This is the time of year when crappie anglers flock to the water. The predictability and seemingly never-ending abundance of these tasty fish make them a springtime tradition with a community feel. No one’s going to fight you for crappie; there are plenty for everyone.
Here are a few tips to help you load a cooler this spring:
• Fish The Right Areas: This time of year, crappie are either shallow or thinking about moving shallow, depending on where you fish. With warming waters, the spring spawn will find them right up on the banks in water as shallow as 1 ½ feet. Explore backs of the creeks that feed reservoirs or the flats adjacent to creek channels. Crappie use those channels to travel in and out of their spawning areas, so they’ll be stacked up in shallow brush near those slightly deeper areas when they move up. They’ll be holding in those slightly deeper channels before and after the spawn.
• Brush, Brush, Brush: The necessity for cover cannot be overstated. Crappie seek out hard bottoms with abundant cover to hide and protect their beds. Laydowns on the bank, shallow docks, timber and brush stacked up by currents, angler-placed brush in shallow water, all of it will hold spawning crappie as long as there is firm bottom for them to build their nests and something to conceal them.
• Tactics: Male crappie are usually the target when fishing during the spawn. Males are the ones that guard the beds, and while they are in protector mode they are aggressive. They are not necessarily feeding; they are attacking.
Minnows under a float are the traditional bait for crappie fishing, and it is a tactic that works any time of year. But during the spawn, minnows can actually hurt your productivity because fishing them out of the livewell and hooking them up is time consuming. If they will take a jig, there is no reason not to use one. Jigs are just more efficient.
This time of year, bright and gaudy colors are the way to go. Angry fish don’t need to be enticed into feeding, just getting their attention is often enough to make them strike. Whether you’re vertical jigging thick cover or casting to the banks, move quickly until you find crappie and then slow down to catch all of them that will bite.
• Remember: When you find a good spot, mark it on the graph or remember where it is. Crappie know where to go to spawn successfully and comfortably. They will utilize the same areas year after year, and so should you.
This holds true on a short-term basis also. Catch a limit one day, and you might think you’ve fished a particular bank out. Don’t count on it. Those good spawning sites reload. New fish will move in to take the place of the ones you took home to the fryer. That spot is worth checking again as early as tomorrow or even this afternoon.