Finally, the news about the lake is encouraging. The lake has risen several feet over the last month and we are now five feet ahead of last year at the same date. The lake is still not where we would like but at least it is an improvement. Several more boat ramps are now open and a few ramps were extended. After a brutal January, it looks like the fishing is on the upswing. The cold nights in January really dropped the water temperature and hurt the fishing in early January. Some of the backs of the creeks were even covered in a thin sheet of ice.
Stripers: If we continue to get mostly sunny weather in February, look for the water temperature to quickly rise. With the bright sunshine, any stained water will warm faster than the surrounding clear water and the fish will seek the warmer water. The stained water will be up in the creeks. One of the most consistent patterns is casting bucktails in February. Be sure to cast the bucktails right up on the bank. Some of the fish will be cruising tight to the bank line. If the water is stained, go with a 1/4oz. chartreuse bucktail tipped with a chartreuse grub or fluke. If the water is more on the clear side, go with a 1/4oz. white bucktail tipped with an albino fluke or shad body. Remember the water is still cold so keep the retrieve on the slow side. Concerning live bait, free lines tipped with threadfin shad and medium shiners will do the trick. However late in the month, do not be afraid to use a large bait like a 12-inch gizzard shad. The big female stripers will be preparing for the spawning run and looking for a big meal.
Bass: Same as the stripers, the spotted bass will be up in the creeks with the bait. Early in the mornings, some of the big spots will be cruising looking for food right with the stripers. Cast 1/4oz. or 3/8oz. jigheads tipped with smoking shad fluke jrs. or white pearl fluke jrs made by Zoom. The locally made Fish Head Spin is also a good choice as a jighead for the flukes. Another dominant pattern for early season spotted bass is jerkbaits worked real slowly around docks. Work the jerkbaits with a jerk-pause-jerk retrieve. Make sure the pause is long. It is not uncommon in cold water for the pause to be ten to thirty seconds.
Crappie: The crappie fishing is already starting to take off this year. The crappie are already beginning to load up under some of the deep-water docks. Look for older docks that offer plenty of shade. With each passing sunny day, the crappie will move into shallower and shallower water. Small 1/32oz. jigs will be the lure of choice. Some days it is not a bad choice to tip the jigs with a crappie minnow. Be sure to “shoot” the jigs into the darkest corners of the dock and let the jig slowly fall into the darkness. Stained water is a big plus when it comes to crappie fishing. In clear water, the crappie will be very spooky and shut down after just a few bites. If you find yourself fishing in clearer water and the crappie shut down after a few bites, leave the area for thirty minutes and come back and try it again.