Best Time To Catch Crappie – Improve your Chances of Catching Slabs

Lewisville barge at night

We all want to catch the most crappie when we go out there fishing. I know that every time I go fishing I am filled with anticipation. But when is the best time to catch crappie?


When I consider that question I think of it in two different contexts. The first context is literal. This relates to the best times of day to catch crappie. The second context is to break it down by season.


I will try to do both in this post. Hopefully you will find it helpful.



I feel pretty confident in answering this question. In my experience around North Texas the answer is early morning and late afternoon/early evening.


It is almost like clockwork. I usually hit my local barge at 0430 – 0500 CST. This gives me plenty of time to set my gear up, pick one of my usual spots and start on my hot coffee. I always know that I won’t get a lot of action until around 0600. Then it starts and at around 0630 it is not unusual for two of my three poles leaning against the railing to get hit simultaneously. This continues until about 0800 or 0830 when the night sky has been complete replaced with daylight.


When I decide to go crappie fishing later in the day, I will usually get there around 1830 or1900 CST. Again I have time to set up and get ready for “the rush”. By 2000 when the sun starts going down, the bites will start and they will pickup until about 30 minutes to one hour after the sun has set.


Please keep in mind that I am giving you summer hours. Around here, it stays light until past 2100.


Obviously these hours will change depending on the season. Basically, adjust your fishing times around sun up and sun down. I would get there about two hours before the time (weather channel will give you exact times for sunup and sunset). I would fish about two hours past the time.


In my experience the bites are on and off like a light switch. They start abruptly and keep going strong until they end-just as suddenly.



Before getting into the different seasons, lets looks at the typical crappie spawning months for a few states:


Area    Months


  • TX – OK – Feb -June
  • FL March – April
  • MN May – July
  • WI May – July
  • AL March – April
  • OH April – July
  • TN April – May
  • OR March – June


If your state is not represented in this list, I apologize. Try to approximate from the list provided.


Let’s get started with the seasons



Summer Lake


It’s HOT. During the summer months, crappie prefer deeper waters. They will often stay close to the thermocline where it is coolest. They can often be found 20 ft or deeper.


Look for submerged cover like sunken logs, structures and brush piles.


If you are fishing on a barge, dock or under a bridge, make sure you fish on the shady side. When dropping jigs or minnows, keep them as close to bridge columns and dock pylons as possible. Go all the way to the bottom and reel up a few cranks. Do this every few minutes until you get a bite.


Use the depth location method that I mentioned here. Once you know where they are, you are set. Fish the spot until you don’t get any more bites. Then move to another spot.


Check out this Summer Crappie Fishing Tips article


Summer is a good time to fish at night too. Its much cooler and the crappie will come off the bottom to feed. If you have some submersible fishing lights, even better. The lights attract bait fish, which in turn attract crappie. If on a dock or barge, check with management to make sure fishing lights are allowed.


Lake in the Fall


I love fall crappie fishing. The hot summers make the crappie fishing a bit challenging. They are deep and “finicky”. In october, november and december they become super aggressive and can be found at around 10 – 15 ft.


Be very methodical in finding your depth. This is a fundamental skill for crappie fishing (for all seasons except the spring). Once you locate where they are, you keep at it till they stop biting. You may have to move around a little more than usual.


Be vigilant for structure, submerged trees and reed beds. Cast and retrieve all around cover. Use a slow retrieve and slow jerking movements. When you cast your jigs, count till 10. This will ensure that the jig will drop deep enough. Then reel in slowly.


Check out this fall crappie fishing techniques article I wrote!



Winter is a special time for fishing. If you are one of the many fishermen/women that pack up their rods and reelsWinter Fishing

during the winter, I would urge you to reconsider! The hard core fishermen/women that are hard core are usually handsomely rewarded.


I caught my biggest crappie on the barge in Feb. The crappie weighed in at 1.87 lbs. It was 30 degrees and my minnows were basically frozen, to the point I had to keep them inside the barge.


Just like during the summer months, the crappies will be in deep water – 20 ft or more.


You have to be very patient during the winter months because the crappie are extremely sluggish. They will not pounce on the bait. I usually drop a minnow and lay the rod between a chair and the railing. I then watch the tip of the rod for any action. During the winter, it is not unusual for me to not see any action, and to pull the line up only to find a nice crappie on the hook.


The good news is that they school super tightly in winter. Once you lock in the depth and the spot, you can catch a ton.


If you are casting and retrieving, use a very slow retrieve.


Learn more Winter Crappie Fishing Techniques in this article I wrote


Lake in Spring


Every crappie fisherman’s favorite time of the year. They can be found in as little as 18 inches of water since they spawn in the shallows. If the water is not crystal clear, you can catch tons of crappie at 2 to 3 feet.


Crappie start to spawn when the water is around 55 degrees. Use a fixed bobber because you will not need to go deep.


I find minnows are terrific during the spring. Crappie will absolutely inhale them!


Crappie like rocky and gravelly bottoms because they tend to retain more heat than sandy lake bottoms. Fish pea gravel and rocky spots with a bobber rig.


To be honest, spring time is the most fun to catch crappie because it is really hard to screw it up!


Spring Crappie Patterns are very important to know.  I wrote an article on that too!



It is really hard to state for sure when the best time to catch crappie is. It depends on your lake, and your location. But generally speaking, the advice I shared in this post is sound advice. It will help you catch more crappie.


If you have any questions or comments, please leave me a comment below. I look forward to chatting with you soon.


Good fishin’ to you,




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