I have to admit, I don’t do a lot of fishing outside of bass fishing. But I do have some acquaintances that were nice enough to pass on some tips that can be used this time of year for catching some pretty healthy speckled perch, aka crappie.
A friend of mine who works at Hoppy’s Marine was fishing a crappie tournament this past weekend on the Kissimmee chain of lakes. The weights that some of these teams were bringing in with just five specks was pretty impressive. The best weight was over 8 pounds. That’s better than a pound and a half per speck. I don’t tournament fish for them, but boy, that does sound like good eating-sized speck.
He claimed that most of his better quality fish were coming from just on the deeper side of dropoffs. There are not many spots in the Kissimmee chain deeper than 9 feet unless you run into the canals or river system that link the lakes together. But that’s not where they were catching their quality specks. They fished dropoffs of 2 to 3 feet in the lakes themselves.
They used white or a chartreuse jigs tipped with minnows. He said the biggest trick was to either drift or troll as slow as possible so you could stay in the school once it was located. If you went too fast, you would be out of them quickly and wouldn’t get the number of bites that you should. They fished their baits at about half the depth of the water, but the slow drift was the real key to their success.
I have had the pleasure to witness guys catching specks one after the other while slow-drifting the canal system, pulling in fish that weigh close to 2 pounds and simply loading the livewell. I will never forget one guy I watched. He had a rod in each hand, and as fast as he could get a minnow on his jig, he would haul another speck out of the water. He just left the livewell lids open so he could toss the specks in and not have to get off the deck. It was one of the coolest fishing demonstrations I have ever seen.
I am not a big saltwater guy unless we get a chance to go out and chase some big game fish. But going out and getting a mess of speckled perch when they are biting that well is a lot of fun. I can remember countless times doing that when I was younger. I guess when it gets right down to it, if you want to have a good day fishing, it really doesn’t matter what you are fishing for, just as long as they are biting. After all, catching is way better than wearing out your shoulder casting.
I do know that this is the time of year for quality speck fishing. Everyone I know who lives on a lake or canal is out stacking their freezers full of specks right now. My bass fishing buddy who lives up on Little Lake Harris has been out on his pontoon boat catching them like crazy. When that water temperature drops, they turn on and school up. If you can locate them, you can catch your limit of them in no time.
He also mentioned that a jig-and-minnow has been the best route to catch a lot of them. He’s caught some on soft plastic curlytails, but they just don’t get on them as easy as they do a minnow.
For all you fisherman out there who just want to get bites and bring home some good-eating fish, now is the time of year to start looking into some catching a mess of specks. They are there to be had. Find those little deeper holes out on your favorite lake and see if you can’t fill your livewell with a bunch of tasty crappie.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.