Swamp Things

Hubcap-sized crappies are only a cast away.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

The little oxbow lake lies deep in the heart of one of America's last great swamps. Reaching it isn't easy. You have to motor many miles up the adjacent river, secure your boat, clamber to the top of the steep bank and follow a dim path through a quarter mile of swamp to the lake's edge. Watch your step on this last stretch. Chances are a cottonmouth will show you how it got its name.

At the lake's edge is an old johnboat pulled up on shore. No one knows who owns it. The boat is there for whoever comes along.

Carry a paddle, a cane pole and a few jigs. Push the boat to open water, and work a jig around the centuries-old cypress trees surrounding the lake. Soon you'll find your quarry: crappies the size of hubcaps.

Only rarely do I visit this isolated lake. When I do, I go alone. The friend who first took me there made me promise I would never reveal its whereabouts. But I'll give you some tips on finding your own lake. Begin by looking around large swamps such as the Great Dismal in North Carolina or the Okefenokee in Georgia. The key word is "large." Remote lakes by definition are surrounded by expanses of backcountry. Fortunately, many such waters still exist around these swamps.

Isolated lakes offer rare treasures. Solitude. Abundant wildlife. Incomparable beauty. And crappie fishing at its best.