There's this guy in my hunting club who feels sorry for me because he knows that if I want to eat fish this time of year, I'll have to open a can of tuna.
His benevolence and keeping the true spirit of the season in giving was manifested when I drove home from church Sunday to find an ice chest by our front door. Inside the chest covered in ice were ten big crappie; all I had to do was filet and fry 'em. Mike Brister had delivered me an early Christmas gift.
What is it about crappie turning on in December when the weather turns cold? You'd think they'd be hunkered down somewhere in hibernation, waiting for the weather to warm next spring before they would be in a mood to eat.
"Crappie are cold blooded creatures for sure but they readily feed in cold weather," said Bobby Phillips, one of the area's most knowledgeable and expert crappie fisherman. Phillips, former owner of the Honey Hole Tackle Shop in W. Monroe, continues to put in time at the store when he's not on the lake proving his contention that winter time is one of the best times to catch a cooler full of big slab crappie.
"It's all about the shad. They can't stand the cold water temperatures so they head deep where water temperatures are a few degrees less cold. When they head for the depths, schools of crappie follow them down where stuffing themselves on threadfin shad, their favorite food, is an easy task. They don't have to move around or chase after the shad because they are there by the thousands," Phillips added.
Dropping a live minnow or jig that resembles a shad down into the depths that your sonar shows the big wad of shad is a good bet to feel a tap and tug when a crappie scarfs down your offering.
Crappie are not the only fish that rely on shad for sustenance. Largemouth bass will also lie in wait around the shad for easy meals. Greg Terzia, owner of Greg Terzia's Bait and Tackle in Ruston, likes to go deep for bass in cold weather with Caney Lake being one of his favorites.
"You can find these fish bunched up in 25-40 feet of water in the middle of the lake stretched from the McDonald's road bed all the way to the spillway.
Wherever you find the yellow bass bunched up is where the bass will be stacked. If you start feeling yellow bass hit your jigging spoon, get ready because you have probably hit the jack pot," Terzia said.
"Your fish finder is very important in locating these fish and if it's not showing much activity below, don't waste your time fishing there. Also, look for birds diving in the deep water. If you see them bunched up diving, you can bet there are schools of fish under them. Sometimes they are better than an actual fish finder."
Another species of fish that get active in cold weather is the other one Terzia mentioned, yellow bass. These spunky fighters also head deep after shad and a CC Jigging Spoon the size of the shad they feed on can be deadly. Locate the fish, hit the button on your reel and let it fall to the bottom. Bouncing the spoon off the bottom, causing it to flutter back down will often produce strike after strike.
Just because the weather turns cold doesn't mean that the fish go into dormancy. They follow the shad and where you find shad, you'll find the fish.
In the event you're not able to go, maybe you can do like me and cultivate the friendship of a guy like Mike Brister.
Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.