Once the ice melts and anglers are getting their boats, kayaks and canoes ready for the warm weather and the pursuit of our favorite freshwater pastime, fishing! One of my favorite fish to catch is the panfish most commonly known as the Crappie. Fishing for Crappie is incredible fun for either the experienced angler or those just starting out, and one of the best things about them is that they are so tasty too!
Spring Crappie Fishing
Crappie fishing is very dependant upon knowing where the fish want to be and getting to them at the right time and the right place for a particular time of the year. What is the best time of year to catch Crappie is entirely up to you, but knowing where to fish for Crappie is more of a science. After the Winter ice is gone Crappie like the rest of us prefer to warm up a bit so you may try looking for these fish in shallower areas that tend to warm up quicker as they prepare to spawn. These warmer areas of lakes and bays can create a substantial congregation of fish. Once spawning takes place the females move into the deeper water and the males, after guarding the nest full of eggs also leave the shallows. Since the Crappie spawning rituals take place when the water temps are in the low 60’s, spring Crappie fishing can be done anytime from May until early June.
How to Catch Crappie
Crappie fishing is among my favorite type of fishing as it can be as simple or as specific as you want it to be. My favorite fishing for Crappie in Florida (where Crappie are commonly called Specks) entails using a slip bobber to work the water column with either a small circle hook or jig tipped with a live minnow. My secret weapon is to use a Flirty Girty Panfish Jig tipped with a live minnow. It works like magic! Using small jigs in the 1/32 to 1/8th ounce range should be perfect and like most other fishing the colors depends on what the fish want at that time in relation to water color.
Crappies are very skittish fish so if you are fishing from a boat try your best not to stomp around and make too much noise. Anchor chains being knocked around are definitely a way to chase fish away, as are engine noises. Moving around in a given area by means of an electric motor is advisable. If fishing from a pier try not to dump buckets of water over the side, in other words, shhhh! Ultra light tackle is the way to go with no more than 6 lb test with 4 lb test preferable. If on a pier or bridge go with the 6 lb test as lifting a slab crappie over the rails is a delicate operation.
Bait and Rigging for Crappie
If you are using live minnows, which are my preferred method of catching Crappie, you will be using small live bait so match the hook accordingly. Size 4, 6, or 8 should be fine. Hook the bait lightly through the back near the dorsal fin. Some people prefer to hook minnows through the lip but they don’t swim as naturally or live as long this way. A slip bobber so you can vary the depth and a split shot about 12-18 inches above the bait and you are ready to go. During the colder months I use this type of rig with a Flirty Girty Ice fishing jig tipped with a juicy Waxie or similar insect larvae.
Summer Crappie Fishing
As the water warms up Summer Crappie fishing will require searching slightly deeper and therefore cooler water for concentrations of fish. An electronic fish finder is the way to go when trying to locate fish in the warmer months. If you are not familiar with a particular area this can require covering quite a bit of area in order to find fish. The method I use most frequently is drift over an area while paying attention to the Electronic fish finder. I will put out a few rods with baits suspended at different depths and perhaps cast a jig as well to help locate fish.
Where to Find Crappie
The key to Crappie fishing as the water temperatures rise is locating the fish. I have had most of my best fishing around any kind of structure, whether it’s fallen trees, the pilings of a bridge or even manmade reefs. Look for those places that fish can enjoy cover and shade when Crappie fishing in spring and summer.
The great thing about Crappie fishing in spring and summer is that it can be as simple or as scientific as you want it to be. Once you know the areas to try and have them marked on your GPS you can go back to them and relax watching your Minnow and bobber to their job while sitting back and enjoying the day, or you can work a jig and try to find new spots to fish. Either way, Crappie fishing in the summer is definitely one of my favorite types of fishing, so don’t when the warm breezes start to show up after just get out there and try some spring and summer crappie fishing!