Fishing for crappie on South Carolina’s Lake Murray starts picking up in early October and gets better week by week through the fall until it peaks, usually around Thanksgiving, according to guide Brad Taylor.
“In the fall, the fish start migrating up into the creeks because that’s where all the baitfish, primarily threadfin shad, are going to spend the winter,” he said. “The water temperature will be getting down into the lower 70s and upper 60s, and as the water cools, everything moves to the creeks for the coming winter.”
Crappie will be found primarily on flats because the baitfish feed there this time of year, he said, adding that he likes to fish docks and brush piles in the fall.
“Typically, the fish will be bunched up in big numbers, but this time of year is not known for catching a lot of big fish because everything is mixed together. You will catch a lot of small fish and have to cull through them to get a quality stringer,” said Taylor (803-331-1354).
As the water cools into the low 60s and upper 50s in late October and early November, fish will move to the channels and relate to steep banks and dropoffs. Once they get on deeper banks, the quality picks up and some of the largest crappie of the fall can be caught, Taylor said.
Baitfish size is very important, he said; anglers should try to match that size with whatever they are fishing with.
“The baitfish will have grown through the summer, so you will want to use a similar-sized minnow or a little bigger jig than you used during the summer, about 1¾ to 2 inches long. The smaller stuff that worked well during the summer will not work as well in the fall,” he said. “Early on, it seems like live bait works best, but take plenty with you to the lake, because when you get on the fish, you will go through the bait.”
By the time Halloween arrives, fish will start chasing bait, so casting a jig and using a slow, steady retrieve seems to outdo live minnows, Taylor said. “But when the water gets down to the upper 50s, you have to really slow down, because the fish are less apt to chase. You have to go for more finesse-style fishing along steep banks and around deep docks.”
Top colors for jigs include black in some color combinations, with black and chartreuse Taylor’s primary go-to combination. Yellow and red is also a good in combinations, he said.
“You can troll in the creeks with jigs tipped with minnows,” he said. “I like to use 4-pound line for crappie. If I am casting jigs, I use a 5½- to 6-foot spinning rod; for fishing live bait I like a 9- to 10-foot rod with a spinning reel,” he said.
As November arrives, bigger fish will separate from the smaller fish and bunch up so anglers can expect to put more slab crappie in the cooler.