structures around the dock. Christmas trees are ok for structure but other structures made from bamboo are much better.
The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (GWRD) has recently placed more fish structures in Lake Sinclair. These large structures that are made from PVC pipe have been placed all around the lake in a project began by the GWRD in 2005. If you would like a list (2005-2013) of the GPS locations for the GWRD fish structures just drop me a request to my e-mail. Good fishing and see you next week.
Bobby Peoples can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lake Conditions – Clear to stained in the lower end of the main lake with some heavier stain and even muddy water up the rivers.
Lake Water Temperature – 51-54 degrees.
Largemouth Bass – FAIR – The passing cold fronts have the fish holding tight to cover and then the passing warm fronts shift has the fish more active. The back and forth has adversely impacted the bite. A few fish can be found in relatively shallow water in some coves around docks but most fish can be found offshore in deeper water around ledges and humps. In the coves the fish are located around docks and woody structure and the best lures are small crankbaits (Shad Rap), jigs and plastic worms/ lizards. The fish located in deep water can be caught using Carolina rigs, drop shot rigs and jigging spoons.
Crappie – FAIR/GOOD – Best bet is trolling jigs and minnows in the larger coves and creeks or using drop-shot rigged with minnows when crappie are deep and on the lake bottom.
Striped/Hybrid Bass/White – FAIR – Hybrids are located on points, humps and ledges from the big bend area to the south end of the lake and especially in the area from the river bend to the mouth of Richland Creek and those fish are being caught on spoons, umbrella rigs and live bait. Live bait has been best lately.
Catfish – NO REPORT.