Things are about to get busy on the ‘Bone. All three of the country’s major professional crappie tours are going to be making stops on Lake D’Arbonne this spring. They bring a lot of attention to the lake, bring in tourism money and are fun to watch. D’Arbonne has responded by flat showing off with some fantastic crappie catches. And everybody loves the friendly folks and hospitality here.
Those catches have just gotten better and better due to the new electronics now available and in use by both pros and everyday fishermen. But there’s a downside to that, too.
This year, we may even notice a difference in the weights that are brought to the scales. The winning limits may still be high, but the overall catch of big fish may surprise some folks.
One lake resident who fishes for fun, competitively and also keeps a close eye on the lake is Steve Adams. He’s the kind of guy that people need to pay attention to when it comes to discussing the lake. One thing he has noticed and others have pointed out to him as well is not encouraging.
“There just aren’t as many big crappie as there were a few years ago,” Adams said. “We couldn’t go 100 yards without seeing at least one or two big crappie on the screen anywhere we went a few years back, but something has changed. You just don’t see — or catch — as many. There’s been a lot of attention brought to that, but no action.”
These observations are based on hundreds and hundreds of hours of actual on-lake observations by dozens and dozens of skilled observers with live sonar. The new electronics are so good they can show just about every fish you pass over and how big it is. Live sonar observation is a whole lot better way to check fish populations than outdated methods like shocking, random netting and angler interviews. It should at least be used as part of the process.
Adams says sometimes the tournaments are shed in a bad light, but he reminds people that tournament fishermen only bring in seven fish a day. There are hundreds of everyday anglers using live-view sonar now and every fisherman can still bring in a legal limit of 50 crappie a day, just like they could as far back as anybody remembers. He also points out the number of really good crappie anglers has increased tenfold or more the last decade.
His credentials speak for themselves. He qualified last season for the national championship in all three of these tours – Crappie Masters, American Crappie Trail and Crappie USA. That’s not an easy task. He fishes all over the country. Last summer, he helped Rep. Chris Turner organize a crappie fishing trip for a group of Louisiana legislators to show them the resources on D’Arbonne and try and get some legislative help in ensuring the lake is managed properly. Farmerville Mayor John Crow even hosted the group for a fish fry and it made a big impression. Hopefully, it will yield results, but when the state moves, it’s slow. Plod might be a better word.
A lot of time, money and effort has been spent on getting these folks to D’Arbonne and the attention has yielded good economic returns for this area. We should make them feel welcome! But it’s time for these tours to start finding ways to give back a little to the lake itself, too. It is vital that every precaution be taken to leave the fishery in as good as shape as the fishermen find it. These organizations have some pretty good clout in the industry and they have a huge stake in the waters they fish.
Back to the tournament…. Steve thinks there will be some good catches this spring, but it will be tougher. There are a lot of visitors on the lake now and will be for the next two months. Adams says right now, the best fishing will definitely be single pole, sonar-based angling. And as the weather changes, so will the location of the fish.
“When the water temperatures are still in the 50’s,the fish are going to be further out on the ledges and the creek channels,” Steve said. “There just aren’t any fish in the 4=6 foot depths right now. As the temperature comes up, the fish will get closer to the bank until the actually spawn. There’s also the factor of how much rain we get. It’s been a dry year, but a huge rain can bring muddy water and current. That doesn’t help the fishing.”
Adams says another thing is pretty sure. If the water is cold, a hair jig bite will probably be best. As it warms up and crappie chase bigger baits, the plastic tails will start producing. And folks always seem to catch fish on minnows.
Crappie USA: February 19
Crappie Masters: February 25-26
American Crappie Trail: March 24-26