Cold weather is often difficult in freshwater because many fish species go into a lockdown mode as their metabolism slows. Not so for crappie, and not at Jordan Lake.
Jordan Lake, which suffered through a downturn in crappie sizes and numbers after a 2011 fish kill, still remains one of the venues in North Carolina venues for winter crappie.
One of the Triangle-area’s top crappie angler is Durham’s Rod King, who has won dozens of tournaments. However, he still “fun fishes” when he has some free time.
“We went … to Jordan and did well at the pilings and out in the channel,” he said.
The “channel” is the New Hope Creek arm of the lake from Ebenezer Recreation Area to Farrington Bridge, a distance of about eight miles, and the pilings include those at the US 64 Bridge and Farrington’s span.
“I think with it getting colder, it’ll draw those fish into the channel,” he said. “When we were there, they were on the flats near the drops in 12 to 16 feet of water, but they should move into the channel, if they haven’t already.”
For deep winter crappie, King uses a double-drop rig that includes a 1/16-ounce crappie jig tied directly to the line and a 1/8-ounce jig with a live minnow about 18 inches below the top jig.
“We just slow-trolled around until we found the fish,” he said. “We put out several rods at different depths until we found them.”
King said he had success by using chartreuse jigs on that sunny day. When it's cloudy or before the sun comes up, black, pink or orange colors work best.
“We tie the top jig right to the line, because when the water’s cold, you don’t get a hard bite, and you want to be able to detect a bite as soon as a fish hits the jig,” he said.
King said if crappie follow a normal winter pattern as the water cools, they’ll suspend 17 to 20 feet from the surface in the 25-foot deep channel.
“What you look for are deeper pockets in the channel,” he said. “If you have a good depth finder, you also can see them in the trees. If they’re suspended over the trees, they’re in a feeding mode; if they’re in the trees, it’s harder to get them to bite.”
King said he and a partner caught 30 fish during their trip, including a dozen keepers with the largest 1¾ pounds, one weighing 1½ pounds and the rest 1¼ pounds.
“We fished probably from daybreak to 1 p.m.,” he said. “The colder it is, the better the bite will be in the afternoon when it’s the warmest part of the day.”
Jordan’s crappie regulations include 20 fish per angler with a minimum length of 10 inches.