Michigan’s Best Spring Crappie Waters…

When crappies go on a feeding spree the action can be fast-paced and there is no better way to enjoy the arrival of warm weather than spending time on your favorite waterway catching tasty panfish. But the boom-and-bust nature of crappie populations can keep you looking for new hotspots and unless you want to leave success to chance, knowing where there is productive fishing is the critical key to success.

As A kid I grew up catching bass and panfish on the Tittabawassee system below the Sanford Dam and Wixom Lake spillway using cane pole, bobber and plain hook treated with an earthworm dug from Grandma’s garden. Back then, the fishing was easy and stringers filled fast. The same holds true today although the tackle I prefer is an ultra-light spinning outfit, custom float that is extra sensitive and fluorocarbon line tipped with a tiny jig.

Here’s a rundown of productive crappie waters across the state where you can enjoy the fishing fun with family and friends in 2010.

Sanford Lake And Dams

According to fisheries biologist Jim Baker, there is good public access, you can drive to the dam through the new Sanford Park and schools of big fish are waiting to be caught.

“There are good numbers of crappie available below the Sanford Dam and in Sanford Lake and you can catch them from shore or boat. Anglers can target schools of slab crappie in the deep swirling water below the Sanford Dam and even better fishing is available below the Wixom spillways as fish swim upriver from Sanford Lake through the Tittabawassee system and congregate below the man-made structures. Anglers can reach the spillways by parking along M-30 and walking to the dam. The east dam is larger and holds more crappie when spring rain brings spawning runs. The west spillway can be quite shallow until rain causes the water to flow over the concrete structure and draw crappie from below,” said Baker.

Fisheries Biologist Kathrin Schrouder recommends hitting the Sanford Dam or Wixom spillway early in the season when spring runoff cause crappie to charge upriver. Then try Sanford or Wixom Lake and concentrate efforts around fallen trees, sunken logs, points and any structure that provides habitat for crappies. When water temperatures increase move to the main impoundment and work the channel edges. Schrouder explained, “The last fisheries survey found that crappies averaged more than 8 inches and plenty of slabs topped the 1-foot mark. Look for crappies to congregate in the undeveloped riprap around stumps, aquatic vegetation and fallen trees in shallow water.”

There is a public boat launch at the Sanford Dam. Use the public access boat launch on Dundas Road for Wixom Lake. Wixom Lake is around 2,000 acres in Gladwin County near the small town of Edenville. For more information contact Southern Lake Huron Management Unit office in Bay City at (989) 684-9141, or Gladwin Chamber of Commerce at www.gladwincountychamber.com.

Sessions Lake

According to fisheries biologist Amy Harrington, “The most recent DNR fisheries survey showed crappies were both numerous and large in Sessions Lake with nearly 35% of the catch in the 11 inch size range. Plenty of fish were smaller, indicating strong year-classes are on their way up and should provide good fishing in the future.”

Jordan Conner, a well known local pro who fishes Sessions, describes last year’s fishing as very good.

“The reservoir was standing trees at one time and there are still lots of dead trees and stumps that crappies love,” Conner said. “The fishing was so good last spring that you could catch your limit in less than an hour and folks were consistently taking 12-inch slabs.”

Conner recommends the traditional crappie baits: small minnows, waxworms, itsy jigs tipped with plastics or wigglers. “Try dancing the offering near sunken wood and if you want some fishin’ fun schedule outings on calm, sunny weather, wear polarized sunglasses to cut the glare of the water and motor along the west shoreline in search of crappies. You will find them stacked on sunken trees, along the drop-off. Cut the electric motor and cast tiny jigs tipped with plastics and watch the big slabs zoom from the cover and smack the falling lure. Sight fishing for crappie is my favorite technique for finding big hogs and locating hotspots for limit catches,” explains Conner.

The 100-acre lake offers plenty of bank fishing. A state park permit is required. It has a beautiful boat launch and a no-wake restriction in place. Sessions is well known for camping, it has 100 sites, more than four miles of hiking trails, fishing pier.

The Ionia Recreation Area is located on West David Highway, 4 miles east of Saranac, in Ionia County. Call the Ionia Recreation Area at (616) 527-3750. Make campground reservations by calling (800) 447-2757.

