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Crappie Fishing Tips – The Ultimate Guide

crappie fishing tips

There is nothing more thrilling than the feel of your line tightening as you set your line on the water. Your heart starts to race as soon as your line and rod gives you even the slightest hint that a fish is on the end of the line. As soon as you experience how to catch crappies, the thrill and excitement turns into a rewarding experience. However, the aggressiveness of the fish you are trying to catch will influence whether you will leave home with a triumph or if it will make you go home empty-handed.

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One of the less aggressive fishes is the crappie. Anglers of varying skill levels can have a satisfying experience with crappie fishing as compared to bass and carp. Even though the crappie fishing will give you a productive time in fishing, you still need to know how to make the catch, which is discussed in this section for crappie fishing tips and techniques.​

What is the Crappie?​

The crappie with the scientific name of Pomoxis annularis(white) and Pomoxis nigromaculatus (black) is a fish species native to the North American region.

The white and black crappies are the two fish species that you can come across. These species are the most popular among anglers. You may know them by the other names such as speckeled perch, Sac-a-lait, speck, and papermouth.

These fish live in freshwater with moderate acidity and high level of vegetation. The crappie come together in schools and will most likely school together with other pan fishes.

The Difference Between the Black and White Crappie

black and white crappie

Black (top) and white crappie

The black crappie has gotten its name for its darker color. It is usually white or gray in color but with dark spots on its sides in either gray or black colors. On top of its back, you will spot 7 to 8 spines.

On the other hand, the white crappie has a lighter appearance. It is also distinguishable through its vertical gray bars that can be found extending to its sides. It has fewer spines of 5 to 6.

Aside from their appearance, there is pretty much nothing that differs between these two since they follow the same feeding arrangements and spawning periods. However, black crappies tend to favor clearer waters whereas white crappies can fit into muddy water zones.

Note that crappie fishes vary by color, which is influenced by their age, habitat, as well as the colors of the fishes in its breeding population.​

Habitat and Behavior

Understanding the behavior of the crappies will help you identify the best techniques to catch it, whether you are aiming to catch them in good numbers or just one with good quality.

Crappies are flexible eaters, which means that they eat a wide array of food such as insects, minnows, worms, as well as small crayfish.

The crappie prefers to stay underwater in structures such as weed bends and fallen trees. They stay in the depths of the water during the day then head on to the shore only when feeding at either dusk or dawn.

They do frequent the shallow water in their spawning period when you can find them in large numbers. They spawn at temperatures of 58 to 64 degrees for the black crappie and 60 to 65 degrees for the white species. If you are into ice fishing, you are in luck since crappies do not go into the hibernation phase during winter season.​

How to Catch Crappies - The Right Tools and Materials

tackle box

Techniques in catching crappies should be done with the right materials and tools. These go hand in hand with each other. If you want a successful and product crappie fishing, you should invest in the materials you choose just as much as you invest time in learning the techniques in catching them. Below are some of the tools and supplies you need for crappie fishing:

1. Lure

crappie lures

Artificial lures for crappies are available in the market. When used correctly, these artificial lures can imitate a small minnow. This type of lure can be made from a variety of materials but the most popular ones are those with plastic bodies and feathers. There are color varieties with this lure but the most effective colors are yellow and black as well as the mixture of these two.

Hook size is also important with the artificial lures. The best size is nearest to 1/16 ounce. If you want to try different depths when fishing for crappies, a lure with a bobberless rig is more flexible.​

What Happens If the Crappies Do Not Bite Onto the Lure?​

​Crappies are known to be picky with color. Thus, if your current jog color is not working, opt for an alternative. Many times, you will have to try several colors first to find what attracts the most fish. But here are some pointers on what color to use:

  • For Clear Water: In lightly stained waters, the goal is to match the natural food items that crappies consume. It is recommendable to use smoke, gray, and silver when using minnow lures. However, if you are jigging
  • For Dark Water: In stained water, the goal is to attract crappies through brightness and motion, which is why it is ideal to use bright colors. It is best to fish in the middle of the day when it is brightest, which is when the fish can see better and so will strike movement that mimics natural life.
  • On Cloudy Weather: On cloudy days, the light reaching crappies are limited and so use colors that are darker than the usual colors that you swear by. Brown, black, and green are suitable for overcast days.
  • On Bright days: These are the days when it is easy to choose a color. Try the brightest one first, which is any of the following: white, hot pink, chartreuse, yellow, and green. For added flash, you can incorporate gold or silver spinners.
  • During the Night: It is said that night crappie fishing is gainful. Try jet black lures or a combination of black with other colors.

