So every year, before deer season in Oklahoma is over, I get the itch to go fishing. Happens around the first of the year, every year. I generally hit up some heated docks or catfish from the bank for Blues. At this time of year, it’s still a little early for White Bass Fishing.
Heated Fishing Docks in Oklahoma
This year, I decided to fish for Winter Crappie at Belle Starr Marina’s heated dock. There are several places in Eastern Oklahoma that have heated or enclosed docks for Winter Crappie fishermen.
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Some of the ones that come to mind besides Belle Starr Marina are Eufaula State Park Marina, Hudson Lake Marina, Green Leaf State Park, Cypress Cove Marina on Fort Gibson Lake and I believe there is a heated dock on Grand Lake at Lee’s Resort.
So I head out and stop along the way to get minnows. In Winter, I usually prefer smaller minnows and jigs, but this time, the only thing the bait shop had was larger ones. Hey, you take what you can get this time of year!
I arrived at about 9 a.m. Most heated docks charge you to fish. Here at Belle Starr’s heated dock, it costs $5 a day. It works on an honor system. They have a lockbox where you pay. You fill out an envelope with your name and date and slip $5 into the envelope and slide it into a slot in the lockbox.
Belle Starr Marina’s Heated Dock on Lake Eufaula
Warning: Some Marina’s are closed during the Winter. While the heated docks are open. So be sure to check before leaving if you plan on buying bait, tackle, food or drinks from the Marina. Belle Starr Marina was closed and as I understand it from a few of the locals, it’s that way until Spring. I had contacted them on their Facebook page about whether they carried minnows because I saw they were posting pictures on Facebook about full parking lots and biting Crappie, but they never responded.
As far as I can remember, this heated dock on Lake Eufaula is one of the largest. It’s been many years since I was at this one or the one at Eufaula State Park.
Belle Starr’s heated dock has 4 open bays for you to fish from on the inside. You can also choose to fish on the outside as well.
On this day, the weather was beautiful. Forecasted highs were supposed to be in the upper 50’s to low 60’s. When I arrived there, I got to talking to some guys on the outside and decided to set up shop on the outside.
In my mind, there are two things that make for a really great heated dock. One is water depth, especially in Winter. If the dock is in shallow water, it will be hard-pressed to attract Crappie until Springtime. Belle Starr’s heated dock is in fairly deep water. The slips I fished were at least 18 feet and probably more around 20 plus feet deep. That’s good for Eufaula!
The other feature I judge a heated dock on is the amount and age of the brush they have sunk around it. Belle Starr has lots of brush at all depths. I’m not sure how old it is, but I would guess it’s within 12 to 18 months old. Crappie love all that brush!
Fishing Techniques for Heated Docks
When I arrive at a heated dock, I typically start fishing with jigs. I prefer to use jigs if the Crappie are biting on them. I think you can catch them faster on jigs rather than minnows. I use a double drop rig, with jigs about 12 to 18 inches apart.
In Winter, I go small for Crappie on Eufaula. My bottom jig is usually 1/16th and my top jig will be a 1/32nd jig.
To get started, I like to drop my jigs down to the bottom and then slowly roll them back to the top. I count how many turns of the reel handle it takes for them to reach the top. This helps me to get a feeling for how deep I am.
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I want to find brush. Once I’ve found brush, I let my jigs down and then ever so S.L.O.W.L.Y. start working the jigs up. I want to feel the jigs crawl over the brush. And when I say slow, I mean super slow!
I keep counting the turns of my reel. If I tend to get bit at 5 turns of the handle, then I know once I’ve turned the handle at least 7 times, I’m out of their range and it’s time to roll it to the top.
Minnows or Jigs, Which is Best For Winter Crappie?
I generally fish with jigs for an hour or so. If the bite is slow or dead, I will switch over to a double minnow rig.
Without fail, most of the times I will catch more Crappie on minnows than jigs. There have been a few exceptions, but for the most part, this is true 98% of the time.
When I tie on my double loops for minnows, I leave a tag end hanging off the bottom loop. Usually around 6 to 10 inches long. On that, I place a small split shot weight and smash it closed with pliers. I do this so that if my weight gets hung up in the brush, it will slide off the line with just a little bit of pressure. This saves my hooks!
Above the hooks, I use a slip bobber with a sliding bobber stop. You may be fishing 5ft deep one day, and 18ft the next, so you want to be able to adjust your bobber to find the fish.
What Are The Best Jig Colors for Winter Crappie?
On Lake Eufaula, at least from midlake on South, you’ll be hard to beat black and pink jigs. The water is typically murky and dark colors usually rule. I’ve also done very well with black & chartreuse and black & blue jigs.
Feast or Famine With Heated Docks
Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to either kill them on heated docks or not. On this day, it was not. When I arrived at the heated dock, the parking lot was full. By noon, I was the only one left. People on the inside and outside just weren’t catching many fish.
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I fished from 9 til 5:30 and ended the day with 5 Crappie. The largest one was a toad and came in just shy of 2 pounds. The next largest weighed 1.5 pounds and the others were your typical 10 to 12 inch fish.
Those big Lake Eufaula Crappie nearly made it worth the 1.5 hour drive! Actually, any day I can get out and go fishing is worth it, I just wish I had brought back a lot more!
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