Paradise PFA Crappie Fishing

With more than 60 small lakes and ponds to fish, Paradise Public Fishing Area is a great April destination.

Stuart Richardson | April 2, 2006

Justin Bythwood, of Waycross, shows off a 1 3/4-lb. crappie, the biggest of the 12 he caught on March 17 while fishing Lake Tacklebuster on Paradise PFA. He caught the crappie on tube baits and hand-tied minnow-imitating flies, both fished under a small float.

April in south Georgia brings warm weather and some of the best fishing of the year for speckled perch. Paradise PFA, just east of Tifton, offers crappie anglers a super public area with tons of options for a mess of April crappie.

Few Georgia Public Fishing Areas can boast the history and fishing success of Paradise PFA near Tifton. Paradise PFA was originally known as Patrick’s Fish Farms. Started by R.W. Patrick in 1946 to support a growing cattle operation, the series of lakes on the property became a favorite haunt of many local fishermen. In 1968, Mr. Patrick opened the waters of his farm to daily-fee fishing on a full-time basis, and the legends of Patrick’s lunker bass spread quickly.

Fast forward some 20 years, and enter Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources. DNR purchased the 1,341-acre tract along with its 68 lakes and ponds in 1989 as part of the Preservation 2000 land-acquisition program, which was funded primarily by hunters and fishermen. Opened to the public on Sept. 22, 1990, the evolution of Paradise PFA had begun.

As a well-established destination for bass fishing when the state purchased the property, one of the challenges for DNR was the development of other fish species on the PFA. Area Manager Charles West has seen the fishing for species other than largemouth bass increase steadily over the last several years — in particular, bream, channel catfish and crappie, all of which are stocked at Paradise.

“The fisheries-management program at Paradise has diversified the number of species, increased the probability of angler success and ultimately increased the recreational use of the PFA,” said Charles.

The giant bass of Paradise get most of the press, but the crappie fishing has been another success story at Paradise PFA.

If tasty crappie fillets make your mouth water and fishing for and catching crappie on an area with dozens of small lakes, then a trip to Paradise in April should make your calendar of to-dos.

With so many lakes to choose from at Paradise, it helps to get a little direction on where to start. Charles West suggests that crappie anglers focus on Lake Bobben, Lake Patrick, Lake Paradise, Lake Russell as well as the Horseshoe series of lakes — Horseshoe No. 3, Horseshoe No. 4 and Horseshoe No. 5. However, if none of those suit you, a great thing about Paradise PFA is that you still have lots of options. The picture on page 78 shows a March slab caught at Lake Tacklebuster.

Many of the crappie on this south Georgia area were up and spawning by the middle of March. They should still be shallow and relating to wood structure this month. Fishermen will want to key on any visible structure such as standing timber, cypress trees and submerged Christmas trees.

How about an April crappie-fishing trip where you have tons of options? At Paradise PFA there are 68 lakes encompassing 525 total acres.

When the crappie move into the shallows, it provides bank fishermen with better access to crappie than at other times of the year. One spot that bank anglers should start at is the pier on Lake Patrick. The pier, according to fisheries technician Randal Milton, is basically ringed with submerged Christmas trees.

“In addition to the pier, most of the bank and the dam area on Lake Patrick is kept clean of brush. This allows walk-in crappie fishermen great access to the lake,” said Randal.

The take away here is that a boat is not an essential requirement to catch April crappie at Paradise PFA, however, if you have a boat, it will serve you well to bring it on your quest for crappie at Paradise.

Charles noted, “Most of the serious crappie fishermen use a boat. It provides access to more parts of the lakes as well as the mobility to locate the fish if they happen to be schooled up on some of the structure located well off the bank.”

In April, the most effective method for catching crappie at Paradise is pitching jigs at structure. If the crappie are active, you can catch some good-sized crappie and good numbers by simply working along the shore and casting a crappie jig to any wood structure.  Sometimes fishing the jig more slowly under a small float will entice a crap- pie when the bite seems to be slower.

As the crappie finish the spawn this month, there will be a mix of fish that are in the shallow structure — next to the stumps, trees and brushpiles — and crappie that have moved off the banks.

For the crappie that have moved out from the structure right on the banks, a great tactic for those anglers with a boat is trolling jigs. This is best accomplished by tracking along the flats some 30 to 50 yards offshore until a school of crappie is located. Fishermen at the PFA are limited to a maximum of two rods per person, so
you won’t see any of the elaborate spider rigs that crappie trollers use on the big reservoirs.

Any worthy boat can be used at Paradise, but keep in mind that you must use an electric trolling motor (or a paddle) to get you around. Your gasoline outboard is permitted on the larger lakes, but only at idle speeds (specifically, Bobben, Patrick and Paradise). Most of the larger lakes have top-notch boat ramps, so no special launching equipment is required. At any PFA, but especially at Paradise where there are so many different lakes and ponds, make sure you read the area’ s special regulations when you sign-in before fishing. The burning question is, “What’d you catch ’em with?” The regulations at Paradise PFA prohibit the use of live fish for bait. For crappie fishermen, this means no minnows.

The successful crappie anglers at Paradise PFA have a variety of artificial options they employ. DNR Ranger Morty Wood has seen a little bit of everything over the years.

“Crappie can be caught on a variety of artificial baits at any given time. The fishermen I see that are consistently successful out here use 1/16-oz. tube jigs in green/chartreuse and black/yellow/black color combinations,” said Morty.

Techniques for fishing these crappie jigs are pretty straight forward. Cast at visible and submerged structure (ie; cypress trees, submerged Christmas trees), and allow the bait to sink for a few seconds. Then, begin a slow and steady retrieve.

“Timing is critical with crappie. The bite will be on for several days and then shut down. Usually this is a function of changes in the weather,” commented Morty.

Whatever your preferred artificial technique for crappie might be, you’ll be hard pressed to run out of places to try it at Paradise PFA.

To get to Paradise PFA, head east on Highway 82 from Tifton approximately 8 miles to Brookfield. Look for the signs as you enter Brookfield. Paradise PFA is open sunrise to sunset year-round. License requirements for persons 16 and older includes a WMA stamp plus a fishing license, or a sportsman license will cover it all. It is important to note that there are no license sales, bait and tackle, or boat rentals available on the PFA.

In the opening paragraph, we spoke of the evolution of Paradise PFA and its start as a PFA in 1990. In the last 15 years, this facility, largely as a function of the dedicated WRD staff, has become a premiere PFA in this part of Georgia. Where else could you feasibly hunt doves or ducks, catch a bass or crappie, pitch a tent and watch a beautiful sunset all in the same day and never change or leave the same venue? Paradise PFA has succeeded on all accounts as a multi-use facility.

Regardless of your quarry or recreational activity, Paradise PFA is…, well let’s just say it’s all in the name… Paradise.

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