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Lake life

Crappie Now ranks D’Arbonne No.2

The following is reproduced from the outstanding “Crappie Now” magazine. It’s a list of the Top 10 Crappie Lakes for 2022

D’Arbonne in Louisiana is one of the best lakes a crappie angler could choose to fish. Any technique will work there and good numbers of 2-pound fish can be caught. These fishermen are targeting wood on a ledge going into a big flat. (Photo: Tim Huffman)

by Tim Huffman

A list of the “Best Lakes” for any species of fish often boils down to who you ask. For example, some fishermen enjoy jigging wood cover while others like trolling in open water. Some fishermen enjoy clear water while others prefer stained. Some anglers prefer catching big numbers of fish while others prefer concentrating on trophy-sized fish.

For this story highlighting the best crappie fishing lakes in the country, we surveyed a variety of tournament fishermen and experts. The list also considered lake history, tournament results and over-all enjoyment and experience the lake or river offers.

Here is our 2022 list of the “Best Crappie Lakes” you should probably include on your fishing Bucket List:

#10 – Santee Cooper, South Carolina

160,000 acres. This huge lake is actually comprised of two lakes, Marion and Moultrie. You can fish extreme wooly swamps to wide-open water with ledges and submerged wood. Numbers of fish here are good and trophy fish are common. A newcomer should consider hiring a guide for a day to learn the areas and tactics.

#9 – Millwood Lake, Arkansas

32,000 acres. This isn’t the easiest place to navigate and it can be horrible with wind, but serious crappie fishermen have been catching giants from this lake for many years. It doesn’t receive a lot of national attention and gets only moderate fishing pressure. However, hit this lake at the right conditions and catch a stringer of monster fish.

#8 – Sardis Lake, Mississippi

98,000 acres. A 12-inch length limit ensures only quality fish go in in the livewell. The lake is famous for producing big numbers of fish, too. Take your buddy or family to enjoy a great time with lots of action. Live-imaging sonar is good, but so is fast trolling crankbaits or jigs during warm water conditions. Also, power trolling with long poles out the front is a popular method here. Keep an eye on your weather app because it doesn’t take much wind to make this a very dangerous lake.

#7 – Alabama River, Alabama

The long, winding Alabama River offers many different places to fish. It’s known for giving-up quality crappie and numbers can be good. The problem with this and most rivers is the big fluctuation of water along with daily changes in current when electricity is being generated. Therefore, it’s a hit-and-miss water, but the good times are so good that experts keep it near the top of the list. Check for water conditions before going and pay attention to current. Current is the critical factor that forces crappie to find current breaks and eddies but they can be found and caught.

#6 – Truman Lake, Missouri

55,000 acres. The lake made a big turn-around three years ago with great numbers and a big jump in the average size of crappie. Size has improved but don’t expect fish to be in the same class as the next five lakes. However, it’s the place to go for lots of fun jigging action. Live-imaging sonar isn’t required but it is an advantage for spotting the biggest fish on the stumps.

#5 – Lake Washington, Mississippi

5000 acres. This is a small lake with a history of great fishing. The lake may not be at its peak, but the numbers of fish are still good. Experts pick it near the top of the list with size, numbers and ease of fishing being the main reasons. Compared to other lakes, it’s a place a weekend fisherman can go and have a good chance of quickly learning a pattern, catch numbers of fish and have a shot at a three-pounder. Live-imaging sonar, slow trolling and long-lining are all good tactics at this lake. The lake is heavily pressured but easy to navigate.

#4 – St. John’s River, Florida

This lake is a paradise with crappie as a bonus. It ranks at the top of the list for beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and it creates a feeling you don’t get anywhere else. Fish are beautiful, gold-tinted black crappie you can catch while watching an alligator or manatee. Expect a wide variety of fish sizes. Top times for fishing are December through February.

#3 – Lake Fork, Texas

27,000 acres. Fishermen can use different methods on Lake Fork but it’s known as a great jigging lake. Live-imaging sonar has only enhanced the jigging opportunities. Standing timber and submerged wood makes the lake a top pick for catching numbers and size. Some fishermen say it equals Grenada, but whether it does or not, it’s a bucket-list lake that can make crappie dreams come true. A huge advantage is its year-round production.

#2 – Lake D’Arbonne, Louisiana

This cover-filled lake is the best pick when looking for numbers of 1.5 to 2.25-pound fish. A few 3-pounders are available, too. National tournaments here are popular because of the action, weights and the variety of tactics that can be used. A fisherman can use any technique. Live-imaging sonar has become the popular but slow trollers catch their share of fish by working river or creek ledges and shallow wood-filled flats. There are places to pull jigs, too. Negatives include dangerous navigation so idling is recommended if you’re out of the marked channel. Also, it’s river-fed, so rains can cause quick fluctuations. Check conditions before heading to the lake.

#1 – Grenada Lake, Mississippi

35,000 acres. A unanimous pick every year as the best crappie lake in the country. It gives anglers a real shot at three-pound crappie. The crappie growth rates are great, management practices are good and this year should include great numbers of big fish from the past few high-water years. Tournament weights are always the highest and usually include several 3-pound-plus fish.

Grenada includes plenty of hotels and places to eat. Negatives includes heavy fishing pressure, a lake that can be difficult to navigate at certain lake levels and it’s not wind-friendly. Consider wind-protected areas when wind exceeds 10 mph. However, the chance of landing your personal best crappie or your biggest stringer far outweigh the negatives. Peak time for monsters is mid-February through March

It’s crazy the number of lakes not included in the top ten. Arklabutla likely has the biggest crappie in the country but it’s a tough lake to fish. Clear Lake in California should be on the list, but it’s too far away from the heart of crappie country to get the votes. Weiss Lake produces as many crappie as any other and it has an excellent history. There are others deserving a spot on the list, but they didn’t get the votes.

Check out the 2022 list of Top 50 Crappie Lakes at www.monstercrappie.com

(Tim Huffman has specialized in crappie fishing writing and photography since 1988. He is currently Senior Writer for CrappieNOW Digital Magazine, freelance writer and book author. His new 2022 book is Crappie Annual & Product Guide. Books are available at Grizzly Jig Company or from Amazon.)

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