Crappie fishing is a great way to relax in the summer and winter. It’s one of those activities that people can do for fun with the whole family or just by themselves.
Crappie are found all across North America, which means you don’t have to travel too far to find them. They live in freshwater, can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and reservoirs and thrive in densely vegetated brush and moderately acidic environment.
You’ll need some crappie fishing tips before you head out into the water, so here we’ll share some helpful advice on how to catch these delicious fish!
Crappie Fishing Tips by Season
Though crappies are available throughout the year their behaviors vary according to different seasons. As an angler you should be familiar with their patterns so that you can catch more fish in every season. However, it is important to know that the number of fish you catch will also depend on the environment where you wish to carry out your fishing endeavors.
Here are some tips that will come in handy as you fish for crappies in different seasons:
Crappie Fishing in Spring
Spring is the best time of the year to fish for crappies as they are found in abundance at this time. During spring the waters in the lake start getting warm and so they move from the bottom of the lake to shallower waters to spawn. Spawning is referred to as the process in which female fish release their eggs into the water in large numbers.
As crappies move into mouths and bays of creeks, vertical jigging is extremely beneficial in catching large quantities. Crappies remain in shallow water depths for spawning and can be seen around their nests. You should try casting jig heads (1 32 ounce is a good starting weight for a jig), or small curly trail grubs and spinnerbaits to get hold of crappie and retrieve them slowly over the nests.
It is good to bound the jig off the bottom as crappies will head to the deep water once you start jigging.
Crappie Fishing in Summer
From mid-summer to late summer, crappies still feed well, however, they are more difficult to catch as they are no longer in shallower waters. Once the spawning is over, crappies move to the bottom of the water bodies and thus are not easy to locate. So, the trick is to go deep as the fish are usually found 20 to 30 feet below the ground. Docks are a great location to strike from to get those bites from crappie in deep water.
Regarding presentation, you need to change the bait and use tube baits or small crankbaits and a large jig head, e.g. 1 8 ounce. Also, change the direction and speed frequently so that the crappie become curious and bite the bait. If the temperatures are getting to you, consider getting a crappie rod holder to get some rest while not abandoning the fishing.
Crappie Fishing in Fall
The months of September and October are more promising to go for crappies as they feed a lot during fall but can also be extremely aggressive. During this time crappies generally move away from the shallow waters to slightly deeper areas.
In the smaller water bodies such as ponds, crappies will remain close to the weedy cover at around 10 to 12 feet during the summers. Once the shallow vegetation starts dying at the onset of fall, these fish move into deeper waters and are commonly found around 15-25 feet deep in the water.
However, come end of fall, say November and crappie become much harder to catch as they further move to the bottom of the lakes and reservoirs or river beds.
Crappie Fishing in Wintertime
At the onset of winter, the crappies are found suspended in cold deep waters typically 25 to 40 feet below the surface. Crappies generally cling to wood piles and cribs during winter months. You can also locate them in the weeds so keep an eye on healthy weed structures in the water. Use electronic fish finders to target schools of crappie located in deep waters.
In the northern part of the U.S. the water freezes during the winters and ice fishing is a popular outdoor activity. Crappies have slower metabolisms in winters and so they become sluggish and slow. It is easier to catch these cold slower fish in winters as compared to other months of the year when they are very aggressive.
Ice anglers can be very productive if you use the right techniques and equipment, e.g. ice fishing rods and reels.
Fly Fishing for Crappie Tips
Fly fishing is one of the most exciting ways to catch crappies and follows a more conventional approach. It has become more popular among recreational anglers as it offers a fun outdoor activity that is easy to learn.
Fly fishing involves using artificial lures that resemble flies in order to attract crappies and they are then caught using a net or a hook. This technique employs conventional fishing methods where a rod, a fishing line, and a reel are used.
Here are a few important tips that will be helpful as you catch crappies with a fly rod.
Bring your Fishing Equipment
Make sure that you are ready with your fishing equipment and tackle. Do not forget to carry a 72 to 96 inches long rod, a tapered leader approximately 5 inch in length, fly lures, a bobber and a tippet. As for the line, – 30 pound test is best, but any line will work. The heavier the better for crappie fly fishing because they have a tendency to break through lighter ones.
Bring a tackle box to stay organized. We wrote a piece on the ideal rod & reel for crappie fishing. Ensure that you are dressed appropriately for your outdoor expedition.
Get the right lures in your tackle box
Crappies love to feed on flies. Fly lures comprise synthetic flies with small colorful feathers that help in attracting crappies. Make sure that the length of these flies is approximately the length of a finger.
The end of the fly has a treble hook attached to it and it helps in catching the crappie that bite the fly.
The right strike zone
The best strike zone to catch crappie is 18-24 inches from the surface. Attach a bobber to your fishing line, and cast it out into water where you suspect that there are crappies. The movement of the bobber gives an indication as to whether or not you have hooked a fish.
It is good to start fly fishing in smaller water bodies such as lakes so that you can practice how to cast a line, monitor your flies, find the strike zone and test the depths. Learning how to set your jigs is crucial because crappie are intelligent and failing to set the hook at the right time might end up in a disaster.
What is the best technique to catch crappie fish?
Vertical jigging is one of the most effective techniques in catching crappies. Use a fish finder to locate areas where crappies are in abundance and bring your boat or kayak to a halt. Use small fly lures with bright colors such as green and yellow and start vertical jigging.
Make sure to be still and avoid drifting around as the crappie might run away. The shorter rods can be extremely helpful as it enables you to fish just below the transducer. This technique resembles ice fishing but is carried out in open water.
What flies to use for crappie
Minnow are a favorite diet for crappies and so flies resembling minnows are effective. The best patterns are zonker, clouser minnow, a bucktail streamer or a crappie candy. Go for bright colors such as yellow, orange and green as the crappies are instantly attracted to them. Silver and white colors also work well.
As crappies eat a lot of insects, nymph patterns also help in attracting them.
Best crappie fishing times
If you want to get the best catch then it is important to fish during the hours when crappies are most active. Crappies prefer to feed during midnight to 2 am and that’s the best time to get hold of schools of fishes that are busy feeding on insects and minnows.
Also, you can catch a large number of crappies during dawn and dusk as they move to shallower waters in search of food and are more vulnerable at this time.
Ideal Water Temperature for Crappie Fishing
Crappies are found abundantly in temperatures ranging from 50 to 75 degrees. This is an optimum temperature for pre-spawning and so they feed enormously and move around in shallow water depth.
As crappies are constantly searching for food, they can be caught easily within this temperature range. If you want to read more about the ideal temperatures, Midwestoutdoors has a detailed piece on it here.
Crappie Night Fishing
Night fishing for crappies can be very rewarding as these fish are active at night. The first step is to find a lake that has a clear area of more than 500 acres. Make sure that the water has enough debris for the crappie to hide.
The next step is to look for areas within the lake where there are drops in the bottom. This can be figured out with the help of a contour map. Schools of crappies can be located around ridges and river channels. Also, make sure that you have proper light and your gear is ready as you head out for some quality night fishing.
As an angler crappie fishing is a very relaxing and rewarding experience. Follow these simple tips and strategies to fish for crappie like a pro, or continue reading on for specific crappie fly fishing tips.
Good luck and always remember: A bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at the office! 🙂