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Landing Big Crappie in Southwest Arkansas

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Anglers taking their limit as hot spring fishing streak continues

Arkansas Wildlife Editor We don't hear a whole lot from Dierks Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers lake that the AGFC Fisheries Division manages, though this year one of our newer Fishing Report correspondents, angler Charles Abernathy, who checks in regularly from DeGray Lake, has ventured further west to Dierks Lake and De Queen Lake in search of crappie and has clued us in on these lesser-known honey holes.

This past week, Abernathy and his dog, Charlie, were joined by Neil Ward of Texarkana (above), who landed some major slab crappie fishing Dierks Lake.

Crappie are red hot at DeGray Lake as well, according to reports this week, they're picking up amid spawning activities down at Millwood Lake, they are hot now at Cane Creek Lake in southeast Arkansas, and biting nicely throughout central Arkansas fisheries, including a great report we heard Thursday morning from Lake Maumelle. The spring crappie bite is big all the way up to Greers Ferry Lake and is almost there in favored north Arkansas fishing spots, too.

Abernathy, talking about DeGray Lake, thinks the continuous rise of temperature into the 60s should really have the crappie bite at its peak soon there.

Except some good bites this week between these storm fronts that have passed through the state.

Of course, largemouth bass are also active nearly everywhere now. There are great reports throughout the state this week; check them out this week starting with Southwest Arkansas below…

Southwest Arkansas Fishing Reports

Millwood Lake — As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 259.68 feet msl (normal pool: 259.20 feet msl).

Mike Siefert at Millwood Lake Guide Service said that as of Tuesday, Millwood Lake clarity is heavy stain from recent thunderstorms and is approximately 3 inches above normal conservation pool and falling; oxbows' water clarity is stained, while Little River has increased stain from current. Gate discharge at the dam was around 3,000 cfs in Little River, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The tailwater below the dam and gates, around 229 feet msl and falling with discharge.

Check the most recent lake level of Millwood Lake on the guide service’s website linked above, or the Army Corps of Engineers website, for updated gate release changes and inflow rates with rising and falling lake levels. Surface temps remain stable this week, ranging 60-69 degrees, depending on location.

Continue to use caution in navigation on Little River and Millwood watching for random broken or floating timber. Lots of Little River buoy markers have been replaced along the main lake channel. Use extreme caution in navigation on main lake.

As for fishing details: Largemouth bass: Bass have been in varying degrees of annual spawning mode for three past 3-4 weeks on Millwood. Most of the oxbows up and along Little River are seeing post-spawn largemouths and pre-spawn crappie.

Brazalo Spinnerbaits in white/chartreuse, Millwood Mayhem Bream and Spot Remover caught decent bass over the past two weeks, and Chatterbaits again picked up some healthy 3-to 7-pound largemouths this week. “Most bass we are finding continue randomly roaming shallow on full sun and bright skies in the 3-6 foot depths of flats adjacent to deeper drops into 7-10 feet depth ranges,” Siefert says. “The best period this week is during the late morning.

Anywhere a creek channel runs near spawning flats with vertical structure nearby, where stumps and creek mouths drop, have held some decent-sized bass over the past few weeks.

NUMEROUS largemouth bass over 10-11 pounds each, have been weighed in over the past several weeks. A big spawning, 10.25-pound female largemouth was recently caught at Millwood State Park and weighed in at the Millwood State Park Marina.”

Bass Assassin Shads continue to draw good reac-

Continued on Page 9 FISHING (cont.)

tions, and salt and pepper Silver Phantom, Grey Ghost or Houdini colors continue to be the go-to choices. Best colors of Bugs and Beavers have been Black Neon, Grasshopper, Blackberry and Pearl Bream. Custompoured Senkos and Zoom Trick Worms are working on stumps and cypress trees in 3-8 feet depths.

Heavy thumper tail swimbaits and Beavers on a Jackhammer Chatterbait in Spot Remover or Blue Glimmer are working, and Trick Worms in black/blue, Blue Ice and Purple Smoke are catching bass. Bulky lizards in Blackberry, Blue Bayou, black/blue tail and Watermelon Candy continue taking a few good bass this week on flooded cypress trees, stumps,and along vegetation lines in ditches, creeks and flats from 3-8 feet deep, where bass were exploring new bed-making locations near flooded timber and cypress trees.

White bass: They continue their annual spawning run upriver between Cemetery Slough and U.S. Highway 71 at Wilton Landing along Little River this week.

Numerous white bass anglers are connecting in the 3-pound class along the river on Rocket Shads, Little Georges, Chuck'n Spins, Rooster Tails, spoons and crankbaits. The white bass began their annual spawning run up Little River over the past couple weeks and are running up Little River to headwaters for the spawn.

Crappie: Have been much improved again this week on minnows and jigs in Bee Lake, on the open lake section, in pockets along South Hickory Creek, and in oxbows of Mud Lake and McGuire up Little River. Crappie are holding in 6-8 feet depth this week and are staging to move shallow over the next week or so.

