The brief Georgia winter provides a great opportunity to get excellent results for crappie fishing, and several reservoirs across the state offer rewards for anglers willing to brave the bitter cold temperatures.
“Anglers searching for crappie need to concentrate on cold weather ‘hot spots’,” says John Biagi, chief of Fisheries Management for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division. “Crappie fishing brings a lot of action which means it is an excellent time to engage the entire family and/or to introduce someone new to the fun aspect of the sport.”
During the winter cold, crappie tend to 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 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
In northwest Georgia, visit Lake Allatoona and look for the man-made fish attractors, especially those in the Kellogg Creek, Illinois Creek and Sweetwater Creek areas. Fish attractor location maps are available at www.gofishgeorgia.com . Also look to the Rocky Mountain Public Fishing Area, located 16 miles north of Rome, where good numbers of slab crappie are predicted this year. Hot spots include shallow backwater coves, especially those containing flooded timber. The Coosa River, which begins in the city of Rome and flows roughly 30 miles west-southwest before entering Lake Weiss, is another area to target; concentrate in the river immediately below Mayo’s 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 offers three different reservoirs for targeting crappie. Metro area anglers should look to Lake Lanier, located just 50 miles northeast of Atlanta. The upper part of the reservoir, especially the Chattahoochee River arm, Wahoo Creek and Little River are considered hot spots. Anglers should also consider the upper part of Lake Hartwell, located on the Georgia-South Carolina border near Franklin and Hart counties. The Eastanollee Creek area is considered a crappie haven. The manmade fish attractors around the upper half of Lake Nottely rank as another active location.
Several east-central area lakes offer prime crappie habitat, including Clarks Hill Lake where excellent fishing is predicted for the year, especially at Soap, Fishing, Grays and Newford creeks, and the Little River arm. On Lake Oconee, Beaverdam, Sandy, Rocky, Richland and Sugar creeks and Appalachee River arm are good target areas. At Lake Russell anglers should concentrate at Rocky River, Beaverdam, Coldwater and Allen creeks. Lakes Blalock and J.W. Smith in Clayton County offer good bank fishing opportunities near boat ramps. Areas of standing timber are key targets at Lake Blalock while J.W. Smith offers good boat fishing around the Panhandle Road Bridge, the overflow structure near the dam and the submerged pond and dam on the south side of the lake. Anglers can count on Lake Varner for good numbers of crappie and Randy Poynter Lake for larger crappie.
Wildlife Resources Division biologists recommend five areas in the west-central area of the state for crappie fishing - West Point Lake in Troup County, Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, Big Lazer Public Fishing Area in Talbot County, Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area in Bleckley County and Lake Sinclair just north of Milledgeville. At West Point, concentrate around fish attractors and deep water areas. Visit Fox, Shepherd or Margery Lake at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center and look for deep water and flooded timber or fish attractors. At Lake Sinclair, Beaverdam Creek provides good opportunities for early spawning due to the warmwater discharge from the steam plant. When temperatures warm, anglers should target larger islands such as Optimist, Budweiser and Goat. Sinclair bank anglers should concentrate on the riprap along Highway 441 at Little River, Beaverdam and Rooty Creek. Additionally, the riprap at Twin Bridges and Potato Creek along Highway 212 also provide good bank access. Big Lazer and Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area anglers should seek flooded timber near the creek channels and deep water.
Southwest Georgia also offers key areas for crappie. Lake Walter F. George, located on the Georgia-Alabama state line between Columbus and Ft. Gaines, provides good fishing at the mouths of Pataula Creek, Rood Creek, Sandy Branch and Sandy Creeks. On Lake Seminole, in the southwest corner of the state, anglers should fish 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, an impoundment of the Flint River north of Albany also offers good fishing for black and white crappie. Good areas to try are Swift Creek, Collins Branch, Cedar Creek and the numerous sloughs located off the main river channel between Highway 27 and Highway 30.
For more information on crappie fishing in Georgia, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com or call a Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Management office.