Crappie, also known as paper-mouth or sac-a-lait, are a favorite game fish for many anglers. They are challenging to catch, offer a great fight for the size and taste delicious! They are only easy to catch during spawning season, which is in the spring. Outside of spring, they can be pretty tough to catch, often requiring you to employ special crappie fishing techniques to outsmart them.
WHERE TO FIND CRAPPIE
Before we dive deeper into the techniques, let’s first focus on where to find them.
An understanding of crappie behavior is essential if you want to be able to predict where you will be able to find crappie, and if you want to save on the time you would otherwise have to spend locating them. This is quite simple to achieve because although crappie behave differently in different seasons, they are quite predictable.
Crappie love still and slow-moving waters. This is why they are more prevalent in slow moving rivers and lakes than in fast moving rivers. They also love areas of cool, comfortable temperatures.
- Spring and Early Fall Crappie: You will find them in shallow water, feeding on baitfish. During these months, it is possible to catch crappie in as little as 3 feet of water. Crappie fishing is not too hard at this time since there is plenty of fish close to the surface. It makes the entire fishing process very engaging and lots of fun.
- Summer, late fall and Winter Crappie: During these months, they recede to deeper waters. They move down to look for cooler waters in summer, and they move deeper to look for warmer and calmer waters because the surface is windy, rainy and cold in winter. Crappie fishing at this time is a lot more challenging but way more rewarding and interesting, especially if you enjoy a good challenge.
If you are out when the sun is on the water in spring and early fall, look for crappie in areas where there are sunken logs or other structures. You can also find schools of them in and around weedy vegetation close to the surface.
In summer, late fall and winter, the hardest part of crappie fishing is finding schools of them. This is why you need to change how deep you are fishing until you find a depth where you get a few bites. If you catch one fish at a particular depth, it is highly likely that more of them are somewhere around there close by.
- Vertical Jigging
- Use the right presentation
- Fish at Dusk and Dawn
- Don’t forget Live Minnows
- Find the right Depth
- Other little known techniques
- Use scents, Nibbles and other Attractants
No matter where you are fishing from, be it on a boat or on a dock, all you need is a jig head and soft baits. If you want a slow descent (which you do if you want to catch crappie), use a 1/16 or a 1/32 jig head. Be sure to try all different color combinations for your lures. A good rule of thumb to remember is that in clear water, use bright, flashy and shiny lures. In darker water, use darker lures that are not as flashy.
You should also use a high visibility line so that even when the bite is very light, you can see the line slack. Just be sure to have your trigger finger resting lightly on the line so that you can better feel the bite when it happens.
THE RIGHT PRESENTATION
You need to make sure that the presentation you are using suits the season you are fishing in.
In Spring and during the fall turnover, you can use aggressive presentation. You can also use heavier jig heads, and you can reel in the bait more quickly. Use more aggressive twitches and retrieves during these seasons, because the fish are hungry and aggressive. They will respond to more aggressive techniques.
In Winter, Summer and late Fall, use less aggressive presentation techniques. Be sure to employ slow falls and slow retrieves, with longer rests between pole twitches. This technique requires more finesse, patience and skill. Nevertheless, it is still loads of fun and very satisfying when you do get a catch in these challenging conditions.
FISH AT DAWN OR DUSK
From my experience, I have found that crappie are most active in the early morning hours and a few hours around dusk. It is during these times that you will have the most success. You will soon find that you can almost set your clock to when they will start biting, especially in the early morning hours.
For instance, during the Summer here in Texas, they start biting at around 6.30 and maintain their aggressiveness until about 8 or 9 am. After 9 am, there is a bit of a lull. As I said before, crappie are very predictable, especially if you learn their habits and patterns. Talk to other anglers and people around your area, they will very likely be able to point out the times when crappie are most aggressive. You can also get this kind of information in local bait shops and other specialty stores.
LIVE MINNOWS ARE EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE
I know a lot of anglers who exclusively use jigs. I strongly believe that this is a mistake. Here is why.
Crappies love minnows. They will often choose minnows over everything else. This is why it is always a great idea to have a couple dozen with you. You also need to make sure that they are lively, and that they stay that way. The best way to do this is by placing them in an insulated bucket with an aerator. You should also hook them carefully and in the right way to make sure they swim in the water and to prevent killing them quickly.
Here is the insulated minnow bucket with aerator that I use:
I hook the minnows through the upper lip and through one of their nostrils (see the image above the paragraph title). This allows them to swim very aggressively for a long time. I have had minnows hooked this way last over an hour.
Here is an in-depth article on crappie fishing minnows
FIND THE RIGHT DEPTH
If you want to find the right depth, you should always have these two facts at the back of your mind: crappie are schooling fish, and crappie only feed up.
The best thing about crappie is that with them, once you find the right depth and catch one, you will almost certainly catch many more. You just need to make sure that the bait is above them at all times, never below them.
Finding the right depth takes a bit of getting used to. There are many techniques and tricks you can use to do this. Check out my article on how to find the right depth (go to the middle section of the article titled “Find your depth”)
LITTLE KNOWN TECHNIQUES
When everything else fails, it is time to pull the ace up out your sleeve by trying these two little known and little-used techniques. I have found that when all else fails, these two can be very effective:
- The Pinch Head: The Pinch head involves cutting off the head of a minnow and hooking the body to a jig head. You then fish like you are jigging.
- Live Minnow on Jig Head: You can also pair a live minnow with a 1/8 or 1/16 jig head. You will then fish as you do with a live minnow.
SCENTS, NIBBLES AND OTHER ATTRACTANTS
Sometimes they need a little encouragement. Scents and crappie nibbles serve this purpose very well. They can be a very handy addition to your fishing ensemble.
Personally, I will usually pair a crappie nibble with a live minnow on an Aberdeen hook. I have found that sometimes this adds the needed encouragement that the crappie need to strike.
You can also spray scents on lures and jigs to make them even more attractive to the crappie. There are many different types of scents, with the most common being garlic and “shad”.
I have found that the fishing journey is an interesting one. You learn something new with almost every trip. For instance, I learned something new last weekend. There are fish paints that can be used on live baits or soft baits to attract crappie.
I met a guy who was dipping the tails of live minnows into this chartreuse paint before dropping it into the water. He seemed pretty sure of what he was doing and swore that it was very effective. I have never personally tried this technique, but I will definitely be giving it a go soon. You never know.
Crappie fishing is very interesting and fun, especially when you challenge yourself to fish when they are in the deep. It can be very rewarding, and the best part is that you get to learn something new every day. If you understand the habits and patterns of crappie, you can be very effective as an angler.
Here is a cool infographic that outlines what we covered in this article. Feel free to share it with your fishing buddies if you find it helpful:
Here is another article I wrote with tips for catching crappie
I hope you enjoyed this post and found the information useful.
Do you know of other techniques that were not covered in this post? Please share them with us below!
Good Fishin’ to you