Lake Mitchell

“One of the best black crappie lakes in the northwestern Lower Peninsula is Lake Mitchell,” said fisheries biologist Mark Tonello. According to Tonello Mitchell is just as good as its Neighbor, Lake Cadillac, which is highly respected for fantastic crappie catches.

“Some of the best fishing occurs when post spawn fish congregate in deeper water. Most are good size, ranging from 8-12 inches with some slab 14-inchers mixed in,” explains Tonello.

“Anglers should try the outlet of the State Park Channel on Mitchell’s east shoreline off M-115. Little cove on the north shore is also good. Savvy fishermen use electric motors to cover water and find active schools,” said Tonello.

“There isn’t a lot of shore fishing because access is difficult to find. Most fishing is done from a boat,” explained Tonello.

A large boat launch is found on Mitchell’s east shore at the Mitchell State Park and at the Selma Township launch on Little Cove.

For updated fishing information visit www.pilgramvillagefishing.com and click on”Fishing Report.” For more information call the Cadillac DNR or Central Lake Michigan Management Unit at (231) 775-9727.

Lake Cadillac

Tonello refers to Lake Cadillac as, “Michigan’s most popular crappie lake and fish can be found all over the 1,150 acre lake found in Wexford County. One hotspot is at the west end near the Causeway, where crappie congregate in the current and offer shore bound angler’s fun adventures. Another good location is at the east end of the lake near from the City dock and along the Pavilion and Four Winns Center.”

“Excellent fishing occurs when water temperatures climb into the low 60’s crappie begin spawning chores and peaks when temperatures reach 66 degrees. Late spawners can still be located when water temperatures hit the 70 degree mark,” explains Tonello.

Boat launches are located on the north side off North Boulevard and the east side off Lake Street.

For more information call the Central Lake Michigan Management Unit at (231)775-9727.

Hardy Dam Pond

“Another top producer is Hardy Dam Pond, Tonello Said. Crappies can be caught all over the lake when warming water tends to drive schools into the deep water staging areas.”

According to Shane Ward, a well known fisherman in the area, “Small jigs colored pink and white are the hot ticket for limit catches. My favorite is a white jig with pink feathers, 1/64 oz. Little Nipper made by Lindy Little Joe. Northland Tackle makes some fantastic crappie jigs too and my top choices are the Firefly and Gypsy jig. When the water is stained I prefer a larger lure like the Beetle Spin or a small tube jig and small plastic tail that quivers like an injured baitfish and excites crappies into slamming the offering.”

One of the best places on the pond is South Mitchell Creek Outlet. This is a spot where Ward has seen anglers hauling slabs on a consistent basis. Other hotspots include stump fields, fallen trees or submerged vegetation that is thick enough to draw crappie.

Hardy has a reputation for catches of large perch, bass and northern pike.

For more information contact the Central Lake Michigan Management Unit at (231) 775-9727

Tippy Dam Pond

“Don’t overlook the great crappie fishing available above Tippy Dam on the large pond that supports some of the best inland warm water species fishing in the area. I’ve seen anglers pulling limits of slab crappie from the Pine River arm and consistent catches come from the many points and bays that are highlighted by fallen trees partially submerged,” reports Tonello.

Tippy Pond is a huge impoundment on the World famous Big Manistee River that covers 1,550 acres with a multitude on coves, winding river, hidden pools and fish-holding structure.

Contact the Central Lake Michigan Management Unit for more information at (231) 775-9727.

Lake Ovid

“Sleepy Hollow State Park is highlighted by Lake Ovid which is one of the best crappie lakes in my region,” reports fisheries biologist Kregg Smith.

“Good catches come from the deep water found close to the dam and along a stump field located between the island and the west shore. The north end of the lake is where weed beds are thick, bordered by deep water and along these beds is where you will find crappies. The south end of the lake has crappie too but fast growing weeds and shallow water support a short fishing season,” said Smith.

“My favorite crappie technique is sight fishing using polarized sunglasses to spot fish and dropping a tiny jig tipped with a live minnow in their face,” explains Jose Rios, a Lake Ovid regular. Rios takes his kids fishing with him on a weekly basis and the group has a technique that produces big crappies and a lot of them.

