South Georgia PFA Crappie Fishing

March is when you’ll find crappie on the beds.

Craig James | March 14, 2019

As I am starting to type this story, I can’t help but notice the thermometer that hangs just outside my kitchen window that is reading 20 degrees higher than this time a month ago. 

Patches of green are appearing here and there in the yard, birds are chirping, and the sun is shining. Thank the Lord for another spring in the great state of Georgia.

Now I know many of y’all diehard hunters are counting down the days until you can chase a thunder chicken, but early March offers up some of the best shallow-water crappie fishing that you could ask for.

Whether you call them crappie, croppie, or like a bunch of us southern folks call them, specks, the bottom line is that right now is the time to catch them as they move to shore in waves as they begin to spawn.

These fish have hung out in deep water all winter, and as they move up to reproduce, they feed every chance they get, making them easy targets for both bank and boat anglers alike.

The even better news is three south Georgia Public Fishing Areas offer up some of the best springtime crappie action you will find, and all you need is a fishing license, some jigs or minnows and a big enough ice chest to hold your catch.

Dodge PFA, just a few miles south of Eastman, harbors an excellent crappie population in its 104-acre lake. 

 When I spoke with WRD Biologist Tim Bonvechio, he was confident this should be a good spring for crappie fishing at Dodge.

“Dodge is constant for crappie, always has been. Expect a good population of fish in the 1- to 2-lb. range with some big slabs mixed in. There is an excellent population of hand-sized fish that make catching your daily limit of 30 fairly easy, especially in the spring. Thirty is the daily limit per person at all PFAs with no size restriction.

“Dodge is known statewide for its trophy bass fishing, but in spring it is hard to beat the fast-paced crappie action the lake offers,” Tim went on to say.

Start your search in shallow areas around docks and piers and around vegetation. Tim said that minnows work well, but most local folks will sling 1/16-oz. Jiffy Jigs in black and chartreuse as well as natural colors to cover water quickly.

“The fish will be in different stages of the spawn daily, and fluctuating water temperatures could cause them to move up or out in a hurry. If you make long casts to shallow water, then work your bait back to deeper water. You can hone in to what the fish are doing that day,” said Tim.

Tim says that bank anglers will also do well and recommended fishing minnows suspended under corks in water 4 to 8 feet deep.

Another PFA worth a mention is none other than Ocmulgee PFA down near Hawkinsville.

Similar in size to Dodge PFA, this 106-acre lake offers up some excellent crappie fishing for a different strain of fish.

“Ocmulgee is stocked with white crappie, whereas Dodge harbors a population of black crappie. The good news for anglers is other than looking slightly different, the fish grow, behave and taste the same,” said Tim.

Like Dodge, Ocmulgee offers anglers the chance to catch a limit if they know where to look, and for this reason Tim recommends trolling jigs tipped with minnows near shallow water to find the fish. Just remember you can only fish a maximum of two poles and lines at one time on any PFA.

Fishing from the pier at Lake Patrick can yield a stinger of crappie like this.

“We have seen a large population of crappie during our surveys in the 9- to 11-inch range, and there are some 2-lb. slabs mixed in here and there,” said Tim.

Anglers can also try fishing jigs under and around docks and the fishing pier to get bit. 

If March has its share of cold spells, good electronics on your boat pay off big as parts of the lake are roughly 25 feet deep, and crappie will quickly move off the bank if water temperatures fall.

“I hope anglers will come down to Ocmulgee and give it a try this month. It is worth the drive, and I am sure with a little luck, a fish fry will be in there future,” said Tim.

Way down at Paradise PFA, there is a crappie spawn unlike any other, and it should take place any day now.

“Water temperatures in the 60- to 68-degree range are the magic numbers for our massive crappie spawn to take place,” said WRD Biologist Don Harrison of the Waycross Fisheries Office.

In recent years, we have seen a pile of fish come in over 2 pounds, certifying several to receive angler awards from the DNR.

“I think the fish are doing so well because they don’t get pressured as hard as their bream and bass cousins. On a given day, there will be 30 or 40 people fishing at the area, and only a handful are targeting crappie,” Don added.

There are 68 ponds and lakes and roughly 525 acres of water on the PFA, making where to start your search confusing to say the least.

“My four picks for the best fishing on our area would be Lake Paradise, Lake Patrick, Horseshoe 4 and Lake Russell. All four of these lakes offer up excellent fishing for crappie in March.

Spend your time in Horseshoe 4 and Lake Russell casting jigs around shallow cover. Don says if this doesn’t produce, then switch to trolling jigs in 6 to 10 feet of water to find crappie that are in the prespawn or postspawn stages.

Lake Paradise is also a good place to look, and several standing cypress trunks in the lake almost always harbor a school of crappie. Avoid spooking the schools by making long casts with jigs or minnows under corks to the tree trunks. If this fails to produce, you should be able to locate a school by trolling back and forth across the lake with black/chartreuse jigs. 

Launch a boat or fish from the pier or bank at Lake Patrick at Paradise PFA.

The areas main lake, Lake Patrick, will offer up some of the best shallow-water fishing you will find anywhere in Georgia this month, and the fish aren’t hard to find.

Focus your efforts first in Patrick’s two sloughs that are located on opposite sides of the lake. As water temperatures rise toward the end of March, the fish will move into these small sloughs, making for some extremely fun fishing.

Bring a good ultra-light combo and some small curly tail jigs or Beetle Spins for a morning full of fun. The fish will spawn all throughout the sloughs, and when bedding activity is heavy, you will often get bit on almost every cast. It is easy to catch your limit in a hurry, and on some days, anglers catch 100 or more crappie out of a single slough. Remember that anglers may only keep 30 a person.

Bank-bound anglers don’t have to feel like they are missing out on the action, as several of the fish heavier than 2 pounds caught in recent years have come from pier anglers fishing minnows under corks.

“Definitely don’t overlook the piers and docks on our area. I have seen many fine coolers of fish caught by anglers fishing from the bank, especially this time of year,” said Don.

If you fail to find fish shallow, anglers can try their luck a little deeper, and fancy electronics aren’t needed.  

Allen Bristol, of Nashville, Ga., with a pair of slabs that weighed 2-lbs., 10-ozs. and 2-lbs., 2-ozs. The fish were caught at Paradise PFA.

“Patrick has several fish attractors and brushpiles that are marked by buoys and with pieces of PVC pipe. This makes it a lot easier for anglers to know where to fish,” said Don.

Don recommended fishing minnows deep or trolling jigs slowly past the structure until you locate a school of fish. Once you locate a school, it’s possible to catch a dozen fish or more before they shut down, making it easy to fill up some freezer bags in a hurry.

“Pay careful attention to where you catch them deep because with a good warm spell, those same fish will move up to the closest shallow water they can find,” said Don.

“Providing we have some warm weather this month down here in south Georgia, the spring crappie spawn should be phenomenal. I would highly recommend anglers get down here and check our area out. We are working super hard to maintain it and to ensure a great experience for our anglers.”

If you are still reading this, I hope at this point you’re using one of your hands to lower the tongue of your boat trailer down onto the ball of your pickup truck. Some of the best crappie fishing of the year is about to take place, and you don’t want to miss it.

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