Eufaula’s Crappie Therapy
July-September brings on a consistent bite.
Don’t underrate the positive side effects of a crappie fishing experience, even in the hot summer months, on Lake Eufaula.
In fact, “crappie therapy” is the label that Alabama angler Mark Martin frequently uses in his social media posts. He has a healthy following on Facebook and posts frequent pictures of his crappie catches there. For Mark, the trips are about much more than just putting Eufaula crappie in the livewell.
“Got out for a couple of hours of crappie therapy,” he said in a recent post.
The fact that Eufaula crappie are generally cooperative makes the therapeutic qualities of most excursions even more worthwhile. The crappie population on the 46,000-acre Chattahoochee River reservoir that separates Georgia and Alabama is abundant, and while it does not consistently produce huge fish, the numbers more than make up for a lack of size.
The summer months, from July through September and even beyond in certain years, provide a consistent bite. The fish are easy to target and respond to a variety of presentations. For the most part, Mark keeps his approach simple, either tightlining minnows or casting jigs around an abundance of structure that he and friends place in the lake.
We found ourselves using both approaches on a recent spring outing on Eufaula. The spawn was over, and the crappie were already headed to their summer locations as we fished. At least part of the population was already present in the deeper water that they frequent through the hot-weather periods of the year, and as usual, Mark had them pinpointed.
“You can fish these same depths later in the year and find crappie,” Mark said as he dunked a minnow on a tightline rig in Chewalla Creek. Mark keeps his boat at a marina in the creek, making for easy access to his frequent therapy sessions.
I had fished with Mark in the past, and even much later in the year, he found crappie in similar situations around the numerous brushpiles he has marked between Chewalla and Cowikee creeks, both of which run into the main lake from the Alabama side. The bottom line is that a segment of the Lake Eufaula crappie population can be found deep around wood structure almost every day of the year.
Easing to a waypoint just off the creek channel, Mark dropped a marker as a reference point after he scanned the area with his electronics and located a few fish. Early in the day, the crappie were in brush in less than 10 feet of water and bit eagerly.
Mark had yet to get his full complement of rigs baited and placed in rodholders when the first rod tip dipped, and he set the hook. The catch proved to be the first of perhaps 30 crappie that we brought to the boat in about a half day of fishing.
We caught a half-dozen fish on the first stop—Mark boated five to my one but more on that ratio later—and eased to a second set of tops closer to the mouth of the creek and caught about that many more. Most of the crappie were good eaters from 10 to 12 inches long. A 2-pounder is a big fish on Eufaula.
We bounced from waypoint to waypoint as the day progressed, and most of the stops produced at least a few fish. Some of the best and most consistent catches came on a series of tops situated in about 12 feet of water within a few yards of the Georgia side of the lake. We both caught fish there on minnows, and Mark also caught the only jig fish of the trip.
As we fished, I quizzed Mark about what to anticipate as the weather and the water temps heat up.
“I like to fish in the summer for several reasons,” he said. “You can make a quick trip and be gone before the sun gets up high and the heat makes conditions tough. There are times in the summer and later in the year when you have the lake to yourself. That’s another good reason to fish at this time of year.”
Another consideration for a summer trip on Eufaula is that the fish seemingly never stop biting. Spring, summer, fall and winter all produce a consistent bite.
In the summer, Mark said, “They stay pretty much in 18 to 25 feet of water, sometimes a little shallower in the morning, maybe as little as 8 to 12 feet. As the sun gets up, the deeper they go. The clearer the water and the brighter the sky makes them hug the structure, so you have to get right on top of them. That makes it a little more challenging later in the day.”
Regardless of the depth, Mark eases the tightline rig around and into the structure. From the left side of his boat, he deploys up to four rods both front and back from holders, using light spinning tackle for the most part. He uses just enough weight to get the minnow to the desired depth.
The process puts the free-swimming minnow in front of crappie regardless of where they are located in the water column. He can easily adjust depth by releasing or cranking in line, and the light hooks that he uses also allow the minnow to move up and down.
“Say you have 18 inches between the split-shot and hook,” Mark said. “That minnow has a 3-foot distance to move above, below or right beside the split-shot. The crappie usually can’t resist the movement of that minnow.”
Tightlining proved to be the ticket on our trip. Mark caught a couple of fish on jigs, but the crappie definitely favored the minnow rigs. Despite the lack of jig success on our trip, Mark said casting and retrieving a light jig remains a go-to approach for him on Eufaula.
“I love to cast a jig while I am tightlining,” he said. “If the jig seems to be producing better, then I will back off the structure and just cast to it. Then I like to deadstick to entice them to bite if they are right on top of the brush.
“Traditionally, I use a 1/16-oz. jig head. In the deeper water, it doesn’t seem to matter if it is painted or just lead. I like a bigger hook on the jig up to a No. 1 and usually I fish at least a 2.”
He normally pairs the jig with a Big Bites Baits plastic, favoring the curly tail variety.
On our earlier trip, Mark told me that “I love to feel the thump. That’s part of the therapy.”
In addition to the tightlining and casting, Mark also continues to add other elements to his arsenal. He tinkers with lures and has produced for his own use a jig and a jigging spoon that “provide a slightly different approach.” He said he might introduce those innovations to the public at some point in the future.
To an even greater degree, Mark has experimented with the idea of how scent impacts fishing and has developed a formula that he will perhaps market one day. He mixes the liquid scent—he kept the exact ingredients under wraps on the trip—and sprays it on his baits, lures and even line.
“I’ve been working on it for several years but just got serious about it the past few,” he said. “I’ve been through probably 55 to 60 trials and finally ended up with one that I’m happy with. It cancels out most of your human scent and may even attract fish just a little bit. I’ve got it logged how it works and have it compared to conventional scents and oils already on the market. In the tests, it has good results.”
As part of his experiments, Mark related several anecdotes about trips when he used the scent while his fishing partner for the day used a conventional approach.
“There are going to be those days when the crappie will hit anything,” Mark said. “Then there are others when I can catch 10 or 12 to one more than the other person if I am applying the scent. There’s something to it.”
We both used the scent on the trip, spraying it on one rig and not using it on the others. The crappie definitely gravitated to the setup with the scent.
“I’m going to continue working on it and experimenting,” Mark said, “but the combination of ingredients that I’m using now seems to work.”
With scent or without, Mark said Eufaula crappie are usually willing to bite. While other anglers practice other presentations—trolling is popular and fishing at night remains an option—Mark seems content with his approach. A simple formula produces just about all the therapy that he requires.
“You can catch fish in other ways, but a jig or a minnow is usually all that you need,” he said.
For visitors to Eufaula, quality facilities abound on both sides of the lake. On the Georgia side, the River Bluff Recreation Area ramp just off the Highway 82 causeway in the Georgetown area is one good starting point, providing access to both the upper and lower parts of the lake. Another reason to visit Georgetown is the iconic Michelle’s Restaurant, famous for its weekend seafood buffet.
On the Alabama side, the ramp area at Barbour Creek was recently renovated. Lakepoint State Park also provides quality access facilities, including ramp and marina, along with a lodge, cabins and campground. All are located just off Highway 431.
“You really can’t go wrong on Eufaula,” Mark said as we wrapped up the trip. “The fishing is good all over the lake, and there’s usually not a bad time to be here.”
For those in need of a little crappie therapy, summer is as good of a time as any to get your fix. Try Eufaula and feel the thump.
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