Troll Slow For Eufaula October Crappie
With less traffic on the water this month, crappie are ready to hammer your jigs.
No deer rifle, no deer stand, no problem! If you would rather fish than hunt, or just want to mix in some fishing with your days afield pursuing game, October is a great time to be an outdoorsman. With the very comfortable weather conditions, the fall season is a wonderful time to crank up the boat and head to your favorite lake. The lowering water temperatures will mean that the fish will be stimulated to feed once again after the dog days of August and September. Also, because there are so many hunting and fishing opportunities to pursue, sportsmen will have to choose between their deer stand or boat, which means fewer fishermen on the water and less competition.
For anglers in southwest Georgia, there are quite a few lakes, rivers, and streams to drop a line into, but one of the most popular destinations is Lake Eufaula. The large dam stretches for 2.5 miles across the Chattahoochee River valley, holding back 45,180 surface acres of water with 640 miles of shoreline back to its headwaters at Columbus.
In GONʼs quest to provide its readers with the best insights into the stateʼs best fishing resources, we teamed up with expert crappie troller, Billy Williams of Cochran to pin down some good locations to catch some nice crappie. He said that in October the crappie will remain fairly deep in a pre-fall pattern in 10- to 12-feet of water along ledges, brushpiles and bridge pilings.
Billy would reject the title of “crappie expert,” saying he just enjoys fishing for them and really likes them fried for dinner. But in recent years he has expanded his angling efforts into crappie-fishing tournaments, and in January 2003 he finished third in the Crappie USA Tournament held on Lake Talquin in Florida. His top-three finish qualified him for the Crappie Classic, which will be held this year on Lake Granada in Mississippi.
When Billy is not fishing, heʼs hard at work on his farm where he grows cotton, corn, and various fresh vegetables. His fresh produce stand on Daisy-Adams Road in Bleckley County is a popular location for locals seeking farm-fresh food.
I met Billy in Hawkinsville at 4:00 a.m. for the two-and-a-half hour drive to the Rood Creek Park boat ramp. We pulled up to the boat ramp just as the sunʼs first light chased away the shadows, and we spoke to another fisherman who was launching his boat.
“What yʼall fishing for?” he asked. “Crappie” said Billy. “Good luck to you, because youʼll need it. The crappie are not biting yet. I fished yesterday and only managed to catch two small ones.”
We were not detoured, because we had a perfect day for fishing. The sky was clear to partly cloudy. Temperatures were in the low 60s, and there was no wind. However, the water temperature was still warm and holding at 82 degrees.
We motored out of Rood Creek and traveled only a short distance before Billy cut the engine and said it was time to set out the poles. We started trolling near buoy marker 105.2 on the west bank and moved back and forth in front of a small grassy slough. For those of you with GPS, the reading was N 32° 00.429 and W 85° 03.623.
I had just set out my first pole and was working on my second when I looked back and saw the first rod tip rocking back and forth. “Fish on,” we both said simultaneously. “Hopefully, thatʼs a good sign of things to come,” said Billy.
I slowly reeled in the small crappie and threw him back.
“Wow, thatʼs bad luck” said Billy.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Donʼt you know itʼs bad luck to throw back the first fish?”
“Two superstitions in one minute are too much for me, but why donʼt we test both of those today,” I said as we both laughed.
We continued to put out all our poles, which took a few minutes. I had six on the rear, while Billy had 10 on the front of the boat. I told him his job was to get the fish excited and chasing his Hal-Flys, then they would drift on down and bite my lures.
“Sounds just like another fishing theory to me,” he said.
We trolled from the buoy marker which is visible on a small U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sign nailed to a tree on the bank, traveling north and up to the mouth of a slough. Billy tried to keep the boat over the ledge drops of the Chattahoochee River. The flat leading up to the ledge was about a 10- to 15-foot drop before it nose-dived down to 30-plus feet.
The trick, says Billy, is to run parallel with the ledge and try to locate the crappie on your depthfinder. Once you determine the depth the fish are holding, you can adjust the speed of the trolling motor to drift the Hal-Flys through the concentration of crappie. He believes that trolling Hal-Flys was perfected by the legendary crappie angler Hal Barber back in the 70s. The basics of Barberʼs trolling method is to troll with the wind whenever possible, using your lowest trolling-motor speed, and try to keep the Hal-Flys at the same depth as the fish or slightly above. Barber found through his record keeping that crappie will almost never drop down to swallow the jig. He also found that generally it is preferable to use dark-colored jigs in dingy water and lighter-colored jigs in slightly stained to clear water.
