By EZ Angler Staff -
Although they might not put up the same kind of fight as a bass or pickerel, crappie still put on a good show and it takes a little know how to get them on the line.
A member of the sunfish family, Crappie are found in most U.S. freshwaters and can average anywhere from 6-11” in length and weigh in the range of half a pound to five pounds. While most of us are in catch and release mode, depending on the waters you fish in, crappie are fantastic eating.
Prep and Post Spawn
Crappie typically spawn in waves as waters hit between 55 and 67 degrees with the months of March through May being the prime time for this pattern. Some of this is also dependent upon where you live in the U.S. During this period crappie often stage near the mouths of the creeks and bays along the old creek and river channels in preparation for the move to spawning areas.
During the spawning stage, crappie activity takes place near the base of vegetation stands, so look carefully for males moving into the shallows near spawning sites and build bowl-shaped nests over gravel, sand and muck. During this time the females will lay their eggs and move to slightly deeper waters while males stay in the shallows and guard the nest. White Crappie tend to stage over the deeper cover whereas Black Crappie will typically stage in shallower water.
Once spawning comes to an end crappie will hit the deeper waters again very close to the vicinity where pre-spawning occurred.
We are EZ Anglers and when hit the water any chance we can. But if you can manage it, between dusk until midnight is a very productive time to catch crappie. Light rainy days have also proven to be great times for crappie fishing.
Crappie love structure and lots of cover and tend to congregate in areas offering down trees, weed beds, stumps and shallow brush. However, this is not a hard set rule. Crappies are great wonders and can be found in the most unsuspecting areas and depths. This of course is dependent on the waters you are fishing. Crappie will utilize shade offered by docks or other floating structures in the summer months, if sufficient cover can’t be found. These areas are also attractive because there is an abundance of food and the water temperature is cooler.
Knowing that crappie lie to hide out in cover that can be closer to the bottom, and old trick same anglers use is to take their watercraft and drag an anchor slightly across the bottom to drag weeds from the main weed bed. This action releases little insects and other bait crappie find appealing while creating a perfect set-up for a strike during the feeding frenzy.
Crappie are not bottom feeders and aren’t necessarily top water predators, they tend to suspend and travel in schools in mid-range. The trick becomes finding the right depth. Once you do identify the right depth and get some activity, stay within that range. Crappie often suspend just outside a structure and drops but maintain the same depth.
Vertical jigging within and as close to objects that appeal to crappie is a common strategy for crappie fishing. The great thing crappie fishing is, honestly, you don’t need fancy lures or full box of ammo to go after these guys. A small hook with a small piece of worm or a 1/32 to 1/16 oz. jighead, which imitates a small minnow when fished properly, will do the trick. Most lightweight lures in your arsenal should be effective.
It should be noted that Crappie tend to prefer live food (minnows, small crayfish or any type of insect) and have even been known to bypass lures that resemble dead food. So make sure your presentation is lively.
Crappie are visual and do target based on motion and color. Natural looking colors such as silver, smoke, gray are good selections for clear water, while white, green, yellow and sparkled are good selections for cloudy waters. You will have to do a little experimenting to see what works best. Change up the color based on the response. Crappie are very responsive to color. If you find the hits you were getting on one color are losing their magic, try fishing a darker or lighter shade of the same color.
A light line should be fished when going after crappie. This helps reduce the amount of activity in the water. And unlike other panfish, crappie tend to be subtle in their strike. A light line helps you sense whether a strike has occurred, outside the obvious movement of the line or bobber you may be using. Lightweight monofilament line, not exceeding 6 pound-test, is advised.
Because of their tendency to avoid a lot of disruption, a nice slow semi-erratic retrieve works well. Let the line fall and upon descent is the most likely time for a strike to occur. It’s best to try and keep some distance and noise levels to a minimum.
Crappie have a very delicate membrane around their mouths, thus the term papermouth, is commonly used to when referring to crappie. Because of this physical characteristic, it’s very easy to tear into their mouths if you are being overly aggressive when setting the hook. You run the risk of damaging the fish while losing it. Set the line tight after setting the hook in order to keep the crappie on the hook. Do not try and rest the hook.
Crappie offer some good fishing, and good eating. Keeping in mind some of these basics should increase you crappie catch.