June 20, 2024

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How to Catch Crappie: A Guide for Anglers

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Crappie are among the most underrated sport fish. They’re fun to catch, often prolific, and they’re delicious. The fish are attractive for all ages and skill levels, as well. They hide and lurk much like Bass, and snatch up well-presented lures and baits. When you find one, there are often many more around.

Photo courtesy of Guided Crappie Fishing Trip

While many Crappie are small, there are specimens that measure several pounds. These bigger fish have excellent fillets and amazing meat texture and quality. They also fight hard for their size.

If you want to catch more Crappie, follow this simple guide to understand where they live, what they eat, and what you need for success. Let’s get going!

What is a Crappie anyways?

You’ll find many names for Crappie, and they’re often confused with Bluegill and even Bass. They share some characteristics with Bluegill and also have a wide mouth similar Bass. But Crappie are members of the Sunfish family and are also often referred to as Panfish. There are two types of Crappie and, while they share the same body and form, their colorations are different.

Two men crouching either side of a large ice box filled with Crappie fish after a successful fishing trip
Photo courtesy of Captain Clark Crappie Fishing – Sam Rayburn

Black Crappie. As expected, Black Crappie are darker than their white counterparts. They also have more spines along the dorsal fin. Their spotting is darker and more random than a white version, and, while the Black Crappie is dark in many places, they can also have a bronze or gold color.

White Crappie. Slightly more slender with a dorsal fin set closer to the tail, the White Crappie is lighter colored with vertical striping rather than spots. Overall, their shape is similar to that of a Black Crappie but the striping and dorsal position helps distinguish between the two.

The Best Time of Year for Crappie Fishing

One great thing about Crappie is the ability to catch them year-round. They change locations and behavior throughout the year but are always willing to eat if you find the right formula.

A Crappie fish partially submerged in murky waters after being hooked by an angler

Many anglers focus on spring when Crappie move into the shallows to spawn. The fish will push right up against the shoreline, using weeds, rocks, and logs as cover during this time. They’re also more aggressive, and many of the biggest fish will be hooked during the spring spawn.

As summer arrives, some Crappie will continue using structure, while others suspend in schools. Fishing structure where the depth drops below 10 feet is always a good idea. If you find a suspended school, consider jigging and staying right on top of them until the fishing slows.

Fall brings cooler weather that can push Crappie into deeper water. The changing weather can have them moving between different zones and the fishing can be tough. When you find them, stay on that spot for as long as possible.

As winter arrives, Crappie are suspended in schools again. Test different depths until you hit the right zone to catch more winter Crappie. You can catch them under ice or use open water tactics in places like California where many lakes remain open.

Crappie Fishing Gear

The best part about Crappie fishing is the gear. These fish are the perfect quarry for ultralight equipment. Put away the heavy rods and enjoy finesse fishing. Crappie can strike hard but, more often than not, they have a very light grab. Sensitive rods and light lines are the name of the game to detect these strikes.

Rod and Reel Options

A closeup of different colored blanks of fishing rods in a store

You can catch Crappie on just about any rod. If you have an old Ugly Stik, it will certainly get the job done. When trolling, a stiffer rod like this is great as well. Ideally, you’ll use an ultralight rod and reel combo for casting or jigging.

Look for a rod that’s less than 7-feet long with a fast action. It should handle light lures and jigs in the 3/16-ounce range. For bigger Crappie, you might go a little heavier with a rod that can cast ¼ ounce lures.

Line Weight

You can fish braid, monofilament, or fluorocarbon lines depending on your preference. Braided lines are very sensitive and they carry well when casting lighter lures. Choose a light line as well. Some anglers will go very light with a 4 lb test. If you’re worried about pulling them away from structure, go for something closer to a 6 lb test line.

Fly Fishing Options

A closeup of the mouth of a Crappie fish with a micro-jig in its mouth, caught by fly fishing

While it’s not the most popular style for Crappie fishing, you can sometimes land one when fly fishing. Jig-style flies and small streamers that imitate minnows are effective while fly fishing. Look for the same structure and depth zones, while simply casting and retrieving flies rather than lures. A light 4 wt rod with a floating or intermediate sinking line is perfect for Crappie.

