My friend Charlie Christmas dropped by a few days ago and left me three packages of fresh-caught-and-frozen crappie that were duly appreciated. I have not fished yet this spring, which makes the gift even more appreciated.
Charlie might be the best winter and early-spring fisherman in this locale. He plies his trade mostly in a fine old river run on the Donaldson Point hunting club property. The lake receives floodwater from the Mississippi River at a considerably lower stage than most of my fishing holes and the water has been in and out already. There is always the possibility that it might back in again, but from the looks of the river, I rather doubt it will rise again enough to get in anybody's lake.
This is a rather sad state of affairs for crappie fishermen in our lands behind the levee because it takes a river stage of about 38 feet at Helena, Ark., to give us a new shot of water and fish. One of our formerly good lakes is bone dry, and I'm very much afraid that it will be out for the season. Friends who are fishing the north Mississippi reservoirs (Arkabutla, Sardis, Grenada and Enid) and Moon Lake (Coahoma County, Miss.) say they are catching plenty of nice fish.
Moon Lake has always been a prime crappie lake, and in the past several years has shown a wonderful improvement with the reduction of pollution. As a result, it now offers pretty nice fishing for bream, crappie, bass and catfish.
I more or less grew up fishing Moon Lake. My late Uncle Mabry Dorr had a wonderful clubhouse on its shoreline back when there were hardly a dozen houses on the lake. In addition to a fine house, he had plenty of boats and outboard motors and a floating pier with railing anchored out in the lake about five steps from the "step off" for which Moon Lake was famous. The step off was an almost straight down drop from water about 3 feet deep to as much as 22 feet.
Around the floating pier were sunk great masses of willows and other attractions. Believe me, it drew fish — especially crappie — like a magnet. Bait fish of all kind swarmed in the cover and the sport fish moved in to feed.
In those early days, jigs had not been invented and all of the crappie fishing was done with minnows. In the summertime we fished as deep as 18 or 20 feet, right down in those willows. We caught crappie all through the summer in great numbers.
Stakes were driven out from the pier toward the shore (just about at the point where the step off started). This created a terrific spot for large numbers of big bream. You could sit and fish for crappie until you tired of it and then take up another pole and begin catching bull bream with cockroaches — at that time the choice bait for bream. Crickets had not made the scene commercially although I knew very well that they would take bream — I had often caught a few crickets and tried them with success.
Early in my life, Moon Lake was just about as close to heaven as I wanted to get. Beside good crappie and bream, the shoreline was blessed with huge cypresses, most of them with knees that were fine spots for bass. The first black bass I ever caught on artificial bait was from Moon Lake.
Drifting along the shoreline at dawn would almost always produce plenty of bass, many of them in the 3- to 4-pound range and some that went 5 pounds or better. I fished mostly with bait-casting tackle, using topwater and semi-topwater lures.
Other fishermen used what they called slaughter poles. They were long heavy canes with not more than 2 feet of line on which were tied Buel Spinners — heavy brass spinners with feathered tails. The fisherman dragged a slaughter pole across the top of the water around the cypress knees. Bass went wild for it, and I rather expect that they could still be caught today using this old method.
All things considered, this was a wonderful time and memories of this fine old lake will always be with me.