Archive for the ‘Brush Piles’ Tag

TABLE ROCK (MO) CRAPPIES   Leave a comment

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Pulling out of Cape Fear Marina in West Branson, MO the air temperature was an unseasonable 50-degree.  The water temperature and the crappies are moving toward the bank in preparation for the spawn.  Two weeks ago 2-inches of snow greeted anglers.  Spring comes late this year to the Ozarks.

Rick LaPoint of Chauffeured Guide Service (800-869-2210) is the guide for this crappie fishing excursion that was originally a trout fishing trip on another lake in the area.  Rick thought this would be fun and I agreed.

We are in the James River arm of Table Rock Lake where we fished ditches and deep water coves.  The Missouri Department of Conservation reports surveys of the area four largemouth bass in the 11-13 inch range.  Spotted bass were in the 12-14 inch category.

The black crappies in the fish surveys are in good numbers are running up to 10 inches.  The white crappie population is fair with fish also up to 10 inches.

Many fish habitat structures including brush piles, stump fields and rock piles are now in the lake.  There is an interactive map of the structures available on the MDC public website at http://newmdcgis.mdc.mo.gov/tablerock.

Crappies were there but we could only coax a few with our 1/16th ounce jig and Bobby Garland plastic minnow imitation of a minnow.  The Razr rods from Ricks other company are spooled with 6 pound line.  Although rather heavy for crappie fishing, the heavier line allows one to pull jig out of brush piles without breaking off.

Rick recommends the use of stationary bobbers as opposed to the more often used slip bobber.  His theory is that when jigging the lure back to the boat, it floats with the jig parallel to the surface.  With the slip bobber the jig rises and falls in response to the line slipping through the bobber.  Rick also believes the stationary bobber’s fixed position allows us to set the depth just enough to reach the top of the brush piles.

We tip the jigs with Crappie Nibbles to help establish a scent trail in the water.

In response to comments about the Sycamore trees growing right at the shoreline and falling into the water at some point, Rick points out that these trees absorb a lot of water.  He explains that when they used to build fish attractors, it is not necessary to weight them down.  They just readily absorb the water and sink on their own.

The first part of our trip the catching is kind of bad.  At one point we begin fish right up in the shallows just inches from the shore.  We start to catch nice male crappies instead of the females we find on the brush piles in deeper water.  The action picks up dramatically and in addition to a number of under sized crappies we catch 7 keeper fish as well as a Goggle eye and one small Largemouth Bass.

Time is the enemy of all Outdoor Writers.  All too soon it is time to put up the rods and do some pictures and an interview about fishing rods for an article.

PLUCKY PRE-SPAWN CRAPPIE   Leave a comment

Cold Rend 0011

Lake of Egypt provides plenty of early season crappie action.  Located less than 10 minutes south of Marion, Illinois the lake provides challenges for the crappie angler.

Local anglers fish for crappie all year if there is no ice on a lake.  It is just a matter of knowing what type of cover attracts fish under specific weather conditions.

On Lake of Egypt, the water temperatures are warmer than other lakes in the area.  It is a cooling lake for a power plant.  The fish here relate to structure but it is different structure than is usually found in crappie lakes. The lake has a variety of structure from creek channels, rip rap, fallen timber, stumps, and roadbeds as well as weed beds.

This 2300-acre reservoir is located 3 miles east of Interstate 57, about seven miles south of Marion.  Located in Williamson and JohnsonCounties, Lake of Egypt is a power plant cooling lake.  The resulting warmer water results in a shoreline loaded with Milfoil and other weeds to a depth of 8 to 12 feet.

The lake has 93 miles of shoreline with a maximum depth of 52 feet and an average depth of 18.5 feet.  Much of the shoreline contains construction with the exception of that southern portion that is the property of the U. S. Forest Service and is part of the Shawnee National Forest.

When the Crappie on Lake of Egypt go deep, finding them can be very tough.  Casting jigs tipped with minnows to the outer edge of the weed lines in search for the crappie suspended there is the most popular pattern.  A favorite rig is to suspend a jig about 30 inches below a float.  Then mooch the jig to the boat in deeper water.

The fish tend to relate to woodpiles if they can find them in the deeper water.  Anglers will find suspended fish over woodpiles in 12 to 18 feet of water.  Locating that wood is the problem.  The brush piles in Lake of Egypt lie beneath the surface.

Egypt is a lake with many necks and coves.  Points at the main lake end of these coves often have brush and will hold fish this month.  The problem arises if the fish decide to move off the wood.  In the deeper water, electronics are helpful to stay on fish and to get a minnow down to them.

Local anglers sometimes use light line, seldom exceeding 4 pounds test.  They lose less tackle with the four-pound line, but catch more fish with the two pound.  They like to cast Road Runners with red heads and white bodies in the 1/16  to 1/32nd ounce size.  They also have good luck with a hot pink jig or occasionally fishing a minnow below a float on the weed line.

The staple of crappie fishing, the jig and minnow is also popular with local anglers on Lake of Egypt.  It can be cast to the weed line and jerked slowly back to the boat or dropped vertically into the crappies strike zone.

