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Smith: Fork, Pines are top lakes for landing crappie during winter

By Chris Smith
Nov. 28, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Each year crappie anglers anticipate the special limit changes exclusively for crappie and only on certain lakes. As usual East Texas is in the middle of terrific fishing opportunities.

Lake Fork and Lake O' the Pines are the two lakes that host these changes.

From Dec. 1 through the last day of February the limits are: for black and white crappie - no minimum length limit; daily bag limit is 25 fish in any combination and all crappie caught must be retained.

Toledo Bend had similar changes in the past, but moved to the same restrictions as Caddo.

Both of these lakes are state border lakes and the crappie regulations are: For black and white crappie - no minimum length limit; daily bag limit is 25 fish in any combination.

The hot spots as mentioned earlier are Fork and Pines. These two lakes pump out tremendous stringers during the winter months and many anglers look forward to the annual restriction changes to load the freezer with tasty filets.

Bringing along friends and family to increase the total number of fish is a common practice and for good reason.

Each winter, enormous schools of shad will migrate to the lower ends of these lakes and the crappie will follow them to feed.

This scenario plays out annually and will last for most of December and January.

Keeping track of the schools of shad will put the angler near the crappie. The rest is keeping the boat positioned correctly.

The bait and fish will be in the deeper areas of the lake and are usually not too difficult to locate.

Depths of more than 40 feet are common to find active schools. The crappie are not always super deep, but the larger schools will typically be positioned on long points, humps or submerged river/creek channels in depths over 20 feet.

Locating the schools of shad with electronics will give an indication on where to start. Many times the amount of boats in an area will direct where the action is.

Of course finding a school on a secluded spot can put anglers on course to have the fish all to themselves.

Soaking minnows is perhaps the most popular method of extracting limits of winter crappie. Small jigs are another choice, and there are days when one works better than the other, so many anglers bring along both.

One trick is to tie on two jigs and try to catch multiple fish per rod. Some anglers will have a jig rigged and use this while soaking the minnow on another rod.

After the fish indicate which they prefer, concentrate on that bait and work on the filet gathering.

Get out and try this special season with family and friends. These two lakes are beautiful in the winter, and a bald eagle sighting is likely at either.

Dress for the weather and enjoy the winter crappie festival.

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