Crappie Fishing in Chattanooga, Tennessee

I haven’t been posting much in recent years, mostly because of the usual suspects, work, family and the like. I had a decent waterfowl season by the time January was over, but it was crappie season that I’ve looked forward to the most. Since my son was born, now three years ago, I’ve struggled to find time to hunt and fish as much as I used to, and I’ve found out that 90% of success is just getting out there and being plugged in to what’s going on. Crappie season is no different, and my success in the past has been closely tied to the spring spawn and knowing when and where to go get the fish.

We have two fish frys every year that depend on a freezer full of fish from our crappie season. Even in a bad year, I manage to scrape up enough fish for these two gatherings, but I’ve learned enough over the last few seasons to really get the most out of my limited trips to the river.

When the dogwoods bloom

For sure, when the dogwood blooms just start to crack open, the crappie are biting here. Pay close attention to other signs, though. Probably the best indicator in the world, is social media. My fishing buddies start catching fish much earlier than the dogwood blooms each year. Yeah, they work pretty hard for them, but they catch limits as early as January. The fish are in different places that early in the year, but it’s tremendously helpful to track their progress in the weeks leading up to peak season.When we get into March, and linits are showing up everywhere, I start heading out to sample the places and style of fishing that I like to see if their into that pattern yet.

Keep a Record of When

It’s almost like having a journal. I look back at blog posts and Facebook images to see when I’ve had the most success. While I don’t always have a good record of weather, It does confirm year after year approximately when the bite is at its peak. Eventually I’ve come up with a pretty basic system to get the most out of the spawn and put plenty of fish in the freezer. My goal is to get out ahead of the spawn and when the number come up, I hit it hard for about two weeks or until I start to see the number tail off.

It’s not Rocket Science

There are surely as many techniques for catching crappie as there are ways to make a sandwich, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated. I have a nice tackle bag that takes 3600 size compartments. I have these compartments loaded for everything from Redfish to Bluegill and everything in between. When it’s time for crappie I have three 3600 boxes. One has hooks, another jigs and the third has floats. I even have an ultra-simple bag that hold four boxes just for crappie. I load the three boxes of crappie tackle along with pliers, forceps and lead split shot. A good ultra light rod and I’m ready to go catch fish. It’s really all you need unless you want to take it up a notch, but with a basic kit and a place to go, you’re in the money.

Bells and Whistles

I’ve added and modified my game over the years to make crappie fishing productive and easier, but even with the added goodies, it’s still pretty basic. I have a 17 foot aluminum boat and a 12v trolling motor. I use an old Eagle fish finder with the transducer on the trolling motor to find schools and track depth. I would tell you that you don’t need one, but for chasing crappie, it’s worth the extra effort and cost to get basic electronics on your rig. I have a small assortment of green neon lights that alligator clip onto the battery posts. Speaking of batteries, I take two. One for trolling and one to powder the depth finder and lights. For light, I use an old Coleman propane lantern that has a steel mesh globe (can’t break it) and an extra set of mantles at all times. I have a ten dollar brass adapter that lets me refill 1# bottles of propane and keep 2-3 in the boat with the lantern. Throw a headlamp and a bag of chips in and I’m about set. I use a 25qt Yeti both as a seat and as a fish box and a standard minnow bucket with an aerator for bait. It sounds like a lot, and it can get to be a hassle, but if you can keep most of it in the boat, it’s not too bad.

Chase Fish

I start my typical outing by dragging a jig across the depths in and out of the channel in the areas that I fish. I’m basically looking for schools and getting settled while I troll around. I’ll throw a minnow into tree tops and structure and sometimes drift at various depths to see what I can figure out. Early in the spawn, most of the fish that I catch are more scattered. As the spawn peaks, I catch the higher numbers of fish in areas that bottle neck and concentrate the fish in a more predictable way. even at peak season, it’s a constant adjustment in depth and presentation. I try to use as little weight as possible, but sometimes you just have to get the bait down there at all costs.

This year has been typical. I started out with one keep on a long cold evening. Next trip was even colder, but with six decent keepers. My third trip out, was milder and despite a very slow start, after 9pm I hammered out most of a limit of nice fish before getting cold and tired and shutting it down at midnight. Based on past experience, the next week or two will be good. I’ll keep hitting them in my spots until it slows down, and then I’ll start looking for bluegill.

The point is, that you don’t need much to enjoy crappie fishing, and that a basic approach with some attention to the spawn cycle can make it easy to load the freezer year after year. My methods are pretty basic, and i don’t have near as much time to pursue them as I used to, but a few more trips and I’ll have 100+ fish fillets ready to fry!

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Second time out in 2016 saw a very hard earned 6 keepers

Crappie fishing in Chattanooga

Third time out in 2016, and we’re in the money. 11 fish all over 11 inches. Limits from here on out!

There’s Still Hope! Crappie Bite Is On

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Well I’ve managed to get out twice for crappie this year. In recent years it just seems like the crappie have gone bananas in our waters and after a fairly weak run at the bounty last year, I’ve hunkered down to fill the freezer better this year. My first outing three weeks ago was perfect. The temps had crept up into the low seventies and as soon as I saw that everyone else was consistently catching good fish I went after them. It was a solo Sunday evening trip and I had little trouble filling my limit, culling only four fish. I could tell that even though the bite was good and the fish were keepers, we were barely in range with water temps. I fished jigs until dark and switched to live bait when the sun went down.

