- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - From Grenada to Eagle to Neshoba, crappie are moving in shallow to spawn. And they are big.

At Grenada Lake, often considered to be the best crappie lake in the nation, anglers are regularly pulling out three-pounders and competitors in a recent Magnolia Crappie Club tournament witnessed some of their heaviest weights ever.

“That was crazy, man. I’ll tell you what,” tournament director Terry Stewart said. “We’ve never seen anything like that.

“It was unbelievable. We’ve never seen so many three-pounders. We’ve had some three-pounders in a tournament, but to have 13? That was just crazy.”

The total weights were just as wild. “We had nine places over 18 pounds,” Stewart said. “I’ve seen 17-pounds win it at Grenada. We were shocked.”

MCC only allows teams to weigh in seven fish, so many anglers were averaging close to three pounds per fish.

Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks biologist Keith Meals wasn’t shocked.

“We had unusually high water levels in ‘09 to ‘10 over the winter,” Meals said. “We had abnormally high numbers of fish that survived.”

Meals said the spawn in 2009 was very successful, and the following winter’s high water prevented large numbers of fish from being pushed through the spillway. Now those 2009 fish are showing up as trophy-class slabs.

“Those 2009’s are hitting three pounds,” Meals said.

At Neshoba County Lake near Philadelphia, the big-fish bite is turning on as well.

“It started about two weeks ago,” lake manager Chuck Hazelwood said. “I’m not seeing a lot of fish, but they are big.”

One angler recently finished his day with a dozen slabs, two of which were black crappie that weighed 2.8-pounds each.

“I’m sure there are some bigger ones out there, but that’s what I’ve seen so far,” Hazelwood said.

“We’re talking 15- to 16-inch fish, and they’re thick.”

Holding a male and female caught at Eagle lake, Carol Bethany of Vicksburg was impressed by the massive crappie being caught early this spring.

“They seem thicker to us than they did last year,” Bethany said. “They’re some big females, and they’re just oozing.”

The “oozing” Bethany referred to were eggs coming out of some of the pot-bellied white crappie she and her husband had caught, indicating the spawn has begun at Eagle. The location of the fish told the same story.

“They’re biting,” Gerald Bethany said. “They’re by the trees - that real shallow water by Float Row.”

Bethany said focusing on vertical structure in about three feet of water with jigs six inches off the bottom was working for him and his wife, but the bite was early and light. It is a pattern that many other anglers have keyed in on as well.

“It’s getting better and better, but there’s just about a fisherman for every tree,” Bethany said. “With the sunshine and warm weather, they’re coming from everywhere.

“A gentleman … told me I should’ve brought my own tree.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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