One of the best crappie lakes in southern Alabama, William “Bill” Dannelly Reservoir came in at No. 27 on the Fishhound.com list of the best crappie waters in the nation.
Better known as Miller’s Ferry Lake, the impoundment covers 27,280 acres in Dallas and Wilcox counties. A part of the Alabama River system, the lake offers anglers about 500 shoreline miles. This includes about 105 miles of the old river channel between the Millers Ferry Dam northeast of Camden and the Robert F. Henry Dam about 15 miles east-southeast of Selma.
“Millers Ferry Lake is one of the best crappie fishing destinations in southern Alabama,” proclaimed Dave Armstrong, an Alabama Division Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries biologist. “The lake generally produces good numbers per angler trip. In surveys we’ve done, about 15 percent of the crappie we collect in Millers Ferry Lake are 12 inches long or longer with some in the 15- to 16-inch range. We tagged a 14.75-inch white crappie near the Millers Ferry Marina.”
Millers Ferry Lake dates to 1970 and provides abundant cover for crappie. Many brush piles, fallen trees, drops and other structure hold fish. Scan with electronics to locate any good cover. Some of the best action occurs along the old river channel. Over the years, currents scoured deep holes at the outside edges of channel bends. These currents also deposited logs and other debris into these holes to make even more crappie cover.
“Miller’s Ferry is a good crappie lake,” seconds Joe Dunn of Dunn’s Sports in Thomasville, Ala. “We catch some 1.5- to 2-pound crappie just about every time we go. Occasionally people catch some 3-pounders. Electronics plays a biggest part in finding crappie at Miller’s Ferry. People need to find structure and get down in it. I like to fish submerged tops in 16- to 25 feet of water.”
Anglers frequently catch the biggest crappie during the coldest months. When temperatures drop, crappie congregate in deeper holes. After finding a honey hole, anglers might pull large slabs from it for weeks. In cooler weather, the best fishing typically occurs along the rock walls and ledges from the marina to Mill Creek.
“Starting about October all the way until late February, crappie stay in the main river channel,” Dunn explained. “The Rock Wall by Alligator Slough in the Cotton House area is always a good place to fish. I like to just idle down a bank using my depth finder to look for stuff before I even start fishing. When I find something, I throw out a buoy. If we bounce baits in structure two or three times and don’t get a bite, we need to move elsewhere. Either the fish are there or they’re not.”
After finding a potential sweet spot, anglers can use a trolling motor to move the boat around sunken brush piles or treetops to find the right spot. Vertically probe all sides of available cover. Fish might position themselves on one side or the other.
In cold water, many people prefer jigs sweetened with live minnows. Tie a 1-ounce sinker at the bottom of the line. About 18 inches up from the sinker, tie a jig or No. 2 Aberdeen hook. Some people add a second hook on a loop coming off the main line about 18 inches higher than the bottom hook. Some people set up several rods at different depths and bait them with various enticements to determine the most productive waters and temptations for that day.
“We catch some of the biggest crappie by bottom-bouncing structure,” Dunn said. “I like to use both jigs and minnows. Color helps, too. I play around with different colors to see what fish want, but I like blue with some chartreuse or electric chicken when the water is clear. Popsicle is another hot color for the past few years. It’s kind of a bluish purple with some pink.”
At first, drop the bait all the way to the bottom. In cold water, don’t create much additional action. Just the swimming minnows and perhaps the natural rocking of the boat should provide enough movement. If nothing hits at the bottom, raise the bait up a couple feet at a time to find the best depth.
Many anglers add a little extra enticement by slipping Berkley Power Bait nibbles or similar flavor and scent pellets on the hooks. These “crappie candies” come in several bright colors and could tempt even the fussiest fish.
For fishing reports, call Dunn’s Sports at 334-636-0850 or visit its Facebook page.
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