Water temperature at Lake of Egypt will effect the location of the fish.  The power plant at the north end affects the water temperature in that portion of the lake.  A north wind will usually push that warmer water over the weed beds located in that portion of the lake.

The best angling on Lake of Egypt occurs when the power plant at the north end of the lake is running.  It generates hot water into the lake.  Most anglers begin fishing at the discharge and work their way south.  The warm water attracts baitfish and the crappie follow.  If the power plant is down, the fishing slows.  If the water temperature is in the 50’s the fish will be in a transition period.  If they are not yet at the weed line, one can look for a rocky break line and woody areas on the east side of the lake.  Sunny coves on the north end of the lake are also a good place to look for crappie during this month.  The best fishing seems to come in the early morning and in the late afternoon.

When fish are deep, a crappie rig of a sinker on the line below two hooks can be deadly at locating the proper strike zone at which the fish will feed.  On warmer days late in the month, one can switch to a wood pattern.

Brush piles, although present, are unmarked.  With good electronics, they can be located and fished for suspended fish.  Stumps on eroded shorelines are areas available for the angler without such modern conveniences.

In spring, many frontal systems pass through Illinois.  They are full-fledged cold fronts that blast down from Canada which collide with moist warm air masses pushing up from the south.  This combination can cause severe thunderstorms with accompanying lightening.  Anglers should pay attention to these conditions.

The fish are more catchable just prior to the passing of one of the cold fronts.

Like most crappie lakes in Illinois, there is a 30 fish limit per angler.  Most crappie taken from this lake average one-half to one pound in size with some topping two pounds taken each year.  Some of the larger fish come in March when the female are getting full of eggs.

FALL CRAPPIE FISHING ON REND LAKE   Leave a comment

Water temperature, structure, and water level are the keys to fishing for fall crappie at Rend Lake.

The best action comes when the water temperature drops to 60 degrees or lower.  At that point, anglers concentrate on the “sets” to be found around the lake.  There are probably thousands of them.  In the fall most of the crappie are relating to structure and not suspended.

A set usually consists of brush piles composed of Christmas trees and weighed down with cement blocks or some other heavy object.  Some of the sets are placed in the lake by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, owners of the lake.  These sets are marked with a white buoy that identifies it.

Perhaps most of the sets have been placed in the lake by locals.  Some of them are the Christmas tree style and others are made of wooden stakes driven into the bottom of the lake about 6 inches apart in an area about 4 feet by 4 feet.  They can be located by use of electronic fish locators or by watching other anglers on the water.

Most sets will be found in the coves of the north end of the lake.  However, some are also to be found in deeper water along the old river channels.

Additionally, anglers will fish a lot of stumps in the fall.  The best ones are those right off the river channels.  Big Muddy River Channel, Atchecinson Creek, and Gun Creek as some of the better locations.  Gun Creek is a very good place to fish in the fall.  “It is loaded with stumps so caution is a good idea.  The entire north end of the lake, north of U.S. Route 154 has stump fields.

The normal pool level of the lake is 405 feet.  It is the point at which water flows through the notch in the dam.  If the lake is above 408 or 409, then it is possible to go pretty much where you please.  The water level at the top of the dam is 410.  Below that water level, it is a good idea to check maps and with local anglers to find out where the stumps might be encountered.  Electronics are a must as it can be pretty treacherous.

Rend Lake crappie are a half to three-quarters of a pound in weight.  A lot of the fish will go up to a pound to a pound and one-quarter.  In recent years fish over 2 pounds up to 3 pounds have been caught.  The normal crappie is about 10 to 11 inches in length.  Although an occasional black crappie is caught, the majority are white crappie.

In the Fall, most fish are caught by jigging leadhead jigs in 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce size.  Light colors are preferred and chartreuse is a favorite.  Chartreuse combined with other colors are also effective combinations.  Most are rigged as a single hook set, but some anglers get into fish out on the main lake and turn to double hook rigs at that time.

Long jigging poles are the preferred rod for crappie anglers.  They are particularly effect during a two week period each fall when the water level floods the buck brush shoreline.  The poles are effective in getting a jig into an area where the boat won’t go.  Ten, 11, or 12 foot rods are preferred.

Ten to 12 pound line with extra light wire hooks and 1/8th ounce sinker makes for a good rig on these waters.  The sinker is allowed to slide up and down the line to the hook.  The set-up is suspended below a slip float.  This combination is effective in brush.

If fishing with minnows, the above rig slows down the minnows action.  If the hook becomes snagged, it can be popped a little and the movement of the sinker will make the hook come lose.  Additionally, the extra light wire hooks will straighten out if all else fails.

Rend Lake is a 18,900-acre lake in south-central Illinois.  Located in Franklin and Jefferson counties, the lake is less than three hours from both Springfield and St. Louis on Interstate 57.  At normal pool of 405 feet, RendLake has a shoreline length of 162 miles.  It is 13 miles long and three miles wide.  Except for two marinas, the shoreline is undeveloped.