2. Bait

fish bait

Image credit: basshawker.com

The best live baits for crappies are little minnows, whether you will be engaging in vast water or ice angling. You must determine the right size of the minnow to catch crappies. Trap shops offer a range of minnow sizes with the one inch to half inch minnows being the ideal size. When hooking the minnow, do it cautiously by entering the hook underneath the minnow’s dorsal fin. Do not enter the spine when doing so. Avoiding the spine will allow the minnow to live longer and move more, which in turn, will attract crappies.

Aside from little minnows, live bait that can be used particularly for angling is larva. Larvae may be mousies, mealworms, silver wigglers, and waxworms. In the case of other anglers, baits may be created by cutting the cheek patch or midsection of another fish. Ideally, bait should be white, yellow, or a mixture of both.

What Happens If the Bait Does Not Work?​

If you have been using a specific type of live bait for the entire day and still have caught no crappie, it is time to choose bait for use at this fishing session. The fish may prefer a more or less active bait than what you are currently using so try to shift to a small jig or spinner. This is a matter of trial and error so try again and again to figure out where the fish reacts. Instead of using baits, you may opt for the following lures instead:

  • Maribou Jig: This is characterized by a small size with small furry bodies and a tail with puffy feathers. They are highly durable and are sold in a variety of colors. Even though they are cheaply priced, they are able to attract the attention of even the pickiest crappies underwater.
  • Curly Tail Grub:This is a soft plastic bait featuring curly tails. It can produce a lot of motion as it is jigged. It also comes in variety of sizes.
  • Spinner: This is a versatile bait that can be used for different fishes including crappies. The smallest spinners have proven to be the best. Also, the gold spinners stimulate more strikes as compared to their silver counterparts. To provides more clarity on spinners, here are its types:
  • Small Willow Leaf Blade- works effectively on most fish species; can be rigged with a curly or tube tail
  • Small Silver Colorado or Circular Blade- generates a huge amount of vibration; can be used to fish slowly; can be added with a curly tail to make it ideal for stained waters
  • Small Gold Blade- effective for freshwater species
  • Beetle Spin- available in a variety of colors, brands, and sizes; suitable for crappies and other fish species

3. Fishing Knot

When crappie fishing using a jig, opt for a loop knot. By choosing this knot, you enable the jig to engage in free movements as it is being casted. As a result, this will create more enticing movements that will attract the crappie.

4. Angling Supplies for Catching Crappies

When fishing for crappies, you can use almost any type of angling supply. You can utilize the most basic or the most complex. Even though it is not necessitated to use highly advanced gear in catching crappies, breakthrough man-made poles have proven to improve the skills of the angler.

When it comes to the line, you have to acknowledge the fact that crappies are soft-lipped. So if you fail to keep your line tight and the hook is shaken, you will tear the lips of the fish.

Fishing During the Different Seasons

You can fish the crappie in any season. Ecological conditions tend to waver across different lakes. In order to adjust to this situation, you need to determine when the crappies are biting in your particular location so that you would know the best time to fish.

best time to catch crappie

Image credit: pinterest.com

The most productive time for crappie fishing is in the springtime when this fish species are budging for their spawning season. If you want to get the most out of crappie fishing, it is best to do this when the water temperatures play within 58 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spring

During the early stages of spring, the crappies will travel to the shallow areas of water where the temperature has risen rather fast. They perform their spawning activities, typically on vegetation. As a response to protecting their homes, most crappies will display aggressive behavior wherein they will strike the lures aimed at them.

To spot the area where these crappies have spawned, look for the vegetation sticking out of the waters. Most often crappies are found in rock reinforcements close to the dam in small lakes. What affects the results of crappie fishing in spring is the downstream discharge rate.

Summer

If you will be fishing on the summer months, note that crappies tend to abandon the shallow waters because of the heat. They travel into the cooler and deeper parts of the water, which is at 8 to 25 feet in depth.

It can be rather hard to find and catch crappies during this season so it is a matter of trial and error. One spot where there is a huge likelihood to catch crappies is where the trees have flooded the waters. This is because the trees provide shade and make for cooler temperatures in that area of water. But in man-made lakes, these trees have been uprooted and replaced with artificial fish attractors. Crappies utilize these attractors such as stake beds. You will be able to see these submerged structures as they have signs and buoys connected to them.

Fall

As soon as the season turns into fall, crappies will now move to the shallower water zones. They will assemble on the shoreline under the structures in this spot.

