It began as a trickle four weeks ago, but now the crappie spawn is coming in waves each day at the Raleigh-Durham area’s top big reservoirs: Jordan, Falls of the Neuse and Shearon Harris.
“Crappies are moving into and out of shallow water for the spawn really good right now,” said guide Freddie Sinclair of Apex, who fishes all three lakes. “It’s the same at Harris as it is at Jordan and at Falls.”
Sinclair is longlining, trolling 1/48-ounce crappie jigs or leadheads tipped with live minnows.
“I started out trolling painted jigheads with curlytail soft plastics such as Triple Ripples, Kahlin jigs and hair jigs,” said Sinclair (919-219-2804). “Then at Jordan, I started using plain lead jigheads with live minnows, and we caught more with that setup.”
Sinclair is finding crappie in the backs of creeks, in coves with channels and on spawning flats, as those places contain woody laydowns where most female crappies prefer to deposit their eggs.
Some of the crappie Sinclair is catching have been slabs, including dozens of 1 ½- to 1 ¾-pounders, a few 2-pounders and a 2-pound, 9-ounce monster he landed that captured big-fish honors during a local tournament two weeks ago.
Falls Lake has some magnum-size crappies, although not as many as Jordan, while Harris fish are slightly smaller.
“Crappies are anywhere from 2 to 7 feet deep right now at all these lakes,” said Sinclair, who trolls a dozen rods at the same time, the famed “spider-rig” set-up, so Sinclair must avoid extremely shallow water in order to dodge hang-ups.
“When I long-line troll, I cast baits and jigs out 25 to 30 feet from the boat and move fairly fast, from .7 to 1 mph,” he said.
That speed keeps his lures no deeper than 5 feet but above potential snags while they remain in the strike zone for spawning and spawned-out fish.
“I’m catching crappies moving back and ones that are going toward the banks,” he said. “And most of those fish are the bigger females because the smaller males already have moved shallow and are staying there, trying to attract the females.”
Sinclair said black crappie began to move toward the three lakes’ spawning areas when their water temperatures reaches “54 or 55 degrees, and now it’s in the mid- to high-60s. In one Jordan cove recently, the water temperature had climbed to 68 degrees.”