Catfish: Continue to bite consistently in Horseshoe and Mud Lake oxbows up Little River on yo-yos and limblines using King's Punch Bait, chicken livers, gizzards and hot dogs.

— Visit www.littlemissouriflyfishing. com for a daily update on fishing conditions. As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation at Narrows Dam was 540.71 feet msl (full pool: 548.00 feet msl).

— As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 406.18 feet msl (full pool: 408.00 feet msl).

Capt. Darryl Morris of Family Fishing Trips Guide Service (501-844-5418) said the spawn is on. “I’ve been catching crappie everywhere from 3 feet deep to 12 feet deep. For the conservation-minded, the males are on beds in the shallower water. Leave them to their business and harvest some of the females on the staging brushpiles.”

Local angler Charles Abernathy says the water temp has been up and down a little. “We’ve had some rain off and on.

We’ve had some warm days and we still had some overnight chills during spring break as normal, but by the time you read this the temps should be stable at 60 degrees or more.

These temps remaining 60plus are really going to turn these crappie on and get a plenty supply up shallow for those who prefer to fish that way.”

“I’ve fished Greeson, Dierks and DeGray over the last couple of weeks and I’ve done the same thing at all three places and have had pretty good success. I have only been targeting fish staged in the middle of pockets (some have timber and some don’t).Some days there’s a lot and some days you can tell some have moved, but even with the inventory being down some days, there is still enough fish to leave with a good mess.”

“With this forward-looking technology that we have, there is really no need to go to the bank because these fish don’t all spawn at the same time, just like doe deer don’t go into estrus at the same time. At this point the fish that are waiting to move up to spawn are with the fish that have already moved back out after dumping their eggs. I am catching fish that are fat and full of eggs right alongside fish that have clearly already dumped their eggs.”

“The point of sharing this is to emphasize: If you want to fish the banks, now is the time. If you don’t want to fish the banks you can still target those prespawn and post-spawn fish because both categories are hungry and they are occupying the same space (the reason I prefer to target those this time of year). I am throwing at single fish most of the time in open water because that is where the most consistent size is at and the ones that are typically

lure in their mouth.”

“Lennox, Cox Creek, Point Cedar, Brushy, Shouse Ford are all hot spots for spawning crappie, he says, and all have some good protected pockets with good firm banks to comb with some structure. If you are fishing shorelines, the only way to do it is to just comb through them, or use previous history, or use intel from others (or find a Livescoper in the middle of a pocket catching fish and FISHING REPORTS (cont.)

then comb those banks, he-he-he).

“I’ve published several videos on my YouTube channel and show what baits I’m using and how I’m fishing (and most of the time even where). I’m also showing the screen at times with depth, which might be beneficial if you don’t have one. I generally put one out every week. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. I hope it’s helpful to someone.”

“I get quite a few emails and I enjoy reading/responding to every one of them. Thank you so much for reading these and thanks to everyone for letting me know. As always, feel free to reach out at [email protected] for more info. Good luck out there and be safe and be nice. A lot of fish are being caught right now and we are truly blessed to live in Arkansas and have access to some wonderful crappie fisheries. Get out there and enjoy them!”

John Duncan of yoyoguideservice. com at Iron Mountain Marina said, “Well, I finally caught up on habitat insertion and got to go out on the water. The lake level is 406.32 feet msl. Water temperature is in the mid-60s. About the only thing I have had time to gather for a report is crappie. Reports are very mixed and they change daily. As of Tuesday, fish were being caught in the shallows in 3-4 feet of water. You can also find them on the tops of brushpiles up to 30 feet deep.

Casting jigs to the shoreline with slow retrieve is a staple for DeGray. Lots of fish full of eggs. Best method I’ve recently found was staying off brushpiles and cast to them. Use pink or chartreuse 3/4-ounce heads with various colors.

Tennessee Shad and Monkey Milk are producing well. Bright colors have been the best for me. After they slow down, change colors for a final few. After you pull all you can with casting jigs, move over it with minnows. Be aware to check your minnow sources. Some places are running out early.”

“The spawning fish seem to be moving toward Arlie Moore area. Even have good reports up toward the State Park. Move till you find ‘em.”

“Lots of catfishing going on around the lake.

Trotlines are all over. These guys do a great job of keeping their lines low enough to motor over them. The last report I got on black bass was a floating worm was producing.

— As of Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake’s elevation was 526.41 feet msl (full pool: 526.00 feet msl).

As noted, local angler Charles Abernathy made a stopover this past week at Dierks and says big crappie are biting well there.

— Curtis Willingham of River Rat Bait (870-231-3831) said water clarity remains muddy and the level is high. Bream are fair on worms and crickets.

Crappie are fair using minnows, jigs and shiners.

Bass are good on spinnerbaits and soft plastics.

Catfish are fair; use worms in deep water.

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