River Hotspots for Southern Indiana Papermouths


Imagine for a moment that you have found a real hotspot in one of your favorite fishing holes. Since early morning, the crappies have been biting like crazy. You don’t need to worry about anyone else crowding in on your spot, though, because there is no one else around to see that you are catching fish one after another. In fact, you haven’t seen another person or another boat all morning! Is this just a dream? It’s no dream if you like to fish for crappies in Indiana!

Where can you fish for crappies around here and not see another fisherman all day? The simple answer is in our rivers and river systems. Indiana abounds with good places for crappie fishermen to pursue their favorite fish. Although many of our natural lakes and huge reservoirs are excellent places to fish for crappies, the rivers are the best places to “get away from it all” and get back to nature.

The fishing can be surprisingly good, too. As more and more anglers choose to look for crappies in the state’s rivers and small creeks, they find that in addition to less-crowded waters, there are also literally miles of places to try their luck. If one creek or section of river is unproductive, there are plenty of others to choose from.

Don’t be fooled, though. Not all rivers provide fabulous crappie fishing. Even the waters that do hold good populations of white and black crappies are not productive along every stretch of the river. An excellent place to start your search is the Ohio River and some of its smaller creeks and tributaries.

Ohio River

Southern Indiana is home to some of the best river crappie fishing in the state, and the Ohio River is undoubtedly the best of the best. Tim Gibson from Paoli is one southern Indiana crappie fisherman that spends time on the Ohio. “The Ohio River itself has got some real good crappie fishing in it,” Gibson said. “Look for small eddies and pools out of the main current. You can find crappies wherever there are brush, logs and timber laying in the river.”

Gibson spends most of his time fishing nearby Patoka Lake, but he also heads to the Ohio when he gets the chance. “When you find an island that has logs or timber laying on it, it is well worth hitting for crappies,” he said. Gibson likes fishing around the river’s islands because deadwood and sticks congregate on them from the force of the current. “Fish behind and around the logs and logjams,” he continued. “Pull your boat right up next to them, and use a jig or a minnow under a float.”

One of the things to remember when fishing out on the main river is that the current usually dictates where the fish will be holding. Find some structure and then fish in and around it. Crappies often hold tight to cover when the current is strong. If there is not much current, they may be swimming anywhere around the logs and timber.

Oil Creek

Oil Creek near the small town of Derby in Perry County is one of many tributaries to the Ohio River. Oil Creek and Little Oil Creek represent so much fishable water, however, that they are a destination unto themselves for many serious crappie fishermen in the area.

One local angler who has spent years exploring the waters around Derby is Phil Junker, a lifelong fisherman and river lover. Junker lived about two blocks from Oil Creek for decades, and he fished it regularly. “You’ll find that the creeks, like Oil Creek for example, are filled with wood,” he said. “There are still trees, or what’s left of trees, rotted off at the water’s edge. When they raised the water level, they flooded the trees. Generally, you’ll find the crappies around the trees and along the shoreline, particularly in the spring.”

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As the creek gradually warms in March and April, crappies move into shallower water. Junker reported that sometimes the crappies in Oil Creek move into one or two feet of water, and you can find them right up in the brush along the shoreline. “They are often somewhat scattered at those times,” Junker said. “Usually, you’ll find if they are schooled-up they are in slightly deeper water.”

One of the nice things about Oil Creek is that it runs through sections of the Hoosier National Forest, so you feel isolated when you get upstream a bit. Timber and stumps are everywhere. The creek bed itself is in about 10 feet of water, so if you stay in the channel you won’t have to worry about hitting a stump with your motor. “It’s good fishing here,” said Junker, “but it’s not the place to go racing along in your boat. There are stumps just below the surface that you can’t see if you’re not careful.”

There always seems to be a brownish tint to the water in Oil Creek, but it’s not from oil. It is most likely from the decaying wood and leaves laying beneath the surface. Due to the murky water, many crappie fishermen prefer to use chartreuse jigs that show up better than neutral colors. Black and dark blue work well, too, since they contrast sharply with the stained water.

Bear Creek

Bear Creek near Rome is another crappie hotspot along the Ohio that should not be overlooked. Although it is much smaller than Oil Creek or other popular embayments like Deer Creek and Poison Creek, the fishing here is extremely good.

Tim Gibson said that Bear Creek is one of his favorite places to fish along the Ohio. “It’s a small creek, but it has good crappie fishing,” he stated. “Out of all of the creeks, I like Bear Creek the best for crappies. It’s a shallow creek going in, but in the spring I have really caught some nice crappies in there.”

Bear Creek actually forms a small lake upstream a bit. As long as the water is up, you can get a boat back in there off the river. If the water is low, you can’t easily access it from the river. However, there is a boat ramp on Bear Creek off of the county road, so you can still get a boat to it and do some crappie fishing.

Phil Junker also fishes Bear Creek. He reports good action. “It has produced some awfully good crappie fishing for me in the spring,” he said. “Some days you go there and don’t catch as many, but other days you can catch your limit easily (25 crappies).”

There are certainly many other creeks and rivers around the state where Hoosiers can catch a limit of crappies. There are literally dozens of other feeder creeks just on the Ohio River alone. Do a little exploring on your own or try one of the waters mentioned here. Once you experience the solitude of river crappie fishing (not to mention the hot action), you may never go back to the crowded lakes and reservoirs!