Crappie Fishing Techniques and Baits

The techniques for targeting and catching these fish are pretty simple. The biggest challenge is finding them and figuring out how to get a reaction. It helps to have multiple techniques in your arsenal on each fishing trip. Here are a few tips…

Jig Fishing

Crappie tend to school up and jig fishing is one of the most effective ways to have a big day on the water. You don’t need large jigs and you can do well with artificials or bait-tipped hooks. Crappie really like minnows so keep this in mind when selecting a plastic jig or live bait. You can cast and retrieve jigs or get right over a school, bouncing the jig in the strike zone.

Dropping Bait

Bait is an excellent way to catch these fish and there are no shortage of options. Live minnows are among the best but you can do well with worms and other natural baits from the local area. Crappie are opportunistic and will eat a large variety of food sources. Don’t overload the hook, however, as they’re capable of chewing off a worm without dropping your bobber.

Trolling

A view out the back of a fishing charter on a lake, with one fishing line in the water ready to troll for Crappie on a cloudy day

When the fish suspend in schools and you need to cover ground to find them, give trolling a shot. Play with the depth and use a fish finder to help pinpoint school locations. Trolling with bait-tipped hooks or spinners and spoons is effective. Keep your lures relatively small and troll slowly to get a good hook set.

Casting

Spinners, spoons, and crankbaits all get the job done. When you want to work structure and cover ground, casting is an excellent means of catching Crappie. You’ll also feel the strike and have solid hook sets with a tight line.

Best Regions for Crappie Fishing

The distribution of Crappie is impressive with large populations spanning the southern and midwestern US. They also live in western waters with fish everywhere from California to Montana.

Southern Crappie Fisheries

An aerial view of Lake Fork Reservoir, Texas, on a hazy day, with the lake opening up in the distance, with heavily-wooded areas surrounding the water

The southern states have some world-class Crappie fisheries. From Lake Fork Reservoir in Texas to the Alabama River (Miller’s Ferry Reservoir), you’ll find a ton of water to explore. The best thing about the south is the lack of a freeze in winter. You can target Crappie throughout the year on open water in this region.

Midwestern States

Like the south, there are huge reservoirs and river systems in the midwest. Don’t overlook the abundance of farm ponds either. The upper Midwestern states have open water and ice fishing opportunities in abundance. Michigan, Wisconsin, and even eastern Montana are hot spots for big fish. Every state in the region has lakes, reservoirs, and rivers to hit for Crappie.

Canada Crappie Fishing

A view across the calm waters of Lake of the Woods at sunset, with the sun visible behind some low-lying clouds and trees in the distance

Home to some exceptionally large Crappie, Canada is a major destination for these fish. Look to Ontario for fishing throughout the entire year. While many remote lakes are only accessible during summer, others have winter access as well. Lake of the Woods is famous for producing huge fish and is a bucket-list destination. Canada is a country full of many other species but anglers shouldn’t overlook the potential for huge Crappie here.

How to Plan a Crappie Fishing Trip

A woman in a wooly hat and winter gear standing on a frozen lake on a clear day and holding a small Crappie in one hand
Photo courtesy of The Hook Up Guide Service

There’s often some overlap between species on fishing trips. Crappie occupy rivers and lakes where you also might find Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Pike, Musky, and more. At times, you might even catch a few while targeting other species.

If you really want to catch Crappie, it’s best to focus on them specifically. Choose a lake or river where they have strong populations and bring your light gear to jig, cast, and troll through ideal locations.

Planning a trip is a simple matter of determining where to go and deciding if you need a boat or not. Spring trips are ideal for shore anglers as the fish come close to spawn. Summer and winter often call for watercraft to get offshore and find the fish in 10–30 feet of water.

Look for current fishing reports and start fishing early as the morning bite can be hot!

The Secret Is Out: Crappie are Flat-out Fun!

Two anglers stood at behind a table, showing off their large haul of Crappie, ready to be filleted for them to take home to cook
Photo courtesy of Dblrcatfish & Crappie

There are plenty more places and techniques for targeting both White and Black Crappie. Start by researching local waters and contact sporting goods dealers and state fish management agencies to explore options. When you’re ready, grab a lightweight rod and hit the water for some Crappie fishing fun!

Are you a Crappie fishing expert? We’d love to hear your tips and favorite strategies in the comments below!

The post How to Fish for Crappie: An Angler’s Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Zach Lazzari
Title: How to Fish for Crappie: An Angler’s Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/crappie-fishing/
Published Date: Wed, 01 Nov 2023 15:35:59 +0000

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