Spring Crappie Patterns – Top 3 Hiding Places!

Lake in Spring

Spring crappie patterns are important to understand if you want to take full advantage of the spring spawn. Sure, you can rig up a bobber and cast it out on the lake. You will probably catch a few crappies.


But knowing where the crappies like to hide and how they migrate will take your fishing from catching a few to filling your stringer with your daily limit.


Let’s face it. Winter can be difficult for crappie fishermen/women. For those without a boat, it can be twice as hard. This is why we all look forward to the spring spawn.


Spring is the absolute best time of year to catch crappie. It is fun! If you know where they hide and when they migrate from deep to shallow water, you will have even more fun.


This post will go over their favorite hiding/spawning spots. I will also break down the crappie behavior based on water temperature.


This information applied to all lakes, creeks and rivers. The only difference is that the behaviors will occur at different times throughout the country based on ambient temperature and the temperature of the water. As long as you keep up with the temps on your lake you will be prepared.


Let’s get started!



Because they are getting ready for the spring spawn, crappie are looking for food. Lots of food! As the weather warms and the waters start getting warmer, they will migrate from the winter deep channels to the shallows. This does not happen overnight. It happens over several weeks. They use well traveled paths to get from their winter hideouts to their favorite spawning grounds.


If you have a boat, look for deep channels and try to understand patterns in the crappie migration. You see, the crappies take the same “routes” every year to get from deep to shallows. These are like crappie highways.


Once you find these “highways” you will be able to catch your limit each and every time you go out there.



Crappie like to congregate in places that are warm, calm and sheltered once the deep cold of winter goes away. There are a some crappie favorite hiding places that you can always count on. Always remember that they are looking for cover, shelter and food. Here are their favorite hiding spots:


Canals: These are usually man made. Most of the times, these canals will hold boat docks and piers. Because of their locations and because that many times they hold boats and other watercraft, Canals are usually built in areas and in ways that will provide protection against storms and other weather related dangers. Canals will also be shallower than the center of lake. As the temps warm, plants will grow. This will attract bait fish. Insects will start to skim the surfaces. All these things are sure to attract crappie.


boat docks


Coves and Bays: These are the next crappie favorite Spring hiding spot. Coves and Bays also offer shelter from the winds and storms. You want to look for areas that have reeds and other vegetation. As the temps increase, the vegetation will grow. This in turn will attract insects, which attracts baitfish. Finally, the crappies will follow where the baitfish are.


If you can find coves that are fed by a creek, this will be an even better crappie hiding spot. The creeks act like a constant food delivery system by continuously dumping new food into the area.


Creeks and Rivers: Our final spot. Crappies do not like current. So look for any areas where they can get out of the current. Look for backwaters, cuts and small bays. I find that crappie love undercuts. These are areas of soil close to the surface that have been eroded away and where the banks are overhanging.


Focus on looking for fallen and submerged trees. Look for reed beds on the sides of the creeks and rivers. This is where they will be hiding.




If your lake of choice does not have any of these features, here are a few other things to look for.


The north side of lakes is a pretty good place to look for crappie. After the thaw, the northern sides are the areas that tend to warm up first.


Also, look for places that will warm up quickly (and retain the heat):

  • Rocky bottoms
  • Murky waters
  • Decaying and dying vegetation and trees


These are areas that are sure to have tons of crappie hiding in them.



Most anglers think that crappies behave the same way throughout all spring. This is why many end up frustrated because they expect to be able to catch a stringer full each and every time they go out to the lake.


They are even more frustrated when they hear that their neighbor caught 15 crappies in 20 minutes (not all that unusual in spring, if you know what you are doing), while they did not catch anything in 2 hours.


“Spring” is a whole season,not a one day event. This is the time when crappie will spawn. The spawn is a series of events that take place over several weeks. It culminates in one or two weeks when the females lay their eggs and where the males protect the eggs and crappie babies for a few days.


Lake Fishing


This final part is happens in waters as shallow as 3 ft. This is where the males are super aggressive and attack just about any bait you put in front of them. This is usually the stage that people talk about catching their limits in a couple of hours with minnows and a bobber.


There is no doubt that this is the most fun time to go crappie fishing.  Check out this guy on the docks



Every step between leaving the deep winter waters and that final spawn is dictated by water temperature. As the water temp rises, it will instinctively drive the crappie to certain specific and predictable behavior. If you know those behaviors, you can catch them through all of spring, and not just in the final 2 or 3 weeks when they are in the shallows. So here are the general temps and behaviors associated with them:


40 Degrees: Late winter, early spring: Crappies are holding in deep waters. They are usually 20 ft or deeper. Use vertical jigging with extremely slow presentations. They are usually very lethargic and sluggish


40 – 45 Degrees: The waters start warming up and this is a natural signal for the crappies to start getting ready to migrate. They start staging in large clusters and groups at the entrances of the “highways” mentioned earlier. They can be found in waters between 15 and 30 ft.


50 Degrees: They are in full migration mode towards warm and sheltered spots in the lake. They are starting to get more aggressive as they try to gorge on food before the spawn.


55 Degrees: This is the full on pre-spawn. The Crappie are in coves, canals and creeks, and moving to shallow flats to spawn. They are super aggressive and can be found in shallow waters from a couple of feet up to 10 ft.


56-73 Degrees: The spawn will start at around 56 degrees and peak at 73 degrees. The crappie will be in a couple of feet of water. They will be super aggressive. You can catch them with a simple minnow and bobber rig, or with a simple jig. Really anything you throw at them will most likely land you crappie. This is the time that most people refer to when talking about fishing for crappie during the spring. It is extremely fun.


As the water temperature continues to increase, the crappie will eventually seek cooler waters and migrate back to deeper waters using the same “highways” that got them to the shallows.



As you can see, there are well documented behaviors that crappie follow during the spring. If you know these patterns, you can enjoy crappie fishing the whole spring and not just during a short spawn window.


Find the highways, the coves, canals and creeks and you will be able to catch crappie from the end of winter till well into the summer.


What are your tips? Please share any bits of advice you may have learned in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, please let me know in the comments below as well.


Thank you and good fishin’







4 thoughts on “Spring Crappie Patterns – Top 3 Hiding Places!”

  1. Hi Mike. I haven’t been out specifically to catch crappie, but after reading your article I am wondering if other fish species are as predictable? If so it would make the job of catching them a whole lot easier. Who knew that they follow the same routes each year. Many thanks for the information.
    Kind regards

    • Hi Andrew! Most other fish have some predictable behaviors just like crappies do. For example, you are sure to catch some good catfish after a good rain in a “muddy” river or lake. Good fishin’ to you!

  2. Thanks Mike for your hints and tips about crappie hiding places. I’m going to introduce fishing to my boys, but I’m a novice myself so I came across your blog and there are some great tips here, thank you. I think we might start with creeks and rivers and see how we go. We’re looking forward to it!

    • Hi Melissa! I am super happy that you found my blog helpful. I think that your boys are going to love fishing. Quick advice, if you are going to start in a creek or a river, start with a fixed bobber. It is the easiest way for kids to start fishing because they have a clear visual Q. Enjoy

Leave a Comment