“I use my custom made steelhead rods 10-12 ft. long with 6 lb. clear fluorocarbon line spooled on spinning reels. By standing in my 14 ft. boat I can locate hotspots, see fish and flip my offering on the exact spot where slab crappie will glide upward to the falling bait and gulp the quivering minnow. When the sky is overcast, or wind puts ripples on the water, I switch to a light bobber and drift my minnow presentation in productive pockets of clear water found in the center of weed patches,” said Rios.

Lake Ovid covers 412 acres in Clinton County. The lake is shallow and full of weeds. Deep water is found north of the boat launch. Lake Ovid is a popular bluegill lake and you can also catch muskie and bass throughout the system.

There is a boat ramp on the west side and a no wake restriction is in place.

For more information, contact the Southern Lake Michigan Management Unit in Plainwell at (269) 685-6851.

Holloway Reservoir

Holloway was created by damming the Flint River and flooding a forested valley, leaving a vast stump field which is ideal habitat for crappies. Fish congregate in protected bays, inlets or backwater that tends to warm faster than the main reservoir. Once you find fish catching them can be somewhat easy, if you keep some important points in mind.

Holloway is fed by the Flint River and rain can cause the reservoir to become strained. Turbid water requires adjusting your fishing strategy. Use brightly colored jigs, tubes or plastics, fluorescent presentations will put more fish in the livewell. Top lure colors for Holloway crappies include: white, chartreuse and lime green.

“Holloway has an excellent population of crappie with most running from 8 to 10 inches,” said DNR fisheries biologist Joe Leonardi. “The lake offers superb fishing and miles of undeveloped shoreline highlighted by blow downs, sunken logs and emergent vegetation which attracts and holds crappie, Leonardi explains.

“I started fishing crappies in the 1960’s when the population was low but today the specks are booming,” reports Al Fisher a local pro. “Back then I used a cane pole and black nylon line and fishing was tough. Today I prefer 8 lb. clear monofilament, a 7 ft. medium light action rod and spinning reel. Holloway has given up several fishing secrets over the years, most importantly you need to use a lure that crappie can see with ease in the brownish stained river water. My hottest colors are fluorescent lime green and white 1/8 oz. jigs tipped with a white waxworm or feisty minnow,” explains Fisher.

“If fish are in deep water I cast the jig and let the offering swim toward bottom and twitch the rod tip to excite crappies into gulping the falling bait. If fish are shallow I prefer to scale down to a 1/64 oz. jig and suspend the bait about 4 ft. below a slip bobber that can be moved deeper or shallower depending on the depth water where I’m getting strikes,” said Fisher.

Holloway covers 950 acres in Lapeer and Genesee counties, found 10 miles northeast of Flint. There is a large park and boat launch on the southwest corner near Hasler Creek.

For more information, call the Lapeer State Game Area DNR office at (810)245-1250.

Stony Creek

“Crappie numbers are very solid in Stony Creek Lake and the growth rates average an inch faster than the rest of the state,” said DNR fisheries biologist Jim Francis. “Crappies in a recent survey averaged 9.6 inches. One was over 13 inches and weighed a pound and a half, a vast improvement over a 1980’s survey which the largest crappie was 7 inches, “Francis explained. “The state record crappie came from Stony Creek Lake in 2000; it weighed more than 3 pounds and measured an amazing 19.5 inches. Stony has a reputation for serving up slab crappie,” Francis said.

“Stony has clear water use a live minnow 6 ft. below a bobber, dorsal hooked with a size 10 Octopus hook. This presentation allows the minnow to swim freely and draws big slabs from hiding,” explains Tom Anderson a Stony Lake pro from Troy.

Stony Creek Lake is found north of Rochester hills in Macomb and Oakland counties with an average depth from 6-15 ft and 24 feet deep near the outlet. Fish structure holds plenty of crappie on a point north of the boat access. Stony covers around 500 acres and is highlighted by crappie holding stumps and sunken trees. Boat launch is located on the southeast corner near the dam.

For information contact the Lake Erie Management Unit at (248)359-9046, Huron-Clinton Metro Authority at (800) 477-2757.