Fishing Ohio River
This is part three of a 3-part series on spring fishing hot spots for crappie. Read Part 1, catching crappies in Cabin Creek and Part 2, catching crappies in the Carrollton KY area.
The McAlpine Locks and Dam is at mile 606.8. That’s right in the heart of Louisville and right in the heart of some really good crappie fishing. The best fishing extends from a short mile upstream to a long mile downstream from the main dam. Catches of 100 fish a day, or more in some cases, are common from late March through the first part of May.
There really aren’t one or two good spots to highlight here. It’s a patchwork of swirling water around scores of rock piles, humps, old dam structures, drift piles and manmade structure in the area. Launch your boat at one of the public or private ramps in the area and look for a fishy spot. Then go to work.
Traditional fishing methods produce best if you want to catch high numbers of fillet size fish. A small minnow, hung under a bobber and held down with a tiny split shot is about all it takes. Toss it out and let it drift with the current around the area you have chosen to fish.
If you’re willing to settle for a handful of bigger crappies try small jigs, twister tails or tiny in-line spinners. They all catch the bigger fish. Bright, shad imitating colors seem to work best. The area is snag infested so take along several and fish with heavy line if you plan to fish all day.
Regardless of what you’re looking for, however, keep in mind that these are river fish. They behave differently than their reservoir brethren. Forget that important fact and you’ll likely go home empty handed.
First, and perhaps most importantly, they don’t school by size. In fact, they really don’t school at all. They’ll bunch up in certain places at certain times but it’s misnomer to call that grouping a school. They’re more accurately described as individual fish holding in a favorable place under favorable conditions.
As such, it’s likely that you’ll catch a couple of good ones from a spot and then the size will go to heck or the bite will drop off completely. When that happens move to another spot and come back later. The bite is likely to be better if you let the spot rest for a few minutes.
Why they do this, remains a mystery known only to the fish. Maybe they turn off or maybe they move in and out, plenty of anglers will argue either side. Whatever the reason, a short rest is often an effective stringer filling strategy.
Second, they won’t often be found in deep water. They hold shallow — many times in water less than 6 inches deep — and generally don’t move regardless of changes in the weather. When the bite gets tough it’s not because they have moved, it’s because they aren’t biting.
A word of caution is in order here. This is a place of swift and unforgiving currents. They change direction and intensity on a moments notice. They can be deadly. Don’t fish in this area if you are an inexperienced river boater, remain vigilant at all times and never — not for any reason — remove your life jacket.