Three crappie fishing secrets anybody can use

A lot of the time, the difference between catching crappie, or coming home empty is simply some knowledge, rather than your equipment.

Depth-Finders, $10,000 Crappie Boats, $100.00 specialty Crappie rods and other Tournament gear is great if you like it, and can afford it, but a little knowlege will do more for your success than all of that gear put together. The first, and most important thing is to understand your quarry. Crappie are schooling predators that cover large areas of water at times, chasing schools of baitfish. Crappie are almost exclusively fish-eaters. Nightcrawlers aren’t going to work.

There are two species of Crappie. They are : Black Crappie (Promoxis nigro-maculatus)- The Black Crappie is, as the name implies, darker than the White Crappie, has 7-8 dorsal spines, has very pronounced spotting on the sides, and prefers larger, cleaner and more acidic lakes. They are more predominate in the Northern states, but their range frequently overlaps with the White Crappie. Their habits are very similar. Inter-breeding between the two species is very rare, but not unheard of.

Black Crappie have also interbred with Flier Sunfish (Centrarchus macropterus) in a few rare instances. White Crappie (Promoxis annularis)-The White Crappie is lighter colored, has 6 dorsal spines, 8-9 vertical darker-colored bands on the sides, and is found more frequently in the southern states.

The White Crappie prefers quite backwaters, and slow rivers, but is present in many larger impoundments as well. Thw White Crappie can tolerate more turbid waters then the Black Crappie. Both the black and white crappie grow to over five pounds while three quarters of a pound to a pound is more typical. Crappie are very season oriented.

Their behavior can be broken down into 4 distinct seasons:

1. Pre-Spawn is when the water temperature aproaches 60 degrees. In the south, this can be as early as Feb., and in the north, as late as May, or June. Crappie that have been holding in their winter habitat will begin to move along lines of cover towards shallower water (8-10ft), starting with the males. They will congregate for a short while, then move into water as shallow as 2-3 ft. near cover to build nests. The females soon follow, and pick a male to breed with. Crappie can be caught with live minnows and jigs fairly easily at this time.

2. Spawn is when the females have picked a male to breed with, moved into the nest, layed eggs, and allowed the male to fertilize them. Then, the females take-off for deeper water, leaving the males to guard the nest until the fry hatch. This occurs when the water tempertature is between 60-65 degrees. At this time, the males will attack ANYTHING that comes near the nest, so catching them is child’s play. A cane pole with a minnow, or jig works as good as anything.

3. Post Spawn is when the males are done, and both the males and females school back up, and move along cover to deeper water to sulk, and recover. They have a maddening habit of suspending at a particular depth, with no relation to any cover, and refuse to move more than a few inches to take a bait. At this time, they are very moody and uncooperative. This is some of the hardest crappie fishing of the year. As the water gets warmer, they go into their summer mode of migrating in search of baitfish, and preferred temperature. You will usually find them at, or near the thermocline, along structure, and large schools of baitfish, especially small shad. They can be as deep as 30 feet during the day, and as shallow as 5 feet at night. But when you do find them, they will actively feed.

4. Winter-When the water temperature drops to the low 60s, crappie will move to 15-20 ft. of water and suspend over structure. They will stay here all winter, until the Pre-Spawn. They will still feed, but the key here is ‘Small and Slow’.

Use very small jigs or minnows, and they must be presented almost in their face. But there is some great crappie action to be had at this time of year due to less fishing pressure, and they don’t move around as much. When crappie get ‘Lock-Jaw’, here is a trick to entice them into action that is very effective at times.

You need two rods, one rigged with a jig, or minnow, under a bobber, and the other rigged with a larger crank-bait or spinner. Cast the bobber rig out and let it settle for a bit at a suitable depth. Then, cast the lure out beyond the bobber, and reel it rapidly towards the bobber rig. Keep doing this, and you will get lots of hits on the bobber rig.

Crappie think the lure is another fish about to chow-down on your bobber rig, so they will try to beat it to the punch. When you are night fishing, put your extra minnows in a glass jar, seal it with the lid, and tie a rope to the jar and suspend it a foot or two under the surface, just within the circle of your fishing light. Drop your line near the jar. Crappie will see the minnows in the jar and make a serious effort to ruin their day, grabbing your offering in the process.

When all else fails, try a double jig rig, with a chartruese jig on top, and a yellow or white one underneath. Suspend them under a slip bobber, and give them a little jerk once in a while. Double hook-ups are not uncommon with this rig. You can also try fly fishing. Any streamer fly pattern works, but the very best patterns are small Clouser minnows, and Crappie candy.

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

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