On any list of hot lakes for big crappie, Grenada Lake in northern Mississippi always hits at or near the top. In 2015, Wired2fish.com named the lake near the town of Grenada, Miss. the best crappie lake in the nation. In 2014, Grenada also topped theFishhound.com list of the best crappie waters in North America.
“Grenada Lake is one of the best crappie lakes I’ve ever fished anywhere,” agrees Mike Baker, a professional crappie angler. “It has many crappie in the 3-pound range. It’s nothing to catch a 7-fish tournament limit weighing more than 14 pounds. That’s a good average.”
One of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control reservoirs in northwestern Mississippi, Grenada Lake dates to 1954. The largest lake entirely within Mississippi, Grenada Lake spreads across about 35,000 acres along the Yalobusha River at pool stage. It can produce many crappie topping three pounds with some approaching four pounds. The lake produced at least one slab crappie weighing 4 pounds, 13 ounces!
“Grenada Lake is probably one of the better lakes in the country to catch a big crappie,” adds Keith Meals, a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks fisheries biologist in Oxford. “It produces many 2- to 2.5-pound fish with the biggest crappie in many tournaments often coming in around 3.5 pounds or better. During a crappie tournament in the spring of 2015, a 12-year-old boy brought in a fish weighing 3.92 pounds! Anglers in that one tournament brought in about 20- to 30 fish over three pounds. I’m sure the lake does have some 4-pounders in it.”
Although anglers can catch big crappie all year long at Grenada Lake, the best fishing for slabs naturally occurs in the spring. In early spring, many anglers probe shallow cover with single jigs or live minnows. After the spawn, anglers slowly troll jigs tipped with minnows along major channels. Some holes in the old river channel drop to more than 25 feet deep.
When trolling, many anglers set out several rods varying in length from 8- to 16 feet long and tip each one with several different colored jigs to find out what the fish want that day. Sometimes, they troll with jighead spinners sweetened with live minnows for extra enticement. In the summer, anglers pull these rigs along the drop-off edges on the main channels.
Every fall, the COE draws down Grenada Lake by about 22 feet, leaving about 10,000 acres for winter pool. In the fall, anglers need to keep moving with the changing conditions to find fish, but once they find them, they can usually catch a bunch until conditions change. Anglers shouldn’t expect to catch as many big crappie in the fall as they would in the spring, but people who know how to fish the lake can catch 2- to 3-pounders all year long.
“Each year, the Corps starts to draw down the lake around August 1,” Meals advised. “It’s usually at winter pool around December 1. In the fall, the fish are constantly on the move. If the weather cooperates, the fish are generally concentrated in the standing timber in the upper arms of the lake in late summer or early fall if the water cools enough. Otherwise, they hang out around main lake ledges and humps. During the fall, just because someone finds a bunch of fish one week, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll find fish in the same place the following week.”
When the water starts to fall, fish concentrate in deeper channels and holes near the dam and major river channels. In addition, falling temperatures push crappie toward deeper water. With both crappie and shad concentrated in major channels with little cover other than bottom contours, predatory fish gorge themselves on baitfish to prepare for the coming winter.
“It’s a shallow lake and we lose about 70 percent of the lake area and volume in the winter,” Meals explained. “That concentrates fish in what water remains, but it also reduces the amount of structure available to fish. Grenada has two main arms, the Skuna River and the Yalobusha River. Both arms are good places to fish, but most people fish the Yalobusha arm because it’s a little larger. Both hold good numbers of fish.”
In the winter, many anglers fish the tailrace below Grenada Lake. The old riverbed, full of rocks, logs, treetops and stumps, provides cover for abundant baitfish, which attract big crappie. Regardless of season, anglers should find something to grab a minnow or a jig all year long.
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Top Photo: Toni Collins, a professional crappie angler from Largo, Fla., holds up a crappie she caught while fishing at Grenada Lake, Miss.