As February progresses, winter is beginning to loosen its grip a day at a time, and random good-weather days are allowing anglers to catch limits of fish.

One of the best bets currently is Lake Wylie, where persistent crappie anglers are experiencing good results.

"We've been catching a good many crappie at Wylie," said guide Jerry Neeley of Jerry's Guide Service.

The problem catching limits every time out has been caused by intermittent rains that muddy the lake and make finding fish difficult, because crappie prefer clear-to-slightly-stained water.

 

"Last Saturday, we caught 53 crappie, but that was an unusual day," said Neeley, who said the 8- to 10-inch fish all came from brush piles and under docks in 18 to 20 feet of water in Mill Creek and Crowder's Creek. "We've been fishing mostly on the South Carolina side of the lake.

 

"We'd pick up three to four fish per brush pile," Neeley said. "The key to good fishing for crappie right now is when they pull water; that keeps the water pretty clear."

 

Neeley is using crappie jigs tipped with minnows or naked jigs to shoot underneath docks.

 

Earlier last week, Neeley trolled near the mouth of Mill Creek.

 

"I put out 12 rods and trolled 1/16-ounce jigs tipped with crappie minnows in 12 feet of water," he said. "I had to run the trolling motor .9 to 1 mph to keep my jigs and minnows eight to 10 feet deep and above the dingy water because that's where crappie were suspended."

 

However, the catch wasn't all crappie as the first two bites produced 13-pound channel catfish.

 

"Then. I trolled a little shallower, and we caught five largemouth bass, the biggest one 5 ½ pounds, so I reeled up the jigs and minnows a little more and we caught three 18-inch crappie, then three 17 inches long," he said. "Those were 2 ½-pound crappie, really big ones for Wylie."

 

Neeley said one of his friends recently fished the mouth of a creek near the Wylie Dam with a trolling rig and only used No. 2 Aberdeen hooks with split shot and bare minnows and had an excellent day.

 "He said he caught a limit of big crappie," Neeley said. "You don't catch them like that often, especially when the water's 48 degrees, but those crappie have got to eat some time, and if you can be out there and get on them, you can have some fun."