How deep should I fish for crappie? Is there a guideline?

How deep should I fish for crappie? Is there a guideline?

Many factors determine what depth crappie will be at on a given day, on a given lake. Each body of water is unique, as are the fish that live in it. We can discuss some generalities. The first factor would be the time of year. In Pre-Spawn (Jan-Mar), when the water temperature approaches 60 degrees, the crappie will begin migrating from their winter holds to search for suitable spawning grounds. They will follow lines of structure and will hold in structure 8′-15′ deep near suitable spawning areas. During the spawn, when the water temperature is 60 degrees and above, the females will come into 4′-6′ of water to lay their eggs on flats, near cover, then after mating, move off to deeper water. The males come in, mate and take over, guarding the nest until the eggs hatch. Post Spawn crappie will suspend in 20+ ‘ of water, maybe over structure, maybe not. This is the toughest time of year to fish for crappie. They are moody, scattered and unpredictable. The only thing I can say for sure about the post spawn is the clearer the water, the deeper the crappie will suspend. There are the things that crappie relate to when they suspend: PH and the thermocline. They prefer a PH level near 6.5 and up to 7.0. Anything higher puts stress on them. Although they can tolerate a PH level up to 8.0 (reportedly), they will not thrive. They will be at whatever depth they can find a PH near 6.5, with a suitable temperature. Also, they will be near the thermocline. Using these two factors, it should be possible to find an average depth to start from. In fall, the crappie will move back in along structure into 10′-15’ feet of water and start feeding to build weight for winter. In winter, as the water temperature approaches the 50s, crappie will hold in 12-20 feet of water near structure until the Pre Spawn season. 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.

2 Responses to “How deep should I fish for crappie? Is there a guideline?”

  1. Ken Latimer says:

    You are so right. Knowing the depth of the fish you’re seeking is the key, especially in funny weather years like we’re having this spring. Here on Smith Mountain Lake we are a week or two behind normal. We are just now getting to a water temperature near 60F. That means those big bass and crappie haven’t moved up to the shallow waters as early as usual. Having a high quality fish finder improves your fishing success in multiple ways. Wishing everyone a great fishing season!

  2. nickie says:

    when fishing for crappie in lake guntersville, in the evening, durring may. how deep should i fish when useing minows?

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