The Crappie have begun their annual spawn at Okatibbee
March 16, 2001
If you like to catch and eat crappie, white perch, or soc-a-lait, now is the time to head to Okatibbee Lake. Many of the perch have already arrived at their spawning grounds. All you need is a pole and a few jigs or minnows and you will be in business.
Local tournament angler Bruce Roberts took a little time off from his busy schedule over the weekend to get in a little perch fishing.
Although Roberts is an avid bass fisherman, he stills likes to catch a few crappie when they are spawning. Late Sunday afternoon he went to Okatibbee and tried out a few of his old faithful spots.
He located some crappie on about the third stop he made. He had finally found the perch in shallow water. Most of the fish were holding tight to cover. Roberts prefers using a graphite crappie pole tipped with a jig when the fish are against cover. There's nothing quite like feeling that old slab perch thump a jig.
Once he finds the right depth, Roberts simply lets out enough line to keep the jig in the prime location. Now what is the right depth you might ask? It depends on when and where you are fishing. Right now many of the perch are in water less than 3 feet deep. If the perch are in 3 feet of water and they are hitting the jig 12 to 18 inches deep, then that is the correct depth for the jig.
As on all lakes, there is sure to be more than one pattern at the same time. Some of the fish will be in deep water, while some will be in the shallower flats along creek channels, and still others will be shallow. Chances are good that you will find fish in all depths right now. Over the next couple of weeks however, most of the perch will be shallow, or headed shallow.
When the crappie are shallow, they will readily inhale almost any bait that an angler might offer. Many fishermen prefer fishing with a cane pole and minnows. Still others like to use a crappie pole and jigs. Some others prefer to cast for them using ultralight outfits with jigs or beetle spins. If the perch are in the open water or gathered around a stump or treetop in deeper water, casting will be okay. However, if they are holding tight to cover, nothing beats the old pole and jig. This will allow precise placement of the bait with a minimum of disturbance on the water.
Some anglers like Mike Heard prefer another technique that is really dynamite this time of year. Heard will take a crappie pole and install a cork above the jig. If he determines that the fish want the jig at 12" or 3 feet, he will position the cork at that depth. Then it's simply a matter of going fishing and covering water. Heard catches a lot of fish by simply placing the cork right next to a stump, stick up or grass patch. By using the cork, anglers will be able to catch fish instead of catching stumps or the bottom.
With the fish in the shallow water right now, even anglers fishing from the bank are successful. Anglers don't need a big bass boat or fancy aluminum rig to catch crappie. In fact, a light flat bottom boat coupled with a small sculling paddle, might be the ideal rig when the crappie are real shallow. By sculling silently along with a paddle, the perch won't be as apt to be spooked as they will with the use of a trolling motor.
If you're ready for some of the best fishing of the year, don't delay, head for the lake today. You just might be glad you did!