Last year’s water level was high, but it’s on target this year
Guide Keith Wray, aka “The Fish Doc,” said October is one of the best months to catch big crappie at Kerr Lake along the North Carolina-Virginia line.
“Most fish run from 1 to 1 1/4 pounds. But there’s a good chance of hooking a 3-pound slab,” said Wray. He believes the water level is the key factor in the fall.
“The best fishing occurs with the lake level from 294 to 296 feet,” (it’s currently 297 and falling) said Wray (336-589-9025). “That’s about 4 to 6 feet down, which is the typical drawdown during the fall. But if the lake exceeds that level, the high water spreads the fish out, and there’s so much cover, they’re hard to catch. Last fall was one of the worst for fishing. The lake was about 10 feet above normal because of all of the rain we had.”
Wray said once the water temperature drops into the 60s, crappie move back into the creeks in brush piles in 15 to 30 feet of water. Productive creeks include Butcher, Grassy, Carter and Panhandle.
“Each year, I spend four or five days idling about the creeks to find brush piles,” said Wray. “Finding brush is work. The best brush rises 5 to 10 feet beneath the surface.”
Brush piles and docks are good areas to concentrate
Wray casts 1/16-, 1/8- or 3/32-ounce bucktail jigs on an ultralight spinning rod paired with a 2500 class reel filled with 4-pound monofilament.
“Some fishermen are afraid to use line that small, but I’ve caught huge fish, and not just crappie, with 6-pound line,” Wray said. “You’ve got to learn how to play a fish.”
Wray hand-ties his own bucktail crappie jigs and holds classes on making the jigs.
“I don’t sell the jigs; I just enjoy catching crappie on baits that I’ve made,” he said.
His color choices for Kerr crappie include white, ice blue, John Deere green and baby shad.
If brush piles don’t produce, Wray samples docks in 15 to 25 feet of water.
“Crappie suspend at the docks in about 8 feet of water,” said Wray. “Not all docks hold fish. But you’ll find the crappie stacked at the ones that do.”
Wray prefers fishing in fairly clear water; if the water is being pulled, he said that really triggers the bite.
“If you go online, the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers has a power schedule that tells you when the lake is being pulled and the lake level,” he said.