Years ago as a public relations employee with the old Georgia Game and Fish Department, the writer taped statewide fishing reports for use by various radio stations.
During the course of each taping, he would tell listeners that "crappie fishing is good" at such-and-such a lake. That remark drew raised eyebrows and lots of chuckles.
Readers may be interested to know that crappie fishing on Thurmond Lake is not only good, it's excellent. Right now.
The Raysville Marina fish house is producing some good catches, with anglers fishing small shiners at varying depths.
The rest of the Raysville area in Georgia's Little River and Big Hart Creek, plus Soap Creek in Lincoln County, are among the hot spots.
Fishermen who troll small jigs or dollflies are catching the most fish. Here's their technique:
Crappie jigs like Wobble-Eyes and Hal-Flies are tipped with small shiners hooked through the lips. The rig is suspended from three to nine feet down beneath plastic slip floats, whose height can be adjusted and the floats locked into place.
The rigs are tried at various depths until the fish bite. Sometimes, fish will hit the minnow-jigs at five feet and quit biting after a time. Raising the float a couple of feet might get them going again.
The trolling power is a boat's electric trolling motor, which moves the rigs quietly through the water. Large outboards just don't troll slowly enough. Sometimes, boats bristle with six to eight rods, but most prefer to catch the fish on either one or two rods, thus preventing horrific tangles when two or more strikes occur at the same time.
-- Congratulations to the Fort Gordon Sportsman's Club's Bob Palagyi of Augusta, whose 2-pound, 14-ounce crappie caught in the post's Butler Reservoir earned a Georgia Department of Natural Resources 1998 Angler Award.
-- Barry Durden of Rocky Ford, Ga., is in 24th place (8 pounds, 6 ounces) and Royce Raley of Thomson, Ga., is in 28th place (8 pounds, 3 ounces) in the BASS Master Eastern Invitational on Lake Logan Martin near Alexander City, Ala. Robert Chapman of Aiken is in 130th place (4-13). David White of Jackson, S.C. is in 261st place (0-14).
-- South Bend's Fishing in America Crappie Tournaments are coming to Lakes Oconee-Sinclair, Santee Cooper and Greenwood.
The Oconee-Sinclair is a two-day tournament (Feb. 26-27), with 10 two-man teams qualifying from each for a trip to the season-ending South Bend Crappie Classic.
For a schedule, applications and more information: 1 (256) 773-9600.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Soap Creek Lodge, Lincolnton, Ga. (Toye & Sue Hill, 1-706-359-3124) -- Gary Williams and Bill Best of North Augusta fishing in Dry Fork off Soap Creek. They caught 15 crappies over brush, five striped bass and seven largemouths. The crappies came on live minnows -- the bass on a ShadRap cast along the banks in 10 feet of water. Billy and Diane Randolph of Augusta caught a limit of large crappies. Bob Rogers and Larry Marty of Martinez caught a 45-pound blue catfish on red wigglers fishing near the Highway 220 Bridge.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington, 1-706-595-5582) -- Elizabeth Waters of Lincolnton caught 14 crappies on small minnows in our fish house. Stan Howell and his party caught 51 crappies and two white bass using trolling little jigs tipped with minnows at varying depths beneath floats. William Hawkins of Thomson caught 30 crappies weighing 1 1/2 to 2 pounds on jigs and minnows in the Raysville. Water is slightly stained, not real muddy. Jim Siegler caught 11 hybrids trolling a blue and silver Rat-L-Trap. None of the fish weighed more than 2 pounds. Mack Walker and Bobby Turner caught 15 crappies -- largest 1 1/2 pounds -- trolling jigs tipped with minnows. Tony Miller of Martinez, bass fishing with a crank bait in Germany Creek, hooked and landed a 53-pound flathead catfish. It took him 45 minutes to land it.
SAVANNAH RIVER, New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle and Finley Peel), 1-706-793-8053 -- Yellow perch, crappies and a few buck shad off the dam. Steve Owens of Augusta limited out on shellcrackers two straight days on Louisiana pinks. Arthur Milligan caught about 20 crappies and three shellcrackers down the river. Fishermen are catching and releasing some striped bass. Celeste and Robert Piazzi caught bass, yellow perch and crappies up the river. The bass weighed 2 to 4 pounds and were caught on a crankbait.
Fishermen are reminded striped bass and hybrid bass cannot be lawfully caught and kept from the river's mouth at Savannah to the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. The moratorium is in effect until at least the year 2000.
MERRY BROTHERS BRICKYARD PONDS
Bill Gibson 1 (706) 722-2980 -- Troy Booker, Jim Burg and family, Gene and Jake Kirkland, Mark Jenkins and Bernard Williams have been catching crappies from the banks of the membership pond on minnows. They're fishing late afternoon to after dark. Payton Davis caught four keeper bass in the Swan Pond on plastic worms. Sara Evans has been catching crappies in the Front Ditch along the road.
FAY & JOANN'S LAKES
(706) 722-8263 -- Evan Wright caught a 13-pound catfish on chicken liver. Stephen Terry caught four crappies weighing 1 1/2 pounds each on small minnows. Billy Matlow caught 9 1/2 -pound, 7-pound and 6 3/4 -pound catfish on herring. Johnny Green caught 10 crappies on small minnows and a 13-pound catfish on liver. James Green caught an 11 1/2 -pound catfish on liver and 12 crappies on small minnows. Lehman Lord Jr., caught five bass weighing 3 1/2 -pounds each and a 1 1/2 -pound crappie on a small jig. Fay Stringfellow caught 10 crappies on small minnows and catfish weighing 10 and 6 1/2 pounds on herring. Billy Williams caught 11 1/2 and 8 pounds on liver and six crappies on small minnows. Jerome Sessions caught a 3-pound speckled catfish on liver. Tim Cox caught an 8 pound, 6-ounce channel catfish on liver.
ATLANTIC OCEAN, BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY, Includes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 -- Offshore bottom fishing results showed marked improvement last weekend with one boat catching 190 pounds of black sea bass, an 18-pound red snapper and four big spottail bass averaging 34 inches. The latter were tagged and released, according to law. All were taken at depths of 90 to 100 feet in the North Hole using squid. Two other boats reported good blackfish catches from the same area. All were using electric bottom recorders to find columns of baitfish under which larger predators tend to congregate.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has confirmed rumors of the first bluefin tuna being caught in shallow waters at the Eagles Nest Reef. Based on its 86-inch length and 56-inch girth, the fish weighed approximately 300 pounds and was caught on menhaden. It was caught on a 4/0 hook and 50-pound-test line. Special federal permits are required to keep bluefin tuna and the fish was released after a 1-hour, 40-minute battle. The boat skipper was Capt. Greg Clark on the IZZY-A out of Hilton Head, S.C., and the fisherman was John Gilliam.
Inshore, speckled trout reports remain strong, particularly for anglers using the Bass Assassin Electric Chicken grubs.
One party fishing near Bray's Island limited out on trout and released 34 others, all taken casting this hot plastic grub.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921. Artificial reefs in our area have been red hot for black sea bass, red snappers, vermillion snappers and others. Best tide for snappers is dead low. Cigar minnows and squid continue to be the best baits.
Bill Babb covers the outdoors for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at 1 (706) 823-3304.