Smith: Winter months special for crappie fishermen
Dec. 6, 2017 at 10:34 p.m.
Each year crappie anglers look forward to a special season to ply their skills.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department implements a three-month special restriction for crappie at Lake Fork and Lake O' the Pines. From Dec. 1 until the last day of February, anglers must retain the first 25 crappie caught regardless of size.
The remainder of the year these two lakes follow the standard, statewide rules for crappie or 10-inch minimum length limit. Both "seasons" have a 25-fish bag limit.
The special regulations were put in place to protect the fisheries. During these months crappie will congregate in large schools in deep water.
The definition of deep in this case is 25 to 40 feet. Pulling a small crappie up from these depths quickly can cause the fish to become paralyzed due to not being able to decompress quickly enough.
Before the special season thousands of sub 10-inch fish were left to die or otherwise wasted. Anglers had to release these fish as it was illegal to keep them but the fish were obviously wasted. In case you were not aware, an 8 to 9 inch crappie makes awesome filets so the season is a win/win for the resource and the angler.
The crappie don't go deep just for kicks, the cooler water temperatures will cause the shad to also form large schools. The crappie take advantage of the target rich environment and spend the winter weeks fattening up on the shad. In fact all predatory fish take advantage of the deep shad bonanza.
Catching a double digit largemouth is a definite possibility as these giants will be in the area targeting smaller crappie as well as the shad. Yellow bass are also in the mix so a multiple species bag is common.
Last weekend was the first full weekend of the season and reports from Lake Fork are looking good. Limits or near limits were the standard the first few days with the majority being over the regular 10 inch minimum length limit. The cold front that hit our area this week will most likely send more fish to the depths. Main lake points in the 20-30 foot range is a good place to start your search and electronics aren't necessary but will certainly speed the "finding em."
Finding the crappie is good but find the shad and crappie will be there soon enough.
About a 50/50 mix of jigs and minnows has been working. Live bait is recommended for younger or less experienced crappie anglers. Tie two jigs on 6 pound test fluorocarbon about 18 inches apart on medium to light spinning gear and try to present the bait just above the school. Keep it mobile. If they aren't biting move around a few yards or a few miles.
This tactic also works if the fish are biting but extremely small.
Dress for the weather and then bring extra as adding a layer can make the difference.