It is no secret that outside of spring, crappie can be rather tough to catch. However, you can still have lots of fun fishing for them in summer, fall and winter. You just need to know where to find them, how to anticipate their moves, and how to catch them. You need to have all this information at your fingertips before you head out. This article is going to help you do just that. Here are a few tips on crappie fishing to help you catch your limit every time you go fishing, regardless of the season!
HOW TO FIND THEM EVERYTIME
If you want to find crappie every time, you need to be aware of a few predictable patterns that they follow according to the different seasons:
- Spring: Crappie spawn in spring. They are usually very numerous during this season, which makes the entire fishing experience lots of fun. They can be caught in as little as 2 ft of water if you know where to find them. It takes little effort and skill to fill your stringer during the spring, and it is also the most fun time of year to crappie fish!
- Summer, late fall and winter: During summer and winter (also late fall), the crappie will usually go deeper to get away from the harsh weather and the elements up top. Temperatures are a lot more stable in the deep, and crappie love stable temperatures. They can be a challenge to catch but as long as you locate them, you should do well.
- Early fall: Early fall can be quite a challenging period for crappie fishing. They are usually very scattered all over the water. Try to find them in 8 to 15 feet of water. On warmer days, search for them in the shallows. On cold days, look deeper. This is where most people struggle to catch crappie. Try different depths and multiple locations. The good news is that once you find one, more will be nearby.
When you are armed with this information, it is much easier to target places where you can expect to find them, saving you time and effort.
KNOW YOUR DEPTH
This is another very important point that you need to master if you want to catch more crappie. Remember that crappie are a schooling fish, so expect to find them in groups of varying sizes. This means that whatever depth you find one, you will almost certainly find more. Which makes knowing your depth at all times very important.
You can know your depth by using one of these two methods: Start at the bottom and gradually reel up, keeping track of the number of reel turns you are making. If you reach a depth where you are getting bites, you can always go back to the exact number of reel turns you had earlier.
The second method is by marking your pole a foot from the reel. You will then drop down a couple of feet at a time, always tracking the number of feet you are dropping. Once you get to a depth where you are getting a few bites, simply just go back to the exact same number of feet in depth.
Check out this other article I wrote Look for the section titled finding the right depth!
USE FRESH MINNOWS
If you are going to be using live bait, you need to use minnows. Crappies love minnows. They are their all-time favorite food, especially if the minnows are lively and active. When you buy your minnows, keep them alive and protected in an aerated minnow bucket. Here is my old and nasty minnow bucket 🙂
When hooking minnows, be sure to use light wire Aberdeen hooks, #2, 4 or 6. Hook them through the lips, at the tail or on their back through the dorsal fin.
Hooking them through the lips or at the front of their faces keeps them lively, but makes it a little harder for them to take in air through their gills, so they eventually die. To do it right, hook them through the upper lip only and out thrrough one of their nostrils. Check out the image below:
If you choose to do it through the dorsal fin, they will still be able to swim around, but if you do not do it right you might end up crushing the backbone, paralyzing them. Finally, hooking them through the tail allows them to stay lively and wiggle around, but it is quite easy to rip the tail entirely.
The important thing to remember is to simply be gentle with them and hook them right, or else you will end up killing them.
The best jig heads for crappie fishing are 1/8, 1/16 or 1/32 jig heads. Dress them in soft plastics. For the best results, try out different color combinations. Crappie can be quite unpredictable when it comes to color choice. What they like today may not be what they like tomorrow. This is why you need to try out several different combinations until you find what they like that day.
Bright colors often work best with crappie. Personally, I usually start with chartreuse, pink and blue. You can also save yourself a lot of time and effort by asking other anglers around you for the color combination they are having the most success with that day.
During late fall and winter, crappie do not move about as much, Instead, they try to conserve their energy by only attacking slow moving and easy prey. You can use this information to your advantage by using smaller jig heads, which will slow down the presentation and trick the crappie into thinking you are an easy meal.