The common areas where you will find them will be near the streams, rocky spots, and weed lines. And since cooler temperatures will improve the appetite of the crappies, expect that they will bite more onto your lures or baits and thus improve your catch.

Fishing Techniques—Increasing Your Chances Of Catching Crappies​

You have a wide range of choices when it comes to fishing crappies since this fish is available all year round. You can opt for vast water fishing or ice angling. You should know the good and bad sides of when and where to fish for crappies to make the most out of your fishing experience.

With shore angling, you can wade from the shoreline, wharf, or a dock. The ideal method is wading where in you target crappies during their spawning period in the spring when they frequent the shallow waters. Only a few supplies are required in this method such as hip boots or midsection waders. Leadhead lures and minnows are the common lures and baits used to catch the crappies. These are put off on bobbers and are set parallel to the shoreline where it is thrown. The bait is then gradually recovered.​

When you are fishing on artificial fish attractors such as stake beds, an effective method for angling would be joining the bait and the bobber at a certain height. This will enable the bait to clear at the highest stake points. This will result to reduced loss in tackling while tempting the crappies to strike more to those that climb the bait.

Be watchful when setting the hook in order to take care of the crappie. As mentioned earlier, crappies have delicate mouths that easily tear so you should be cautious on tightening the line as well as setting the hook. Do not put on too much power on the hook since you will just end up tearing the fish’s mouth and losing it as you tackle it.​

Watercraft Fishing for Crappies​

There are different ways on how watercraft fishers angle crappies: through trolling, floating, and also angling. A profitable and widely used technique during these days is the floating angling where in it involves crappies being suspended over the thermocline. This is done on man-made lakes. In this technique, anglers can cover more and deeper areas. To moderate the float during strong winds, you can use an anchor to adapt to the excessive motion of the bait. On the other hand, if the wind is insufficient so as not to induce movement in the watercraft, using an electronic trolling engine will help. The goal is to have the bait in motion since this is what the crappies prefer.

Still Fishing for Crappies

Still fishing is the best approach once you find the spot where crappies are staying. You can fix the line on the side of the vessel in a vertical orientation then wait as crappies bit onto your bait or lure. If they stop biting, try suspending the line over structures submerged in water. You can also try suspending the line over flooded timbers. Jigging a leadhead in these environments is ideal for the situation.

Ice Angling for Crappies

A good number of open water techniques are also utilizable in ice fishing. It is important for ice anglers to move from one zone to another to find schools of crappies. Similar to open water fishing, in ice angling, crappies remain suspended for most of the time. Thus, to find the location of the crappies, trial and error methods must be used to spot the appropriate location at the right depth.

The use of a live bait or artificial lure does not matter much. The thing that matters more is for the simulated or live bait to be in motion a lot. This will stimulate biting and striking among the crappies. When utilizing jigging spoons, they should be snapped vertically. You can do this by moving your wrist in an upward motion with the arms following a clearing movement. As you use either a love bait or a lure, wiggle the line from time to time to pick the float from the surface. This on and off movement is a more productive technique at nighttime rather than in daytime.​

Fly Fishing for Crappies

Fly fishing is a technique that will up the fun level of catching crappies. Both wet and dry flies are effective in catching crappies. However, the dry flies are more suitable when fly fishing crappies on calm waters under good weather (sunny and cloudless skies). Ideally, fly fishing crappies should be done using streamers or nymphs that have been fished underwater.

The main advantage of fly fishing is that it will be easy to identify the bite of the crappies. As you use flies, you will be able to better spot the movements in the line as compared to using underwater lures in open water fishing. During the spring season, crappies that move to the shallow waters tend to be easily frightened. Through the lightweight arrangement, it is ideal for use in spring due to the low level of noise it produces and the life-like motion it generates on the waters.​

If you plan to use fly-fishing during summer, you can do so as you are wading. Another option is to jump in an inner tube then navigate your way through the underwater brushes or stumps where the crappies are staying to hide from the sunlight.

One thing to note in fly fishing is that you should not hook the crappie readily. The fish will rub a little before it finally takes the hook so be patient before setting the hook in.​

Do You Need to Immediately Grasp the Opportunity Once You Feel Movement?

There is no need to be in a hurry when fishing for crappies. You can expect more action from these fishes if you implement a slow and steady jigging. Refrain from retrieving your cast fast. This may be the reason why you are not getting any action. If you observe that this is happening, try to slow down since you might be scaring or startling the crappies.

Do You Need to Use a Topographical Map?

