Payton and Tiffany Usrey knock on wood to catch cold-weather crappie at Beaver Lake, but not for good luck.
The Springdale couple target trees in the water in late fall and winter. Docks, too, are a favorite crappie lair. Both have shade. Both have algae that minnows and threadfin shad eat. Crappie come to eat at the bait-fish buffet.
In black and white
White and black crappie inhabit Beaver Lake. In October, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission released 50,000 black crappie into the reservoir, raised at the Beaver Lake nursery pond.
Crappie must be 10 inches long to keep at Beaver. The daily limit is 15.
Source: Staff report
Fishing close to underwater timber and covering lots of water were the keys to catching a nice mess of crappie on the sunny Friday after Thanksgiving.
It took some finesse to feel a bite from these fine-tasting fish. A tree trunk poking out of the water near Hickory Creek park was stop No. 1 as the husband and wife fished the south end of the lake.
Payton put the first crappie in the boat two minutes after his Bobby Garland crappie jig splashed into the water. The rest weren’t so easy.
“They’re not really hitting it,” he said. “It’s like they’re bumping it with their noses,” he said.
Tiffany worked deep and shallow water beside the tree.
“I’m dropping my jig all the way to the bottom, then working it back up. You can feel them hit it.”
A chilly boat ride into Monte Ne cove was worth a shiver or two. A lay-down tree half in the water and half on land turned out to hold a convention of crappie. Payton and Tiffany plucked three or four off that one tree. The next tree down, zero.
“This is the slowest we’ve seen it in Monte Ne in a long time. Usually we catch 15 keepers out of here,” Payton said.
Crappie were in the timber, all right, but the Usreys wanted to give boat docks a try.
“Crappie love docks,” Payton coached. This trip they were lounging in the shade of these boat shelters, even in the chilly 56 degree water. Fishing around large community docks is a favorite tactic because they cast a wide shadow.
Crappie evidently preferred their shade in the trees. Docks produced only a crappie or three, so the couple returned to the timber.
“Look at this graph,” Payton said. “It’s showing a ton of fish, but they’re finicky.”
When the fishing gets really tough, the couple tips their jig with a live minnow. That wasn’t a last resort on this day. By noon, 15 crappie swam in the livewell.
The team’s knack for feeling light bites, plus covering lots of water, kept their fishing rods quivering. The couple must have worked 25 trees and docks from Monte Ne south into the White and War Eagle river arms. That’s about one-third of the lake.
They only made a couple of casts at some spots, then it was off to the next tree or dock. Most of their fish were black crappie, with some white crappie in the mix.
Tiffany pulled a white crappie and a black crappie from the dark interior of the livewell to show the difference. White crappie have stripes. Black crappie have spots.
Thousands more crappie are vying for real estate in Beaver Lake these days. In October, 50,000 crappie raised at the lake’s nursery pond were released. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission operates the fish-rearing pond.
All were black crappie, said Kevin Hopkins, area fisheries biologist with Game and Fish.
The crappie averaged five inches long. Those will take two to three years to reach 10 inches long, he said. Crappie must be 10 inches or longer to keep at Beaver Lake. The daily limit is 15.
Crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and walleye are among the species raised at the 30-acre pond over the years. It’s one mile north of Horseshoe Bend park on the east shoreline. These released fish give a boost to natural fish reproduction.
“Lakewide, the crappie population is good. The crappie we released should migrate to areas all over the lake,” Hopkins said.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 12/12/2017