Crappie Are Just Plain Fun
Would you consider catching 100 or more fish weighing between 1 and 3 pounds each a successful day of fishing? For me a day like this is just plain fun. There are times when I set aside all my big rods, tackle boxes full of bass lures, and massive amount of gear, and just have fun catching slab crappies.
While most people may think catching 100 plus slab crappies in a day may sound like just another fish tale or at best stretching the truth a bit, let me assure you it can happen on a regular basis. Understanding how water temperature affects the movements of crappies is the first step in being in the right place at the right time to assure success at catching your limit of slabs.
Understanding Water Temp and Crappies
Most experienced anglers consider water temperature to be the single most important factor governing the occurrence and behavior of crappie and their locations.Once the angler understands how water temperature influences crappie behavior, they can pinpoint crappie throughout the year.
For the most part, when water temps are below 50 degrees the crappie will be deep. It is common to find crappie 20 to 40 feet and holding tight to cover near bottom. This will be rock piles, humps, deep points, or the edges of deeper channels. While the fish are not feeding much, they still have to eat and can be caught.
When the water temperature starts to rise above 45 degrees the crappie starts to make one of it’s most important moves of the year. At 45 degrees many crappies have started migrating towards their eventual spawning grounds, they also have started feeding heavily in preparation for the spawn. Crappie will spawn in shallow water, and prefer clean bottom to muddy or silt covered bottom. Taking into consideration the paths the fish will take, and given their increased apatite it is easy to intercept the fish along this movement, and have some of the best fishing of the year.
Follow the Crappie
To follow the movements of the crappie it is a very good idea to have a good fishfinder that has water temperature capabilities. As the water temp reaches 50 degrees the fish are on the move towards spawning grounds. They will use creek and tributary arms like a highway to move from the main lake into the shallows, and will be concentrated near bait.
The fish will move up and down in the water column following bait. A few degree change in weather can cause the fish to move deep or shallow. As a general rule I start at the mouth of creeks or tributarys and look for the bait. If the bait is high in the water column I tend to troll these areas using jigs or Rapala original minnows, covering large areas and concentrating on areas with plenty of bait
Suggested trolling lures for crappie
If the bait is lower in the water column the crappies will be near the bottom. Fish the same open water near the mouth of inlets and deeper water in the creek channels. Its best to fish live bait. Set up drifts that cover points,channel edges, and any brush or wood. Live minnows work well, either fished straight down on a bottom bounce rig or use a jig and lip hook a minnow. Remember crappies are schooling fish, where you catch one there will be more.
Water Temperature: 55 Degrees
Expect the bite to get more aggressive as crappies begin feeling “the urge to merge” and feed heavily before spawning. Schools of baitfish continue to be a primary location factor as crappies fatten up before spawning. Shallow ditches veering off the creek channel and running toward shallow spawning coves can hold huge fish. Work the creek channel with curly-tail grubs or minnows, keying on brushy cover in the 6 to 12 foot zone. Crappie may be as shallow as 1-3 feet deep along these structures.
Water Temperature: 60 Degrees
Male crappies fan out the nest while the females hang around outside the cover waiting for the water temperature to get a degree or two warmer before moving in on the beds, and now is a good time to load the boat with oversize fish. Some crappie may have already started the spawn if shallower water is warmer. Tightlining minnows and jigging tube baits around sunken cover will score heavy crappie catches in murky water. In clear water, back off your target, make a long cast and swim a curlytail grub.
Water Temperature: 65 Degrees
Spawning should be in full swing now, but some will still be in a prespawn mode. If you aren’t catching quality fish on likely spawning cover, back off and target prespawn crappies instead. Spawning takes place on woody cover such as: brush piles, stake beds, etc… in the upper ends of brushy coves and creek arms, in 2 to 8 feet deep, and some as shallow as 6 inches deep depending on the lake’s water clarity. Prespawn fish will be in three to six feet of water, but will chase minnows shallower. Tight-lining minnows on long rods is the standard method now, but target-casting grubs and tubes to submerged wood works, too.
Water Temperature: 70 Degrees
Some crappies will be done spawning, while others are finally moving onto their beds. Keep fishing as the spawn is still going strong. Cast tubes and grubs or tight-line minnows close to cover. If you’re catching small fish, back off and hit deeper isolated stake beds and stumps for the bigger females.
Water Temperature: 75 Degrees
While a few lingering crappie may still be spawning, postspawn fish will hang around bedding areas for several days until the water temperature rises. Some postspawn fish will be on isolated pieces of cover adjacent to spawning sites as the males move back in to protect the nests. Determine the crappies’ spawning mode. If tube baits or minnows don’t produce strikes in thick brush and stake beds, cast grubs to scattered wood.
Buy the time the water temperature reaches 80 Degrees, spawning is over and the crappie are heading back out of creeks and into deep water areas where they will spend the hot summer months. Crappies will suspend over deep water cover, and most times will be sluggish and slow to bite.
The crappies can still be caught using a slow drift over schools of fish, and again using live minnows for bait. Look for large schools of bait-fish as the crappie will be close behind, and when you catch one crappie work the area well, there will be more fish to be caught.
One of my favorite techniques for catching crappies is tight-lining. To do this correctly you need a 8ft. to 10 ft. crappie rod. Spool the reel with lite line, 4 to 6 pound test should be all you need. When trolling let out 5 to 10 feet of line and place several rods in holders spread out to make sure you cover a wide area. You want your bait to hang straight down, so a jig tipped with a minnow, or a tube jig works well.
Tight-lining also works well anytime the fish are holding on the bank in tree tops, limb, or weeds. You will only use one rod, again a long rod, and rigged as above. Using this rig you can drop a minnow or tube jig straight down through the brush, and avoid many of the snags you get with casting. Slowly drop the bait, hold it for a few seconds an lift back up.
Make several drops into individual brush piles, covering the entire brush pile, then move on to the next target. You can sometimes catch several fish from one brush pile or treetop. This can be a great way to catch plenty of crappie in a short period of time, and have a day of fishing you will remember for a long time.
Try learning how crappie move according to water temperature, and ambushing along their paths, and I am sure you will agree with me: Sometimes you just have to put you heavy gear aside and just have fun catching slabs
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Feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think.