May Postspawn Begins Best Time For Eufaula Crappie
As fish get deep, it provides the beginning of a consistent pattern.
Even though the calendar reads May, Lake Eufaula crappie guide Tony Adams is already experiencing around-the-clock “summer” fishing on the big Chattahoochee River impoundment on the Georgia-Alabama border.
Like most anglers, Tony takes advantage of the late-winter and early spring migration of crappie to their shallow spawning areas, plucking huge numbers of fish from the grassbeds and shallow wood structure.
But when the wave of anglers subsides as the weather begins to warm and stabilize, Tony experiences some of the hottest fishing of the year starting this month. Often, he’s alone on the lake, especially when he elects to fish after hours in the dark.
“May and the months that follow can be incredible on Eufaula,” he said.
Even when Tony and I spoke several times in early April, he was already finding fish that had spawned out and moved to their summer habitat, transitioning to water and offshore structure roughly 20 feet deep. The fish move shallow as early as late February on Eufaula, and the crappie cycle through the spawning areas over a period that lasts about six weeks.
A veteran of more than 20 years of crappie fishing on Eufaula, Tony continues to refine his tactics to make them more efficient. He puts in hours on the water, not only fun fishing and guiding clients for crappie but also prepping for success. He plants dozens of crappie condos each year, continually evaluating the places and depths that produce the best fish.
A couple of Tony’s recent trips provide likely scenarios to be repeated over the next few months, perhaps even into the fall.
“I had been catching fish shallow, and there are still crappie moving in,” he said in early April. “They don’t all spawn at the same time. But I checked out a couple of my deeper spots and found some good numbers and good quality out deep. There are still some fish on the banks, but I really like the ‘summer’ fishing and found some fish out there that had already spawned.
“These fish are more predictable for me than when they move shallow in the spring. It’s easier fishing and catching, even though it takes a little work, knowledge and experience to catch them. The fishing is consistently good and also produces a better quality average fish than what I catch shallow earlier in the year.”
A typical trip for Tony involves launching at the new-and-improved Barbour Creek Landing ramp on Highway 431 near the downtown area of the city of Eufaula. The big creek features both shallow areas for spawning fish and deeper ones that hold crappie the remainder of the year.
Tony scatters his structure over likely areas. Recently he has focused on humps in Barbour and adjacent areas that top out at about 20 feet. He places 5-gallon buckets filled with aged bamboo or crepe myrtle limbs set in concrete near the high point of the humps and marks them on his Humminbird electronics. He places these in deep enough water to ensure safety for the boaters on Lake Eufaula.
His Helix 12 units are invaluable resources on the water, guiding him back to the places where he locates his structure. Tony recently upgraded to the Lakemaster v5.0 Southeast States digital GPS maps.
“I start fishing by finding the structure, determining how many fish are holding there and how they are holding, and then figuring out the best way to catch them,” Tony said.
“I try to sink my structure to fish half the water column. If I am fishing 20 feet deep, then I drop bamboo that extends up about 10 feet. The same is true of any hard timber that I find on my electronics. I will try to run my jigs or minnows down into or just above the structure.”
Tony says he fishes the structure strategically depending on the time of day that he is on the water. He said the crappie frequently locate on the shady side of the wood, even in low-light conditions.
“Early in the morning, I will fish the shady side of the structure,” Tony said. “If I’m fishing as the sun begins to set, I will fish the opposite side.”
He utilizes a variety of tactics, often using exclusively minnows on one trip and jigs the next.
“They are both consistently good,” Tony said. “It’s usually the client’s choice. I take a lot of granddads and grandchildren fishing together, and the granddad often wants to show the child how he learned to crappie fish. Then I have other people who want to feel the thump of fishing with lures.”
For his minnow fishing, Tony uses 10-foot B’n’M (www.bnmpoles.com) Bucks Graphite Jig Poles (BGJP) matched with B’n’M Pro100 spinning reels filled with 4- or 6-lb. hi-vis mono. In deeper water, he tightlines with a hook and split-shot setup and often adds a slip float if the crappie are holding shallower.
The rods have orange fluorescent tips, a feature that Tony finds helpful in detecting bites from light-biting summer crappie.
“I keep it pretty simple,” Tony said. “I catch plenty of fish on minnows. As far as clients are concerned, it’s probably a 60 to 40 ratio of those who prefer to fish minnows to artificials.”
Tony casts or “pitches” jigs with a variety of B’n’M products, including the Sam Heaton, Russ Bailey and SharpShooter models.
