You know the crappie are biting when striped bass guides are taking time off from chasing linesides to go do some perch jerking. Guide Steve Pietrykowski of Fishki Business Fishing Charters said that striper fishing on Lake Hartwell has been slow, but the numbers and sizes of crappie he is catching is more than taking up the slack.

“It’s not like the spring when there’s a crappie or two around every little stick-up you see in shallow water,” said Pietrykowski (864-353-3438). “I think about half the fish are still in a winter pattern. I’ll pull up on a brush pile or deep-water boat dock, and there will be hundreds of them, big ones too, stacked up in one little area. Then, I’m also seeing lots of fish scattered out in the open about mid-way back into a creek, especially if there’s some stain to the water.”

Pietrykowski said most of his action has been coming from tributaries off the upper river arms of the Seneca and Tugaloo rivers. He typically doesn’t employ traditional trolling tactics, but he said an angler set up to troll, either from the front or rear of the boat, could do well on the scattered fish by trolling three to five feet deep over 18 to 20 feet of water. He said this is the time of year when Hartwell’s mix of black and white crappie really distinguishes one from the other.

“The white crappie seem to be more inclined to scatter and suspend,” he said. “With the recent rains and run-off we’ve had, they just go hang in the middle of the drainage. The black crappie, on the other hand, will gang up tight on one or two structures. I’ve got a structure scan shot of an old bridge that crosses one of the creeks, and there must be a thousand crappie on that thing within a 100-yard stretch.”

Pietrykowski’s favorite tactic it to locate crappie holding in and under a deep dock. His side-imaging sonar pays huge dividends for locating these fish. When a boat dock that holds a school of crappie is marked, he can anchor up and load the boat.

“I had a trip a couple days ago where we had maybe 200 crappie in an open boat stall,” he said. “Every time you flipped a jig under a cork into the stall, it went right under. I had one client catch a 16- and a 17-inch fish on back to back casts.”