There are several other tricks that you can use to a varying degree of success. Here are a few creative techniques that I have seen other anglers use:
- The pinch head technique, which involves cutting off the head of a dead minnow and hooking the body to a jig head. Fish the pinch head the same way you jig.
- Using feeder gold fish. I have tried it with some success. Some anglers swear by it. Feeder goldfish are about .16 c a piece so much cheaper than minnows. You can pick them up at your nearest pet store. NOTE: Please make sure that this is legal in your state and on the particular lake you plan on fishing. Goldfish are seen as an invasive species by certain states and their use is prohibited!
- Chum the waters with crushed eggshells, crappie fish attractant, dead minnows, bread, among other stuff to attract more crappie to your location. You just need to experiment with what works for you. I have found crushed eggshells to work really well with crappie.
- Try larger baits if smaller baits are not working.
SPEED THINGS UP
Crappie fishing, and fishing in general, is typically all about patience. Sometimes, though, the whole routine can take up quite a bit of time. Luckily, there are several tricks you can use to speed things up and increase your chances of getting a bigger catch.
It might take a while to figure out how to tell your depth and always go back to the same depth as explained in Tip #2.
A simple workaround for this is to use multiple poles at different depths. For example, you can choose to use 3 poles at the same time. Have one at 2 feet, another at 4 feet and the last at 6 feet. Let them rest for a while, and after 5 to 10 minutes, if you are getting no bites, go down to 8 feet, 10 feet and 12 feet. This way, you will have covered 6 different depths in less than 10 minutes, saving yourself a lot of time in the process.
SLOW THINGS DOWN
Patience is the name of the game. You need to be thorough when you fish for crappie. Make sure you have covered an entire area before moving on to the next. It is not uncommon to find crappie literally a foot or two away from where you are. As an angler, nothing is more frustrating than watching someone catch a massive slab in the spot you just vacated.
Trying to find the right depth can be time-consuming and frankly boring. Many anglers do a bad job at it. Be systematic and give each depth at least 3 mins if not 5 minutes. Once you find the right depth where the crappies are biting, it will be well worth your time.
If you are on a boat, you probably already have a fish finder. You need to start using it. You should learn how to use your fish finder properly and watch it closely. It is the perfect way to locate weed beds and schools of fish. Pay special attention to contours.
If you do not have a boat, you can still put electronics to good use. There are lots of portable equipment out there that will work wonders for you. I go fishing with a gentleman who has a portable fish finder. It is called a Deeper Pro Plus and it is simply amazing. We use it around the barge and it has been a game changer for us.
When we use the Deeper Pro, we can always tell how deep the fish are holding. Even if we do not know whether the fish are crappie or not, it still cuts down significantly on the time we otherwise would have spent locating the correct depth to fish at. With it, you can also access lots of other info, such as the terrain and temperature. All this data is displayed on your smartphone in a clear user interface. Armed with all this information, fishing for crappie all year round is a breeze.
To recap, here are some essential tips you need to start taking advantage of if you want to become more effective every time you go out fishing for crappie:
- Learn crappie patterns so that you can find them every time, all year round.
- Be aware of your depth at all times, and always go back to the same depth for seconds whenever you get a bite.
- Use fresh minnows, because crappie really love them.
- Use 1/8, 1/16 or 1/32 jig heads, with plastics of different color combinations.
- You can get creative with other techniques such as the pinch head technique, using goldfish or using bigger bait.
- Speed things up by setting up multiple lines at different depths.
- Slow things down by making sure you completely fish one area in its entirety before moving on to the next.
- You can also go digital and use electronics to make for an easier, faster and more efficient fishing experience.
With these tips in your back pocket, catching your limit every time you head out will be a breeze. Imagine coming home with a stringer full of slabs!
I hope you found this article helpful. Please leave me comments and tips on crappie fishing below.
Good fishin’ to you!