“The B’n’M products have been one of the things that I have added in recent years that have made my fishing more effective,” Tony said. “They make a rod that fits just about any crappie fishing situation, and the reels are smooth and function perfectly, as well. The people that I take fishing really seem to like them, also.”
Tony relies primarily on Big Bite Baits (www.bigbitebaits.com) products, using that local company’s jigs and plastics. He typically throws a 1/16-oz jig head with orange or pink being his favorites. The Big Bite Curly Tail Crappie Minnr is a go-to plastic choice.
He also mentioned Skipper jig heads and Bobby Garland plastics as alternatives that he uses on occasion.
“Sometimes you can throw upriver if they are pulling current and let the bait drift back down to you over the structure,” Tony said. “That’s probably my favorite way to catch them jig fishing.”
The Skipper jigs are designed for ice fishing, but Tony has found them effective in the warm waters of Eufaula. He usually tips them with a minnow and eases the rig down into structure. From there, Tony pulls the jig vertically about a foot and then slowly drops it the same distance.
“They really like that action,” he said. “If there is a crappie around, they’re going to hit it.”
For his personal fishing, Tony said he prefers the simplicity of casting jigs around structure as opposed to fishing minnows, although he quickly adds that he usually has both available.
In addition to fishing frequently in Barbour Creek, Tony also ventures to the main river regularly, especially as the weather continues to warm. In the late spring and summer, the crappie will continue to move deeper, and many of them eventually reach the main river.
Tony fishes the ledges on both the Georgia and Alabama sides, employing the same minnow and lure techniques that he uses in the creeks. He also finds plenty of crappie on the Georgia side of the river on humps and also in the deeper coves and small creeks.
Various launching facilities are located on the Georgia side, with one being at the River Bluff Recreation Area just off Highway 82, which connects Georgia and Alabama. Another is just downstream at Cool Branch Park off Highway 22.
“I usually fish in that general area in Barbour and out on the main river up to about the (Highway 82) bridge. There’s plenty of access for fishermen on both sides of the river.”
For night fishing, Tony said mainly he uses the 10-foot BGJP poles with minnow rigs. He has also developed his own light system with LED units located in the front and back of the boat and a pole light mounted on 10-foot PVC at the center of his boat.
“My night fishing is mostly done vertical fishing with minnows,” he said. “I’m still looking for that 15- to 20-foot water depth. It could be with structure on it or could be around the bridges, a sunken bridge or a sunken barge.”
One obvious sunken barge is located on the north bank in Barbour Creek. The barge is hard to miss with a good portion of it submerged.
“I don’t know what it is, but they love sunken barges,” Tony said. “Those fish will run up and down the edge of the barge chasing bait. It’s probably my favorite place to fish at night.”
Tony also mentioned the bridges on Highway 431, one near Barbour Landing and another north of town near Lakepoint State Park, as good destinations for night fishing. Other bridge fishing is available where Highway 82 crosses the river between Barbour and Lakepoint. A nearby railroad trestle parallels Highway 82 and provides more night fishing potential.
Tony said that either day or night works well for him at this time of the year, and he fishes about as many hours in the dark as in daylight.
“One is as good as the other,” he said. “At this time of year, they are aggressive and ready to feed regardless of when you fish. I catch fish both day and night and can’t say that one is better than the other.
“You will still have a few fishing for them during the day, and some fishing at night, but you usually don’t have that much competition out there at night.”
Tony, who is also the manager of the local Marvin’s Building Supply store, continues to experience the evolution of Lake Eufaula crappie fishing. When he moved to the city in 1989, he found a good crappie fishery. In the ensuing years, the fishing and especially the quality of crappie has only gotten better.
“When I first started fishing for them about 20 years ago, an average-sized crappie was probably three-quarters of a pound,” Tony said. “A good one weighed a pound or a little more. Now we’re regularly catching bigger crappie on average with a lot of fish weighing 1 1/2 pounds up to 2-plus pounds. We catch a few bigger ones but not consistently. Generally the size has improved considerable over the years. Right now, an average-sized crappie on Eufaula weighs 1 1/4 pounds. The fishing has always been good and just seems to be getting better.”
For Tony, that “better fishing” starts in May when the fish return to their summer haunts. He finds a more predictable bite and consistently better fish than in the spawning period.
“It really doesn’t get any better than this time of the year on Eufaula,” he said.
Follow Tony’s fishing exploits or contact him on his personal Facebook page, or through his Facebook fishing page, which is ‘Gone Fishing with Tony.’
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