Continuing a series about where the various fish go after the spawn and when the weather warms up, this week we will look at the crappie in Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair. When the weather turns hot in middle Georgia, like it did so over the Memorial Day weekend, few anglers target crappie except at night around lighted boat docks or under lights dropped over the side of a boat around channels and bridges. Truth is, you can catch good numbers of crappie during the hot daylight hours on both Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee.
Hot weather crappie angling at Lake Oconee is rated better than on Lake Sinclair due to its abundance of submerged timber and brushpiles. Unfortunately, Lake Sinclair’s bottom was pretty much cleaned when the lake was constructed.
Lake Sinclair has very little natural standing timber (I do know where a few natural trees are located) but it does have many natural stumps and manmade trees and brushpiles that will hold good concentrations of fish. The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (GWRD) has been placing fish attractors in both Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee and those attractors should be perfect places to find crappie.
Before the addition of attractors by the GWRD, summertime crappie in Lake Sinclair related more to ledges, points, creek/river channels and stumps in deeper water. But they will now relate to attractors, brushpiles and trees that have been added by the GWRD and anglers. In many of those cases the crappie will be shallow but over deeper water. Bottom dwelling crappie in Lake Sinclair will be found in 12-25 foot of water but around man made attractors, brushpiles and trees they can be found in 8-16 foot of water.
Summertime crappie in Lake Oconee relate best to the standing timber and are almost always eight to 16 feet deep regardless of how deep the water. At Lake Oconee, I fish standing timber in water that varies from 20 to 65 feet deep but in all cases the crappie will usually be suspended in the trees at a depth of eight to 16 feet. Anglers can catch crappie on the ledges, deep points and creek/river ledges in deeper water at Lake Oconee but standing timber and brushpiles offer better fishing.
Whether fishing for summertime crappie in Lake Sinclair or Lake Oconee two things are always required. First, anglers must have a good depth finder and second, they need a good dose of patience. Patience is required more on Lake Sinclair than on Lake Oconee. The crappie seem to move around more on Lake Sinclair during the summer than on Lake Oconee.
Anglers on Lake Sinclair will have to move from place to place on an almost daily basis during the summer months to find the fish. This requires spending time looking at the screen of your depth finder and a little patience as you may have to move to several locations before finding fish. It helps to know here some man-made attractors are located.
Successful crappie anglers on Lake Oconee must spend some time locating good standing timber in the middle of what could be acres of underwater trees. Once a good tree is found, anglers can return time after time to that same tree and catch crappie. The secret to a good tree lies in finding the single biggest tree with the most limbs in an underwater plot of trees.
In a three-acre plot of trees there may only be one or two trees that will consistently hold fish. Anglers must spend time with their depth finder searching these tree plots for the best trees. Once a good tree is found you can mark it with your GPS and return time after time and catch crappie. During summer, anglers on Lake Oconee might have to visit several of those spots or trees to catch their limit but the action is almost guaranteed.
Whether fishing for summer crappie on Lake Sinclair or Lake Oconee, the angling technique on both lakes is about the same. In both cases we are talking about sitting directly over the crappie and fishing straight down. Both artificial jigs and live minnows will catch the summertime crappie.
Rigging varies from angler to angler but as a rule of thumb anglers will use 4-8-pound test line and will position a split-shot or small weight on the line about a foot above either the jig or the live minnow. The weight will get the lure or minnow into the strike zone faster and give you a better feel for the light crappie bites. Using a heavier jig will eliminate the need for the split-shot.
Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that crappie will not bite during the hot summer. Certainly, it is more comfortable fishing at night, but daytime anglers will catch their share of crappie. If the summer heat is too much for you to handle, just remember the crappie will stay in the deep-water areas until the first cold snap of fall.
It takes some work and patience to locate and mark the best summertime crappie locations but your efforts will be rewarded with some excellent fishing. When it gets hot, grab some good sunscreen, take plenty of cold water along, take with you a little knowledge about where the crappie will hang out during the summer months and catch a bunch of hot weather crappie. Continue staying safe, good fishing and see you next week.
—Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at email@example.com.