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Of course the very next weekend I set out for a repeat performance, only this time I brought another angler to back me up. Temps dipped during the week and while I was a little worried about it, I had to go. We fished hard from 5pm until after 1am culling dozens of fish and keeping only nine. The water temps were just down too much and the bite was very lethargic. The good sign was that there were way more fish on the finder than the week before.
This last weekend temps dipped way down below average, so I left it to the pros. Fortunately the low temps were short lived and I’m seeing great posts of crappie catches this week, already. So hopefully we can make another good strong run or two before they start spooling down post-spawn.
My guide buddy Richard Simms has absolutely been hammering crappie for a few weeks now and serves as a pretty good indicator of bite activity this week. Granted he does it for a living and all-importantly gets out on weekdays, you can see in his and others successes that it’s another strong year for crappie in Tennnessee Valley.

Shallow Water Mud Slingin’

The morning was a bust. Saw two skunks, two beavers and an otter, but barely a duck anywhere near my setup. Before heading back to the truck I wanted to inspect a beaver dam that I’ve been watching all year. Low water has kept me away from it and just enough water to skate back to it was the case on this day. The motor worked for it, but I was able to get in close to two sides of the dam despite random hard clay bottom in spots. Here’s a few clips of the digging, clawing and scratching required to simply get a look at this dam. I cut out the extended mud blasting efforts to save time, but trust me there were a few moments of slow progress or even hopping out of the boat to get turned around.

 

Christmas Eve Gift

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Christmas eve has pretty much turned into a mad scramble to get all the presents and all of us successfully to my parent’s house. So when I got the call from my old friend and mentor to squeeze in a quick hunt the night before, I squirmed a little at the thought of making a day like that even longer. The flip side is that surely the hunt would see some ducks down on the water, so it was a pretty easy call. Duck hunters like being tired wet, right?
We walked into what we consider one of the toughest areas to get to there is. Of course, the weather patterns had shifted so that it was raining sideways the whole time and the water had come up the better part of a foot, to boot. The heavy weather had the birds driving deeper into the swamps than normal, but we had several takers. Ironically the weather that had this are fired up was working against us a little driving birds hard to the side as they tried to stage to get down on our decoys. We didn’t leave much on the table, as most of the birds that got down over the decoys were dropped, but there were a few more volleys that couldn’t quite relax and get down out of the heavy winds successfully. The larger circling flocks further back in the timber added to that indecisiveness on their part, to be fair. We didn’t get our limits, but slightly less wind and we had it in the bag.
In the end I got home mid-morning soaked completely through every stitch of my gear, with a pile of ducks to clean before heading off to see what Santa had going on in Alabama. I squirmed at the idea of cramming a hunt in where it didn’t belong, but I sure was glad I did!

Rainy Day Scouting for New Water

Here’s a little banging around on the day after New Years Day. I was hoping recent rains would have flooded some new areas for the ducks, but at this point it still hadn’t runoff enough to flood them. It did rain another 2 inches two days after so another scouting run will be in order after the current freeze thaws.
After all this running around, I found a spot and dropped some decoys and sat in the rain for five hours. No shots fired and all but guarantee the ducks were sitting tight in the timber somewhere.

Midday River Scouting for Ducks

While there’s hardly any ducks being killed around here, there’s not much else to do other than run the low rivers and see what’s out there. Saw some interesting things but mainly just cruising up and down the river.

Afternoon River Run


Nothing special here, just a nice cruise down the river on Saturday afternoon.

Scouting for ducks in the boat.


A little afternoon scouting to find a place to hunt. Terrible bluebird day for ducks but a good chance to run the motor for a few minutes.

Boat Ride Back to the Truck- opening day


Well it’s been a long year or two around here. With a baby in the house, what little spare time to hunt and fish there has been, hasn’t made it into the blogs. While things have settled down enough for me to get back into the swing of things a little bit, the blogging is slowly catching up.

New to the mix this year, is the Gator Trax boat from so many blogs in the past now calls my back yard home. The guys just weren’t using it so much anymore and when they did use it, usually it was up here with me. So it made sense for us to work out a deal, and so we did. I was reluctant as i already had a boat without a motor and barely enough time to get out as it is, but we agreed it was the right play. I now need to sell either the Gator Trax or my Geaux Custom to wash it all out, but we’ll get it done over the winter.

I picked up the boat right before the season and barely had a chance to run it before opening day. She is a little tired from sitting quite a bit in recent years, but fired right up for this jaunt into the wood duck swamps of northern Alabama. I ran the GoPro even though this was hardly the most exciting boat ride, especially with the cold-natured restarts that plagued me all morning. The boat seems to be loosening up the water-based carb problems that popped up last season.

Before the season, I bought a 35hp new take-off carburetor from mudbuddy, but the linkages were all too different and ended up sending it back and rolling the dice. The motor actually runs pretty good other than the random sputter-and-die routine that seems to be getting better as fresh gas runs through it. I still feel like the tiny air filter we rigged after the entire air cleaner assembly came up missing on a hunt a few years ago is part of the problem.

I spec’d and ordered parts to put a higher flowing air filter setup along with a water proof pre-filter. All of those parts finally arrived and are assembled and ready to clamp on. Hopefully the additional fresh air will help with some of the sputtering and the annoying dead spot in the throttle that always seems to kick in when you’re navigating the technical stuff.

Otherwise, the motor is in good shape with plenty of prop wear left for another season or two.

 

2014 Season Opener Wood Duck Limit


With as many ducks in the area as ever to open the season, i knew where to go to at least stay busy with wood ducks. Going here pretty much guaranteed that only wood ducks would be shot, but it also guaranteed ducks. I passed up on several easy shots, so many in fact that I almost waited too long. I finally picked out a few and knocked two down and waited for an easy third duck to round out my limit.
A sever lack of water and rain is going to be an issue sooner than later but for now, the gadwall and woodies will have to do.