Big chill likely to turn on winter crappie fishing
The first Big Chill of this winter is upon us, and it’s sure to shut down bass fishing for several weeks as the cold shocks the fish in most lakes statewide.
However, what’s bad for bass anglers is good for crappie anglers–crappies school tightly and feed heavily when temperatures drop, and all the TVA lakes as well as Lake Weiss–the state’s best-known crappie spot–are likely to be turning out loads of these good-eating panfish this week as soon as conditions settle.
The easy way to locate crappies is by trolling tiny jigs–weights of 1/8 to 1/64 ounce are preferred by experts like guide Mark Collins at Weiss, and most tow them at about 1 to 2 mph on the power of an electric trolling motor. A small plastic swimmer tail, 1 to 2 inches long in white, yellow or chartreuse, is the most common trailer.
The trick is to fish the little jigs on light line, 8-pound-test mono or lighter, so that they’ll get deep–the fish usually bite best a couple feet off the bottom. By letting out plenty of line, anglers allow the baits to go deeper, thus the tactic is sometimes called “long-line trolling”.
Winter crappies school tightly, and where you find one you may find dozens. Depths of 10 to 15 feet are typical at this time of year, with the fish gradually working shallower into late February as they get ready to spawn in coves and creeks with brushy shorelines.
Where there’s current, as there often is on the channel edges and humps in the TVA lakes, the fish will usually be headed into the flow, so trolling down-current gets the bites, while trolling up-current may get few. (The baits go deeper when trolled with the flow, too, which may be another factor in the success of directional trolling.)
Trolling multiple rigs can put lots of fish in the boat fast, and when the bite slows on the lures, a switch to live minnows drifted over the schools can turn it on again.
Given the likelihood of it being a long time between bass bites for the next couple of weeks, a switch to crappies may be in order for anyone who enjoys fish fillets.
Alabama NWTF Donates More Than $157,000 for Wildlife Management
The Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently allocated $157,555 in Hunting Heritage Super Funds and Tag Funds for wild turkey projects in Alabama. Of that total, $81,193 was donated to the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) to fund projects including wildlife habitat management and the publication of the annual wild turkey report, Full Fans & Sharp Spurs.
Approximately $76,000 was approved for other projects statewide including funding to improve wild turkey habitat on public lands as well as to help launch outdoor education programs in schools. This funding supports the enhancement of turkey habitat, increases access opportunities, funds educational programs and assists in the NWTF “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” initiative.
Most of the WFF dollars will be used on Wildlife Management Areas throughout the state to support habitat management and other wild turkey programs.
Some of the grant money will also be used to purchase much-needed wildlife habitat management equipment according to Chuck Sykes, director of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. In addition to the monetary donation, the Alabama NWTF chapter provides financial support for prescribed burning projects that help restore longleaf pine habitat, the Archery in the Schools State Championship (an annual event for school students across the state), and the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, which introduces women to a wide variety of outdoor activities.
To learn more about the National Wild Turkey Federation, including location of local chapters and auction banquets, visit http://www.nwtf.org/about/state/alabama