Some anglers look at the high springtime water level at Beaver Lake as a challenge for catching fish, particularly black bass and crappie.
Others see a flood of opportunity.
All that water covers bushes, fallen timber and creates log jams that make it impossible to fish certain areas. That doesn’t faze Dwayne Culmer, who prowls the Rocky Branch area of Beaver Lake casting for black bass. His formula is simple. Fish what you can and ignore water that’s out of reach.
Culmer doesn’t cuss high water. He revels in it.
“I love it when the lake’s high. It gives the fish so much more cover to get under and around,” he said during a May morning. Optimism ran high while he cast plastic worms in the Van Winkle Hollow arm of Beaver Lake.
He found plenty of shoreline where he could land his plastic worm inches from shore and work it into deeper water. Bluffs are his favorite spots and their vertical rock walls are fishable in the highest water, Culmer coached.
Fishing from 8:30 a.m. to noon that mid-May day, he caught and released about 20 black bass that bit a purple and brown plastic worm 10 feet deep or shallower. Most were largemouths, but as May moved toward June, the angler reported catching mostly spotted bass. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass, also called Kentuckies, are the three species of black bass. All are abundant in Beaver Lake.
Bushes and flooded timber along the bluffs made those walls of stone even more productive. From May and into the summer, Culmer is on the water every chance he gets casting plastic worms.
Crappie fishing ace Mitch Glenn of Garfield testified high water can be a challenge or an opportunity, depending on where on Beaver Lake an angler’s hook gets wet.
“The challenge is on the north half of the lake, north of the highway 12 bridge,” he said. The spawn is over and crappie have fled the shallow water.
“If you can find brush in 15 to 20 feet of water north of the bridge, and fish 12 feet deep with a 2-inch curly-tail grub, you’ve got a good chance to catch black crappie, big black crappie.” Beaver Lake is home to both white and black crappie.
Fishing is Glenn’s business. He owns Pico (pronounced peak-o) Lures in Garfield. His product portfolio includes grubs, jigs and crank baits made for catching crappie.
His favorite grub color is “acid rain,” which is pearl white with a slightly yellow tint. The grub is so effective, Glenn hopes to start selling crank baits in that color for trolling.
The opportunity now is on the south half of the lake, Glenn said. Trolling crank baits is the way to go.
“People don’t believe it,” he added, “but from now until mid-September, the crappie fishing can be better than it is during the spawn if you’re trolling crank baits.
After the spawn, crappie move out of the shallows and suspend over deeper water.
“They might be suspended 10 to 12 feet deep over 30 feet of water,” Glenn said.
Those crappie are feeding on threadfin shad, which are forage for most fish in Beaver and other large Ozark reservoirs. Some type of electronics are recommended for locating schools of shad. Gravel flats are good places to look for shad and troll crank baits.
Key is to troll with a crank bait that will wiggle above the shad school. If shad are 15 feet deep, a lure that runs 12 feet deep is ideal. An angler can tweak the depth the lure runs by letting out more or less line. The longer the line, the deeper the lure will run. Thinner lines also increase a crank bait’s running depth. Ideal trolling speed is a hair under 2 mph.
Trolling crank baits for crappie is a fine way to catch crappie once dog days fishing arrives in July, “but it’s already working right now,” Glenn said. Dwayne Culmer admires a largemouth bass that bit his purple and brown plastic worm. The fish was one of about 15 he caught fishing in the Van Winkle Hollow arm of Beaver Lake on May 20 2022 during a morning of fishing. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
A largemouth bass gives Culmer a fight on May 20 2022 in high water at Beaver Lake. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Culmer releases one of several largemouth bass he caught during a morning of fishing. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Mitch Glenn catches a crappie from the shade of a dock during high water in May 2019. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff
Rules to fish by
• Crappie at Beaver Lake must be 10 inches or longer to keep. The daily limit is 15 crappie.
• The daily limit on black bass at Beaver Lake is six. Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass must be 15 inches or longer to keep. There is no length limit on spotted bass, also called Kentuckies.
Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission