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Chasing the Elusive Shellcracker

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Editor’s Note: The last Friday in April, 2018, I received unbelievable pictures from my friend, fishing guide Tony Adams in Eufaula, Alabama. Tony sent me pictures of giant shellcrackers (redear sunfish), crappie that were longer than a 5-gallon bucket, and catfish that weighed from 10 to 30 pounds. “This is it!” I told Adams when I called him. “Now’s the chance to catch the Lake Eufaula trifecta of delicious-eating fish – shellcrackers, crappie and cats. I’ll leave on Monday, and we’ll slay them.” But I forgot what a good friend of mine once told me many years ago. “A fishing report is history and  tells you what’s happened yesterday. But it in no way influences what will be happening tomorrow or next week.”

Shellcrackers are much like bass in that the big females come in to spawn at a certain time of the year. If you’re on the water and find the female bass, you may be able to catch a bass of a lifetime. Shellcrackers are the same way. They usually spawn about a month before the bluegills do, and three or four days on either side of the full moon at the end of April or the first of May. So, my trip to Eufaula would hit on the second day after the full moon. By all accounts, this should be perfect timing to catch those big shellcrackers. On Saturday, Adams sent me more pictures of him and a friend of his, Monica, with some paper-plate-size shellcrackers. In those pictures, he also sent me pictures of 10-other boats fishing the same shellcracker beds they were fishing.

On the way to Eufaula on Monday, the last day in April, I called Adams, and he reported, “A friend of mine found a shellcracker bed yesterday morning just at daylight. He caught his limit of 50 shellcrackers before he had to go to work. Since he won’t be able to fish that bed until next week, he’s told me where we can go, and the size of shellcrackers we can expect to catch when you arrive.”

When I arrived in Eufaula on Monday afternoon, April 30, we loaded up in the boat with a 5-gallon bucket filled with 1,000 red worms that Adams had bought. He’d been feeding them corn meal all week long to fatten them up. We went right to the spot where Adams’ friend had caught his limit of monster shellcrackers the day before. We fished until dark, and we only caught one average or below average shellcracker. However, the weather had turned cold, and I’m sure that other fishermen already had found this shellcracker bedding area and cleaned it out. One thing I learned about shellcrackers on Lake Eufaula was when the shellcrackers started going to the bed, everyone who lived on or near the lake or knew someone who lived on or near the lake would turn out to fish shellcracker season.

Adams told me the shellcrackers were delayed from their normal spawning time this year for two reasons – cold weather occurred off and on the usual week of bedding season, and large rainstorms had hit upriver during the week of bedding season. When those two elements mixed with heavy fishing pressure, if you caught even one shellcracker, you’d beat the odds.

You can contact Tony Adams at 334-688-7505, or [email protected]. He also has a Facebook page

While in Eufaula, I stayed at Lakepoint Resort in the Alabama State Park (, where the rooms have views of the lake, and the food is delicious. Contact the sales director, Sone Kornegay, at 334-687-8011 to learn more. Email [email protected] to learn more about Alabama Black Belt Adventures which cover fishing at Lake Eufaula.

To learn more about fishing for catfish, go to and for crappie, For free copies of “The Catfish Catcher’s Cookbook” and “The Crappie Catcher’s Cookbook,” visit

Tomorrow: Learning the Secret to Catching Big Catfish on Jugs

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