Though colder weather is still with us, the crappies are beginning to school in Lake Lanier’s northernmost areas, and will soon be feeding frantically! We simply need an increase in air temperatures, which always equates to higher water temperatures. The most profound impact is warm rains that accompany storms out of the Gulf of Mexico. These rains also wash warmer topsoil into Lake Lanier which acts like a visible blanket easily seen in the muddy stain of the water.
Most expert crappie fishermen consider water temperature to be the most important factors that induces movement of crappies. Therefore, a water temperature gauge can be very helpful in finding schools of these tasty fish in the changing waters. The most important instrument for locating crappies at this time of year, however, is a very good sonar device, or fish finder.
Huge schools of crappies tend to hold over old creek or river channels when the water is still cold. These crappie bonanzas can be located by crisscrossing the channels until they are seen on a sonar unit. Then, toss out a visible buoy marker, and begin to fish.
Most crappies in colder weather will be suspended between 15 and 30 feet over the channels, and can be caught with several lures or livebaits. The most fun method is to use ultra-light spinning tackle with 4 to 6 pound line and a 1/8th or 1/16th ounce crappie jig, or a flyrod-sized Swirleybird spinner. This is accomplished by marking the spot where the crappies were found, back the boat away just enough to allow casting the lure beyond the spot, and let the offering fall through the area on a tight line. Just watch for any twitch in the line, and set the hook with an upwards sweep of the rod.
Since many anglers are not familiar with much of the hidden structures below the surface of the water, boat docks are an excellent alternative. These man-made structures are ideal crappie hangouts. Knowing which dock will produce and which one won’t is the key. The best floating docks draw abundant forage and afford plenty of protection from the sun.
Most older docks have algae growing on them, which attracts baitfish, and that in turn attracts the crappies. Crustaceans and minnows feed on the small plankton, and the crappies feed on them. The bright sunlight usually pushes crappies into the most shaded area under the docks, so it is not unusual for crappies to be on one side of a dock in the morning and then on the other side later in the day. These docks are greatly enhanced when they are near deeper water, and have other underwater structures next to them. Also, the best docks at Lake Lanier have between 15 and 20 feet of depth at the front edge of the floating structure.
As the water becomes warmer over the coming weeks, more and more crappies will become active...especially in the upper reaches of Lake Lanier. So, despite the colder temperatures, the next couple of months is the best time to catch plenty of crappies at Lanier!