Four Fishing tips for more September crappie

As the temperature get hotter, crappie will still follow the thermocline and suspend, but they will aggressively pursue schools of baitfish, and especially shad. In the heat of summer, you will most likely find crappie along the edges of channels, river beds, bridge and dock pilings or deep submerged cover, anywhere from 8-50′ deep. The thermocline is the key to finding the correct depth. Also, in summer, night-fishing can sometimes be the most productive, but early morning and twilight are still good times as well. In summer, live minnows are much more productive than jigs. Rig a small minnow (I usually hook them through the rear, so they stay lively and live longer) under a very light sinker or split shot, on light line. You can use a slip-bobber if you want. I use a fish-finder rig with two minnows at different depths, and rig several rods, as many as four, sometimes, at different depths, until I find them (check to see if this is legal in your state, first). Drift fishing is far and away the most productive summer tactic. Drift along likely spots with these rigs and be ready. You will often catch two fish at a time like this. Don’t neglect the main channels, because crappie like moving water. Don’t forget that crappie are a major schooling fish. Where you catch one, you will catch others.
When the dog-days of summer give way to cool, foggy mornings, it signals a change in crappie behavior from mostly moody, to aggressive predator. As water temperatures drop, crappie begin to move once more in to the mid-depths, usually along the same routes they moved out on. They will cruise shallow flats in search of baitfish. The best times to search are early morning, twilight and night-time. What actually triggers this behavior is as much the appearance of Midges, as water temperature. When Midges appear, baitfish such as shad and shiners will attack them voraciously, in turn attracting schools of hungry crappie. When you see small baitfish jumping at this time of year, crappie will not be far behind. Look for crappie schools along shallow bays, winding creek beds and any other irregular bottom topography that can create a ‘holding’ zone. Where you find schools of baitfish, you will find crappie. One of my fall tricks in locating fall crappie is one I learned while striper fishing. Look for wheeling and diving sea-gulls or other fish-eating birds. Also, look for jumping schools of baitfish. Where you find them, you will find baitfish, and where you find baitfish in med-shallow water, you will find crappie. Crappie will once again become structure-oriented, so look for submerged timber, or other cover near drop-offs, in 5-15′ of water. Coves and points with shelves in 5-15′ of water are excellent places to search. In rivers and tailraces, look for flats in 5-15 ‘ of water, near bottom structure and current breaks.
When the water temperature approaches the mid 50s, crappie will begin their winter phase. Crappie are one of the most sought after winter species nation-wide, and with good reason. When you find them, you can catch them. But be advised, winter crappie fishing is not for everyone. It can be tough at times, due to the weather, and sometimes even dangerous. Safety is always important, but never more so than in winter. Hypothermia can strike without warning, and in some parts of the country, even frost-bite is a very real danger. Be sure to dress accordingly, have a cell phone within reach at all times, and stay alert to hazards. Crappie are pretty consistent through-out the country, so what works down south as far as locating schools will also work on ice up north. As the water cools into the 50s, crappie will move to shallow structure in 12-20 feet of water. Look for submerged and standing timber, bridge pilings, boat docks, secondary creek channels and other structure. The best of all worlds is a shelf or channel that runs near a boat dock, bridge pilings or weedy flats. In rivers, look near current breaks and irregular bottom features. They will remain in these locations until the water temperature rises enough to trigger the pre-spawn mode, starting the entire cycle over.
Each body of water has it’s own unique patterns, but they will be close to these. Locals are a wealth of information on new lakes. But these generalities will give you good places to start.
Happy Fishing.

Dan Eggertsen is a fellow crappie fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on crappie fishing since 2004.

One Response to “Four Fishing tips for more September crappie”

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