Portions of the lake north of Route 183 are relatively shallow with depths running less than 10 feet.  South of Highway 154, the lake is much deeper, but there are some very shallow areas.  Boaters should exercise caution.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a free booklet available entitled Rend Lake Fishing Guide that is helpful to the angler seeking information about the lake.  It contains maps and information about services and recreational facilities.  It is available upon request from the IDNR Public Information Office, 524 S. Second Street, Springfield, IL62701-1787.

Fall may be a time when many of us look to upland game hunting, and it is available in the area, but don’t pass up some fine crappie fishing on Rend Lake.  Make plans today to fish the wood of Rend Lake this fall.

HUNTING THE OTHER WHITETAIL   3 comments

Hunting the diminutive whitetail provides excellent hunting with a long season and generous bag limits.  That is not the white-tailed deer, but rather the cottontail rabbit.  They afford ample opportunity for enjoyable days in the field and the promise of good eating for the effort. 

In Illinois the season runs from early November to January of the following year.  The dates are slightly different between the northern zone of the state and the southern.  Bag and possession limits vary from one state to another. 

Many farmers regard the rabbit as a pest, and gaining access to private land is usually quite easy.  A polite request is often all that is needed to gain access.  Choosing a good location is sometimes another matter.  Areas with clean fields and pastures lush with fescue are usually devoid of rabbits.  Fescue offers poor cover and as a food it can cause problems that affect reproduction. 

Because they are the top of the menu for just about all of Mother Nature’s critters, a rabbit’s first consideration is cover.  They are concerned with cold and wetness first and wind second.  As anyone who has owned one can tell you, rabbit fur is not warm, and when it is wet it tends to mat. 

As a result of the above rabbits seek an area where they can get sun for warmth and still be out of the wind.  On sunny days, they are to be found in direct sunlight.  They preen and fluff their fur to maximize its protection from the cold.  If the ground is wet in some areas and dry in others, they will go to the dry, bare patches with cover nearby.  However, if the day is cold and windy, they will be found deep in the cover, shielded from the wind.  They burrow deep into brush piles or seek ditches and culverts for protection.  If the sun is shining, they will move to the side of a brush pile bathed in sunshine. 

Some good locations are clear-cut and powering right of ways.  A mix of hardwoods, run‑down farmland and brush piles worth exploring.  If you can contact local rural letter carriers, they often know where they have seen large populations of rabbits all summer.  

Rabbits will inhabit wood lots, hedgerows, slews and weed patches.  They will tunnel under abandoned farm equipment or buildings.  They are very adaptable and can live almost anywhere.  Generally their populations are damaged by house cats.  If cats are around, the rabbit population is usually not that good.

Other predators that attack rabbits include the hawk.  On cloudy days, rabbits are very nervous and tend to stay in the deepest part of their cover.  On sunny days hawks cast a shadow on the land that alerts the rabbit to their presence.  On an overcast day there is no shadow and the rabbits react to this vulnerability by hiding in heavy cover out of the reach of any winged predator. 

Public hunting lands are often a good place to rabbit hunt after the deer season is over.  Often they have been overlooked all through the deer season.  Hunters have been so concentrated on the deer that they have left the rabbits alone. 

The most popular method for hunting rabbits is the walk‑up method.  By moving slowly and stopping frequently, lone hunters and groups alike are likely to flush a rabbit.  If hunting hedgerows, or where cover is thin, then it is a good idea to post a blocker to intercept a sneaker. 

If there is snow on the ground, then the work of hunting is easier. Stalking and flushing techniques work well in snow.  An abundance of tracks in a given area gives away the presence of several rabbits.  Well used rabbit runs will be used by a flushed rabbit to return to the point where he was flushed.  It may take some time, without the persuasion of a beagle, but all rabbits circle back to the point where they were first jumped.  In this way, they often are able to circle around a walking hunter and are securely back in their home as the hunter goes on in frustration. 

In warm weather, rabbits can be jumped almost anywhere there is food.  However, in cold weather they move to the thick cover.  That usually means a tough trail for a human to follow.  It is then that a good beagle is worth his weight in gold.  Beagles are great rabbit dogs as they will stay on the trail, baying to tell their master where the trail is leading.  The hunter often has only to wait and as the rabbit circles around, the sound of the beagle alerts the hunter to the approach of the rabbit. 

Weapons for rabbit hunting range from the ever popular .22 to 12 gauge shotgun.  More recently bowhunters have also taken up rabbit hunting.  To the shotgunner, shot sizes of six or seven lead, and four steel, are good.  The small size shot gives a good wide pattern to cope with the zig zag run of the rabbit. 

The hunting archer can use the same bow that he uses to hunt other game.  His arrows can also do double duty thanks to the interchangeable arrowheads.  The broadhead is removed and a blunt or similar head is substituted.  Bowhunting rabbits is very difficult, but also quite rewarding. 

Hunting the bouncing white tail of a rabbit is challenging and provides some excellent meat for the table.  It is also a good way to bring back old memories of a childhood spent in search of the littlest whitetail.

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