We trolled in this location and picked up several crappie, but they were small. Billy spotted lots of crappie on the depthfinder, however they did not seem in the biting mood. So, we decided to try the mouth of Rood Creek, which has been one of Billyʼs prime spots.
If you have put in at Rood Creek you already know where itʼs at. But it is easy to locate on a topo map if you are coming in from a different direction. Billy trolled large ovals about 30 yards out from the steel sea wall which lines the north shore line. Over the years, he has found the last 150 yards of the sea wall, nearest to the mouth of the creek, as the most productive. The water drops off steeply from the sea wall. We checked several spots and only 15 yards out, the water was 15-feet deep. Billy said there are some old limbs and tree tops about 50 yards from the end of the sea wall. Youʼll find them when you catch a few crappie or hang a few Hal-Flys on the structure.
Although we were trolling mostly 1/16-oz. Hal-Flys in various colors, we also tried some curly-tailed plastic jigs and minnows. On a couple of poles, Billy sweetened the Hal-Fly with a minnow. On another he just had a minnow alone. We were trying to determine if the fish had a preference, but the hits were sporadic so we found it difficult, if not impossible, to read the minds of the fish. However, on every pass we would pick up a fish or two. When we quit getting bites, Billy said it was time to move, so we rolled up the poles.
Our next location was a small cove on the west bank, across from Florence Marina at channel marker 111.6. The GPS readings were N 32° 04.751 and W 85° 03.377. Billy has had good luck on previous trips in this cove, particularly along the west side of the cove. In the middle of this cove youʼll see two small stick-ups in the back center, probably coming off the same submerged small tree. As we entered the cove, Billy noticed a small persimmon tree that was loaded with fruit, but everything that fell off the tree would fall in the water.
“That sure is a waste,” said Billy, “unless crappie eat persimmons.”
I donʼt think so. As we trolled near the persimmon tree, Billyʼs pole arched and he reeled in our biggest fish of the day. It was a 1-pounder, according to the digital scale.
“See there,” said Billy, “he got fat off persimmons!”
What could I say? I agreed with him.
By this time Iʼm sure you have noticed that Billy prefers the northern end of the lake. There are three reasons for this, he says. First, itʼs closer to his home in central Georgia and secondly, he prefers moving water as it stimulates the fish to feed and move often. Lastly, shallow water cools off quicker in the fall, so it was a good pick for our trip.
It was getting late in the day and Billy suggested one last spot, even farther up the river. This one is easy to find, because itʼs just below the Hwy 39 bridge that runs from Omaha over the river to Mahat, Alabama. There is an island that is near the Alabama side, and it starts near the bridge and runs downstream about 200 yards. Billy began trolling at the south end of this island, right where Hatchechubbee Creek comes into the river from the Alabama side. Youʼll notice a treated pine pole standing on the middle of the creekbed with a solid green metal square sign on it, but there are no words on it. We trolled circles from this pole out into the main channel. The water is about 27-feet deep in the middle of the creek channel, but it quickly comes up to 17 feet and shallows up to a sandbar in the middle of the river. We picked up a few crappie from this location, but the action was slow, just as we expected on a warm, sunny afternoon at 3 p.m. The water really had not cooled down yet, and we expected the fishing to be tough. But by the time you read this, the situation will have improved substantially as a couple of cool fronts will have passed through and lowered the water temperature to stimulate the fish.
Power-generation schedules and lake elevations can be obtained by calling the corps powerhouse at (866) 772-9542. There are 23 boat ramps on this lake, and the corps charges $3 to launch. Users can pay an annual fee of $25, which covers all daily use of boat ramps and beaches. Fuel is available at George T. Bagby State Park and Florence Marina on the Georgia side and at Lake Point Resort and Chewalla Marina on the Alabama side.
Crappie are some of the tastiest fish in freshwater, and thereʼs not a more comfortable month to go catch a coolerful than October. Some of the hotspots on the lake this time of year are Moccasin Slough, Pataula Creek, White Oak Creek, Hardridge Creek, Barbour Creek, Rood Creek, and Grass Creek.
Most successful anglers fish with minnows or jigs at 12- to 16-foot depths. A good place to start is at any of the 24 fish attractors, which all received new brush in February 2002, located on the Georgia side of the reservoir. The sites are marked with buoys and marked on most lake maps. A map of their locations with GPS readings can be obtained by calling the corps office (229) 768-2516. Bank anglers should try the fishing piers at Hardridge Creek and Florence Marina, or the marked fishing areas at East Bank and River Bluff boat ramps.
For a great day of crappie fishing, Billy suggests Lake Eufaula, and donʼt forget to try for the big fish around the persimmon tree!
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