How to Cash in on Summer Boat Docks (Part 2)
In this two part series, the B’n’M pros tell you all you need to know about finding and fishing boat docks to catch summer crappie
By Phillip Gentry
Last time, the B’n’M pros discussed a great tactic for catching crappie during the summer – shooting boat docks. Of course, summer is not the only time crappie will gather under boat docks, In fact, boat docks are some of the most reliable single pole fishing structure to be found on many lakes year round.
When the B’n’M pros say “fish” boat docks, they’re not talking about fishing around the structure or near the structure, they’re talking about fishing under it. However, not all boat docks are going to hold fish in numbers or even hold fish at all.
Before heading out to shoot boat docks, Muscle Shoals, AL crappie guide Brad Whitehead said anglers need to understand that not all boat docks are created equal.
“Boat docks come in two basic styles – floating docks and piers or pier docks,” said Whitehead. “The big difference is a floating dock has little or no support structure attached to the bottom. A pier dock has vertical and more often than not supplemental diagonal and horizontal supports, for stability. The two styles of docks fish differently.”
Although it’s a hard choice, Whitehead said his favorite would have to be a floating dock.
“I really like a floating dock because there’s nothing under it to get hung up on,” said Whitehead. “Pier docks are a little more aggravating because cross bars and vertical supports will snag your jig. The floating docks are a little easier to shoot just because they can be a little bit higher off the water sometimes.”
You can often tell what may be a good boat dock from its outward appearance, but the one crucial aspect for summertime fishing is having enough depth.
North Carolina –based B’n’M pro staffer Mike Parrott said he often finds the most crappie over deep water in the summer and winter. He’s talking depths of at least 20 feet and as much as 60 of 80 feet.
“These fish won’t be on the bottom, but they like that depth under them and then they suspend underneath the boat dock,” said Parrott. “Having that cushion of deep water helps them find the water temperature they prefer at those times of year – whether that be warmer or in the summer – cooler water.”
It’s for that same reason that Parrott likes to fish marina boat docks. He said the depth under the first slip might be in 10 – 12 feet of water and it might drop away to over 100 feet on the far end.
“That gives the fish the option of moving up or down in the water column as well as moving side-to-side,” he said. “On my lakes, there are always going to be crappie under marina docks, you just have to find them.”
Pro staffer Russ Bailey prefers bright sunny days for dock fishing as the sunlight congregates crappie into the shade.
Brush Pile Fishing TV Show Host Russ Bailey explains that the secret to finding congregations of crappie under boat docks any time of year is to have ample sunlight to push the fish deep under the docks.
“I’ve never done as well shooting docks anywhere I’ve fished if the sun wasn’t out,” said Bailey. “It makes sense that crappie will move out away from structure at night or in low light times of day or on days when it’s cloudy or overcast, but when it’s bright and sunny and relatively calm, because that affects light penetration too, they’ll head for boat docks.”
Don’t overlook marina docks, where legal, as these structures typically have all the right ingredients in one place.
Most anglers believe that structure under or around a boat dock is the most important aspect of finding a good boat dock, but that isn’t always the case.
“If I had to pick the most important feature of a boat dock to fish for crappie, it isn’t structure, it would have to be how close it is to deep water” said pro staffer Mike Walters. The truth is, if the dock isn’t located in the right area, depth-wise, all the structure in the world isn’t going to change a bad location into a good spot.”
Having said that, anglers can often tell if a boat dock is likely to have any structure under it at all based on the way it looks from above. A good boat dock will have tell-tale signs like rod holders, lights and as Walters stresses, good water depth underneath.
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