Ideally, a topographical map will help you familiarize yourself with the body of water where you are fishing. Since assessing the depth of the water is important in crappie fishing, having a topographical map would be handy. This will not only show you the depth but possibly the sunken structures present as well. If money is a concern in getting this map, there is no need to fret since there are free ones that you can acquire through the internet.

Common Crappie Fishing Mistakes​

If you are striving hard to make for productive crappie fishing, you need to know both the right and wrong ways to do this. Knowing only the rights ways will not prevent you from making the mistakes that are keeping you from a gainful catch. Here are some of the common mistakes that anglers and fishers make:

Investing in patience

Using unsharpened hooks

Skipping the lake or topographical map

Putting the boat to a stop while you are trolling

Setting in at a very close distance to the fish

Lacking understanding with your fishing electronics

Using an inappropriately sized tackle

Sticking to the wrong bait and lure

Not asking for assistance

Preparing for your Crappie Fishing Trip

With any fishing venture, you should always prepare what you need before you head out to the location. Here are some of the things you should prepare:

Prepare your equipment.

Before you even head out for your crappie fishing trip, make sure that you prepare the supplies, tools, and materials that you need, preferably the night before. It would be best if you would make a checklist so that you would not forget anything, especially if this is your first camping trip. Bring with you the essentials such as jigs, lures, baits, poles, and electronics, to name a few.

Part of preparing for the trip is checking if your boat is in proper working condition, especially if you will be trolling. You do not want the boat to malfunction as you are steering it in the middle of the lake or any body of water where you choose to fish.​

Bring with you a selection of jigs, extra hooks, lines, and other supplies. Do not go fishing without any extras. If you will be fishing during the night, bring with you an outdoor flashlight that has different light settings so that you can adjust it based on your needs.​

Selecting the location

Pick the area for crappie fishing carefully based on a variety of factors such as the season, time of the day, and characteristics of the water zone. Choose the location based on the structures present on the area since crappies love to lurk under structures. Choosing the location is important so that you could explore it even before you set foot on the waters. This will allow you to acquire a topographical map that will familiarize you with the water zones and the potential spots where the crappies could be.

Utilize scout fishes

If scout fishing is legal in your location, then use this as a strategy to find more crappies on your trip. The scout fish is the first crappie that you catch by using live bait such as a minnow. Once you have your first catch, you can use this crappie to help you locate the other crappies in the zone.

What to Do with the Crappie After You Catch It?

You have two options on what to do after you catch crappies—release it back into the water or cook them as a meal. If you decide to use the crappies later for meals, note that some tend to spoil faster than others so it is important to clean them immediately. Freshwater crappies tend to have longer freshness whereas saltwater crappies spoil faster. Thus, they should be placed and put on ice as soon as possible.

How to Clean a Crappie

The goal in cleaning a crappie is to remove any contaminants, which is beneath the skin. Be careful not to puncture the intestines of the fish. Here are the steps in cleaning a crappie:

  • Using a knife, insert it on the crappie’s vent. Cut from the belly all the way to the head. Do not insert the knife too deeply as it will puncture the insides of the fish.
  • Spread the body in order to remove its entrails. You can use a spoon to assist you
  • Cut the head.
  • Rinse the crappie in clean and cool water
  • rap the fish onto ice then place it in an ice chest. But be sure to drain water from time to time. Excess water will stimulate the spoilage of the crappie body.

How to Freeze Crappie

The best way to freeze the crappie for consumption at a later period is by putting the fish in a vacuum tight container such as airtight freezer bags before being frozen. Once you decide to cook the fish, thaw it by placing it on cool or cold water. Do not use hot or warm water since this may spoil the fish or affect its palatability. Note the date of catching the fish and freezing it so that you know when it will still be good for consumption.

Conclusion

Crappie fishing is for anglers of any skill level. Crappies are ideal to fish since they are available all year round and will usually bite on any bait that you attract them with. However productive crappie fishing is, if you do not understand their behavior and the method at which they are best caught, you cannot expect to make the most out of your fishing trip. If you compare it to other fishes, it is easier to deal with crappies but this does not mean that you should not prepare.

As you head out to fish, you should familiarize yourself with the fish itself, location, and many other factors influencing the efficiency of the trip. You need to make the preparations based on the season since crappies behave differently on every season. Make sure that you have learned the tips and tricks in crappie fishing. If you need assistance on your first trip, bring with you a companion who has experience with catching this fish species.

Crappie fishing as a sport can be highly entertaining as long as you do it the right way. You can use crappie fishing as a way to improve your fishing and angling skills to prepare you for pickier fishes.​

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