February is one of my favorite times to fish, but I can't think of fishing this month without thinking about how I prepared for this occasion. I usually start in December - yes, December. I make my plans as I wrap up deer season. This also helps me to think "warm" thoughts while out hunting in the "cold."

While many outdoors enthusiasts are sitting in recliners, or taking that "long winter's nap," guides and other fishermen challenge the cold weather, preparing for the spring spawning season during the winter months. We start with the thought process of making "beds" for the fish. We watch the leaves turn brown, then search for the green-leafed trees that would make perfect "beds." The wax myrtle enters our mind, and we carefully groom the trees before putting our plans in action.

Once deer season ends, we move to the second phase of our plan. We set out in our de-winterized boats - you know, you winterize them, then you undo it all in order to fish again - looking for that "sweet spot." We idle over the highs and lows, searching the creek channels as we prepare for our "secret" location. Once found, we mark the area on our GPS units and look for more.

Once we have our spots, we finish up. The limbs of our selected wax myrtles are bound together in careful configurations to present as an area of refuge for the fish we want to attract. We usually tie on some concrete blocks as an anchoring system, and we prepare for the launch date that's etched in our minds.

D-Day is upon us; we set out and place the brushpiles and wait for activity. Within a few days, fish are present, enjoying their new home and calling in the others. With spring just around the corner, this should be a hotspot for the fish.

Kevin Davis, a guide and co-owner of Black's Camp, said, "By placing wax myrtles out in different areas on the lakes, the fish population will improve and help to insure quality fish for the future.

"Due to the low lakes levels for the past two years, much of the habitat and brushpiles have either been destroyed by Mother Nature or by (people) riding (ATVs) below the water line."

Davis feels that in order to help the fish come back strong when the water returns, brushpiles will allow for better reproduction.

It is from this knowledge and preparation that I find spring fishing for crappie to be the best. When summer arrives, these same brushpiles will provide for excellent bream and bass fishing. Not only does putting in brush give me a great opportunity to catch nice fish, it increases the chances that our fish populations will thrive and my grandson will have plenty of fish to target as he gets older.

Fishing the cold

February is a time when practically every day is a day away from music, television and phones. I can usually get a kitchen pass from my wife and go fishing for just about any fish that bites! Most of the time, I have to give her a laundry pass and take her along - no, not for use as an anchor or bait. She enjoys the action the way I do.

Over the past few years, I've caught different species of fish by using crankbaits that weigh a quarter-ounce or less. You can use tiny, ultralight plugs to catch more fish than you ever thought possible. There are all kinds of little crankbaits on the market today - many different shapes and styles are available, giving you plenty of options when faced with practically any kind of conditions.

The best overall rig I use includes a 5- to 6-foot, light-action spinning rod rated to handle 4- to 12-pound test. Longer rods help you make longer casts and cover more water. Your reel should be a small- to medium-capacity model that can hold 100 yards of 6-pound line.

If I could choose only one bait, it would be the little Rebel crawdad. I've caught more fish on that lure than any I've ever fished. My "secret" to use is the Rebel No. 7734 for stained/dirty water. Many fishermen know that Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion will be a little cloudy or stained due to the large amount of rainfall and river in-flow that occurs in February. Your own favorites will emerge as you spend time casting little crank baits in your favorite fishing spots.

Another lipless crankbait for crappie - and one of my favorites - is the eighth-ounce Tiny Trap. I often use it when crappie are suspended around deep ledges, bridge pilings, sunken islands, bluffs and isolated brushpiles. A power-fishing tactic is to lower the lure to the target structure. Reel up slack, and then begin a delicate upward sweep of your rod tip to activate the lure. Once the fish hit, hang on for an exciting ride!

Evidence of Proof

The Santee Cooper lakes have been producing some huge catches of slab crappie in recent years, with large numbers of fish and overall weight of fish. While some anglers think crappie are not as prolific as they were in the past, there ares still plenty of crappie, according to local anglers like guide Inky Davis. Much of the fishing is along the ledges of the humps and channels where old stump rows exist and where brushpiles have been placed. When the spring spawn gets going, fish will flood into the shallows.

Early in the season, when crappie are still holding deep on the drops, fish mostly live minnows or jigs tipped with minnows. Late in the evening, many fishermen like myself will purchase and use the "glow" or "lighted" floats. This allows for a longer fishing day, especially when the sun is still setting at 6 and the lack of daylight makes fishing difficult.

It's for love...

Whether you fish for fun or food, you cannot escape the idea of why you fish. It is for the love and passion you that share with others. Whether you believe it or not this "love" is demonstrated by your sharing of ideas or forecast of how the fish are doing that particular day. So as you get ready to start fishing, don't forget to share it with family and friends.

I not only take February to fish for prespawn fish, I also share the time with my wife, my grandson, my friends and some of my school students. I take others out to share my passion for fishing. I take them to a few locations to catch fish - yes, I keep the secret ones secret; you have to be in the "circle of trust" to fish these areas. Then, after watching their face light up, and snapping pictures of the "big one," I clean up and prepare for the final phase - eating the catch!

So a reminder: don't forget to spend some quality time on the water with your loved ones. After all, February is the "love" month.