Lake Weiss For June Crappie
This Coosa River reservoir didn’t get its “Crappie Capitol” nickname by accident.
Each year more than 500,000 anglers from all over the nation come to Weiss Lake, an Alabama Power hydroelectric lake known as “The Crappie Capital of the World.” Many of them come to catch some big, tasty slabs.
June of this year marks the 58th year anniversary of the Weiss impoundment, and this lake today features an abundance of crappie.
Capt. Mike Carter, of Cedar Bluff, Ala., has fished on Weiss since 1983 and has guided on the lake for 14 years. You probably recognize Mike’s name. He provides fishing reports for Weiss in GON magazine.
Fishing and guiding year-round, Carter is one of the most knowledgeable anglers at Weiss.
We asked Carter why he decided to become a fishing guide. He smiled, laughed and said, “Well, I used to sell dope… I worked for a pharmaceutical company. The company I worked with sold controlled substances to hospitals and drug stores.
“Then I decided to start guiding for crappie full time. Three years ago I did 290 guide trips, however my average is about 220 to 250 trips per year. I often do two, four-hour trips a day.”
Carter said early morning trips in the summertime usually produce more crappie than the late afternoon trips do. However, on his afternoon trips, he starts fishing at about 6 p.m. and may fish until an hour or more after dark.
Find Big Weiss Crappie
“The lake is fed by three different bodies of water,” Carter says. “The Little River, the Chattooga River and the Coosa River form the lake. Weiss has a tremendous number of old river and creek channel ledges with stumps and standing timber on the edges.
“Weiss is also a shallow lake with an average depth of 10 feet. You can be fishing in 30-foot deep water, and only a cast distance away the water may only be 3 feet deep. If you don’t have a depthfinder, a lake map or a friend who knows the lake riding with you, you may be running full throttle in what you believe to be a river channel and hit 1 1/2-foot-deep water almost instantly. The lake has a reputation for eating lower units of boats.
“In June, I’ll move out to the deeper ledges and drop-offs, which may be 6 to 8 feet deep and then drop off 30 to 40 feet into the main creek and river channels. Usually in the summer, lots of the crappie will hold in about 10 to 20 feet of water. I try to fish around the productive underwater creek and river channels ledges out on the main lake.”
Shoot Docks For Shallow Crappie
Carter said shooting docks with jigs is also a tactic that works well at Weiss in the summer. Shooting docks is a technique for loading up the tension on a spinning outfit and “shooting” your jig far underneath the shady docks and piers. The angler opens the bale on the spinning reel, so the jig hangs about half the length of the rod. Hold the line against the rod with your index finger. Hold the head of the jig, making sure the hook is pointing away, and pull the jig back to bend the rod. Point the rod to the spot under the dock where you want the jig to land. Just as you release the jig to shoot forward, straighten your index finger to release the line. Once the jig hits the water, engage the reel and expect a strike. If a crappie doesn’t hit as the jig falls, slowly reel the jig back to the boat to cover water underneath the dock.
“I can shoot docks and catch crappie successfully at Weiss, generally from November through June,” Carter said. “During May, we consistently can catch crappie by shooting docks all day, but once June arrives, daylight and sunset are when dock shooting pays the most dividends.
“I look for the deeper docks in the main lake area and fish 1/32-oz. jigs when shooting docks. I use a feathered Power-Base Crappie Jig that’s hand-tied by Derek Robertson, who lives in New Market, Ala. My favorite color for June is bubblegum pearl. I’ll use some plastic jigs occasionally, but I believe these feathered jigs have more of a natural fall and natural look than the plastic jigs.
To learn more about these jigs, email [email protected], or call 256.457.7320.
Fishing Weiss’s Famous Summertime Ledges
Carter fishes a 1/24- or even a 1/16-oz. jig when he’s fishing the deeper river and creek channel ledges, which are productive in warm weather. He’ll cast his jig into 8 to 10 feet of water, and then he retrieves the jig and reels it very slowly into that 8- to 20-foot depth range where the stumps and standing timber are holding crappie along the ledges.
If there isn’t much wind, he’ll fish the 1/24-oz. jig head. But, if the wind picks up, he’ll use the 1/16-oz. jigs to present a more natural fall and to get the jigs down to the crappie quicker. Carter primarily fishes 6-lb. test line. However, many crappie anglers fish 4-lb. test line on these light jigs.
