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Reelfoot Lake Crappie

March Is the Month for Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake Crappie

Bill Dance gives the fishing low-down on the cypress tree inhabited Reelfoot Lake.

As I've mentioned many times before, my home state of Tennessee is blessed with natural treasures, and among these prizes is Reelfoot Lake.

Found in the northwest section of our state, Reelfoot was created by a series of earthquakes near the turn of the 19th century. Reportedly, the quakes created crevices that forced the Mississippi River to run backward for days before they were filled with water. Left behind for posterity, when Big Muddy began flowing south again, was the "quake lake." The 5-mile long lake has been a boon to those that love all aspects of the outdoors ever since.

And in the month of March, well, it's a crappie angler's dream.

The lake has both the black and white subspecies of crappie, but in March the best bite is for the black. And most of the activity takes place in shallowest water you can fish.

A good place to begin your search is on the northwest side of the lake, around the old duck holes. Here, the fish are apt to be in two feet of water or less.

Specific areas known for black crappie in March include: Big and Little Starved ponds, Grassy Bend, Katie's Gourd, and Burnt Woods. Look for these locales on lake maps before you go.

These sites produce tremendous crappie action and surprisingly, especially in March, most commonly the year's windiest month, you can always get out of the gusts.

The black crappie you catch are really nice, too. They are in the ¾-pound and up range. Some even push that famed 2-pound mark, a trophy slab in anyone's book.

At this time, these fish are setting up housekeeping in these shallows. And it is March's warming water temperatures that spark it all into prime time. Granted, there are still some cool nighttime temps, but the daytime sun regains control of the battle and the bite really turns on by mid-morning.

As mentioned, it pays to key on the protective areas on the northwest side of the lake. This is because the sun is still lower on the horizon here and the waters in the northwest regions warm sooner. Add any southern wind, and that speeds the warming process even further. This region of the lake is warming quicker and first, and as a result the black crappie move into the area in great numbers.

I catch a lot of them on ultra-light tackle, using a 6 ½-foot rod with a reel spooled with 4-pound test. In this area, the dead lily pad stems and submerged bonnets are the crappie's primary cover. Casting a No. 2 elbow spinners in the finishes of silver and/or gold work well, and attached to that a 1/16th ounce lead head and jig (in various colors) is a top choice!

The black crappie can be really aggressive and more fun to catch than one can imagine during this period.

Vertical fishing is another technique that you might want to try around cypress trees, especially on cloudy days. Here's where you use a 10-foot jigging pole.

But whatever you choose, remember that water will be extremely shallow and clear, so you have to stay back as far as you can.

You can catch white crappie, too, but they are typically going to be in the deeper water and a bit later. In March, the black crappie are just so much easier to target in the dead lily stems and bonnet fields.

Fishermen from around the U.S. come to fish them and spend time in a very unique place, amidst the bald cypress, bald eagles and a host of other critters. It's a wonderful place to go and get lost in the wonder of nature. There will be a crowd of crappie anglers at Reelfoot in spring. But, don't worry, there's plenty of room for you to get away to yourself.

Other sport fish are plentiful. For instance, the bass fishing can be really good in March, too. Look for quality largemouth in the bonnet and lily pad fields. Try slow-rolling a ¼-ounce spinnerbait, though a soft jerkbait can also work well.

The lake is known well for its bluegill fishing, but that is largely in April and especially in May. And as the water warms catfishing can be off the charts.

Additionally, there are lots of good restaurants in the area, too, and the hospitality is always great.

Bluebank Resort, near Hornbeak, Tennessee, is my personal favorite outfitter on the lake. Owner Mike Hayes and his employees at Bluebank are top-notch. There are great accommodations, guides, boats, excellent food, and the best all-around know-how available which can put you on the fish quickly.

There's no doubt, Reelfoot is a special place to visit, and I certainly hope you get a chance to go. If you do, I might just see you there!