With spring looking us square in the face, crappie fishermen everywhere are taking to the lakes for one of the high points of the year for crappie fishing: the spawn!
Water temperatures are nearing the level that ignites the spawn by bringing the crappie in to shallow water. A tip to remember right from the start is that water temperatures should be 62 to 65 degrees for the spawn to ignite, give or take a degree on the warmer side. When you are crappie fishing from March through April, always stay aware of the water temperature. That temperature should be consistent up to about 3 feet in depth. The best tip for location is pea gravel areas with brushy banks if possible. Banks that catch the west and southwest prevailing breeze are always an advantage. The breeze or wind keeps the water a little more stained which keeps light penetration to a minimum. Tip: clear water sends the crappie deeper!
A crappie has a good sense of color perception, so keep a variety of bright jigs in your menu. Black and chartreuse are one of my favorites with a tip of red either on the head or tail. Chartreuse and red are also dynamite combos. My Uncle Jim always said “bright day, bright lure, dark day dark lure”! Tipping a plastic jig with crappie nibbles or a minnow is almost irresistible! I like the Berkley nibbles. Remember, if there are small schools of shad of 1 to 1 ½inches, you can be assured the crappie will be feeding on that size, so keep minnow size consistent with the shad you are seeing. Small minnows are usually the norm.
Locate brushy banks and cedar stands if you have them in your area. Hedge trees and old submerged fence rows are also great habitat for crappie. Ease in to these locations and use the lowest speed possible on your trolling motor to adjust position. Remember that turbulence will scare or “blow” crappie off their cover. This same tip goes for fishing around docks that have beds around them. Use your locator to find the bottom cover then drop right in the brush or just above it. If you catch one then you can bet there are more!
I like to use a 10 foot Wally Marshall rod with an Abu Garcia Cardinal 101i spin cast with 4 to 6 lb P-Line fluorocarbon. With a 10 ft. crappie rod I can pitch over to a tree or brush pile and drop straight down to the desired depth. Once I find that depth I put a rubber band around the spool after I let the line down. This ensures that you get the right depth every time! If the crappie are “on the bank” I will cast to them with a 5 foot ultra-lite rod with 6 lb. test and 1/16 jig for good carrying distance. A slow retrieve will usually draw an aggressive strike during the spawn. Casting is fun when fishing is hot!
Crappie love to suspend right up against a tree trunk or among limbs. They stay on the shady side where there is low light during warmer weather. Tip: drop your jig straight down along the tree trunk or right through the large limbs. I like a 1/16 ounce jig because of the speed it drops. My next choice would be a 1/32. If you want to slow the jig down on the fall and the water has some stain, go to a heavier line like 6 or 8. If you use a 1/32 jig, it will really slow down the fall. Crappie like to strike from underneath the bait most of the time. Remember to use a dip net on the large ones as they have a very thin mouth. Don’t lose that big one, although big ones tend to grow as we retell the experience!
Spring time crappie fishing offers the angler plenty of challenges. Crappie move around a lot with changing temperatures, wind, water clarity, sunlight and available food sources. Pay attention to these variables! As one of America’s tastiest fish and one of the most sought after, why not get out there and share this experience with a first time crappie angler or child, and put some fun food on the table!
Hope to see you sitting over a brush pile….I’ve gone fishing!