As Carter explains, “The bass here on Weiss don’t know that our jigs are designed to catch crappie, and they live in the underwater trees and stumps that we fish, especially the spotted bass. Before we started using 6-lb. test line, those bass would break off our jigs. However, when my clients catch a bass on 6-lb. test line, they’ve got a much better chance of landing it and will get a harder fight than they’ll have even with a big crappie.”
The successful ledge anglers at Weiss depend on their depthfinders to pinpoint and catch crappie. A depthfinder tells the fisherman where the crappie are situated on what type of structure, how deep the water is where the fish are holding, how fast he or she needs to run the trolling motor to pull jigs through the crappie, and when the fish move. Several anglers I spoke with at Weiss said they catch the most and the biggest crappie by using multiple depthfinders, so they can adjust the depths and speed they’re trolling to get their jigs through the crappie they see on their depthfinder.
That’s an advantage of trolling for crappie. You can adapt your fishing pattern from one end of the boat to the other. If you miss the fish with the jigs being trolled by the front rods, you can change the depth the jigs are trolling and take crappie at the back of the boat. Just remember the Weiss regulation that no more than three rods and reels or poles can be fished by an one angler at Weiss at any time.
“From 14 years of guiding and fishing on Weiss, I’ve learned where the best spots are to catch crappie on ledges, stumps and standing timber; however, if you’ve never fished Weiss before, you’ll be ahead of the game if you’re using one of the new down-imaging and side-imaging depthfinders with lake maps in them.
“Generally, I can see the crappie before we start fishing, however, we have so many white bass and young saltwater stripers mixed in with the crappie that you just have to remember where you’ve caught the most crappie and the fewest number of other fish. Saltwater stripers will hold in the headwaters during the hot months of June, July, August and sometimes September. From June through August, I mainly target standing timber and stumps on deep creek channels to fish for crappie.”
Warms Temps Impact Summer Crappie
Water temperature determines where and at what time Carter fishes.
“As long as the water temperature stays around 80 degrees, we usually can catch Weiss crappie using the two methods I’ve described—dock shooting and ledge fishing. But when the water temperature rises above 80 degrees, the best fishing on the lake is night fishing. Although I don’t do much night fishing, I can tell people where to fish at night and catch crappie.
“Weiss has a large number of boathouses and docks with lights on them at night, so locating a productive spot to night fish for crappie isn’t hard in the really hot summertime. When I do fish at night, I’ll fish a number of different lights until I identify the lights that seem to have the most crappie around them. For some reason, certain docks will have more crappie than other docks do. So, once I find one of those ‘special’ lights, we generally can catch a good number of crappie.
“When night fishing, I prefer to fish live minnows rather than jigs. I usually float a minnow under a cork, depending on the depth of water I’m fishing. If I find the right dock, my party can limit out on crappie fairly quickly.
“The crappie will school in big schools under certain lights at night. Because I take both morning and afternoon trips during the really hot months, we’ll start fishing at 6 p.m. and usually fish until an hour or two after dark. When we’re on the water after dark, I’ll be fishing several different lights where I’m confident we can pick up a number of crappie. I search for the lights closest to deep water because those are the ones that generally have the most crappie under them.
“If we’ve had a tough day of crappie fishing, we still can fill our limit right after dark by fishing those dock lights. Although I’ve fished all night before, I’ve found that the best time to catch crappie is right after dark. I’ll usually start fishing my jigs under the lights, but once it’s totally dark, I’ll switch to the live minnows.
“When I’m fishing minnows, I like to use Tuffy minnows about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long.
“In hot weather, we still can catch crappie in the daytime. However, we may have to fish longer than the usual four hours to get a two-man limit.”
Subspecies Of Weiss Crappie
Lake Weiss homes black and white crappie, but the lake also has some blacknose crappie that are actually a subspecies with a black stripe that runs from the top of the dorsal fin, down the nose and over the bottom lip. These fish are quite common in certain areas of Tennessee and Arkansas, where they were first identified, but they’re not generally found. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division has been stocking blacknose crappie in Weiss to determine just how effective a stocking program of this subspecies can be on this lake.
“We usually catch several black crappie on each one of my guide trips,” Carter said.
You can learn more about Capt. Mike Carter and his crappie fishing at www.anglingadventures.info, or call 423.802.1362.
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