Crappie fishing can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it seems as if these tasty fish can totally disappear, making them very hard to find and even harder to catch.
Knowing the best time of year to go can really increase your chances of success and time spent on the water.
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So what is the best time of year to catch crappie?
The best time of year to catch crappie is during the spawning season which takes place from February-May. During the spawn, both male and female crappie move from deep locations into shallow and concentrated spawning areas. This makes them very easy to target, as they are actively feeding and defending their nests.
Fishing for Crappie during the Spawn (Spring)
The Crappie spawn is kicked off when water temperatures reach 56-60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the optimal temperature range for female crappie to move shallow and begin to deposit eggs, with male crappie following close behind to defend nesting areas.
This time of year is when Crappie are most concentrated, often congregating in schools of hundreds of fish in a small area.
This makes them easy to target once you locate a school or spawning habitat.
How to Find Crappie Spawning Areas?
Most of the year, Crappie are associated with deeper water. During the spawning season, Crappie will move shallow to find spawning habitat and this is good news for fishermen because that means they are easier to find!
Unlike other species of sunfish, Crappie do not fan out a ‘bed’ in the lake bottom to deposit their eggs. Instead, they ‘free spawn’ their eggs in and around the structure.
Females will lay 10,000-50,000 eggs throughout the season on logs, stumps, roots, lily-pads and other vegetation. They prefer to lay eggs in 6 feet or less (I think 2-4 feet is the sweet spot).
Start by looking for shallow areas that are adjacent to deeper areas. Chances are if these shallow areas have spawning habitat, the Crappie will begin moving into that area once the water temperature reaches 56-60 degrees.
To locate fish, try using tackle that will allow you to cover water quickly. Use ‘search baits’ such as ultralight crankbaits, small jerk baits, and swimbaits.
Once you get a few bites, this should narrow your search area and allow you to utilize live bait or more subtle tactics such as hair-jigs or small tube jigs.
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Crappie Fishing In The Summer
During the summer months after the spawn, Crappie move back into deeper water and often scatter into smaller schools. The long days and bright overhead sun push Crappie into deep water holes and deer submerged cover.
Try focusing your fishing during the early morning and late evenings, before the sun gets directly overhead.
Also try directly after a thunderstorm when water temperatures have cooled and cloud cover remains. This will draw Crappie from deeper locations and get them feeding closer to the surface.
Another tactic is to find the thermocline on your lake, river, or pond. A thermocline is a drastic change in water temperature and gradient. For example, during the hot summer months, the water on the surface may be 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
But 15 feet deep the water may be 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This change happens at a specific depth and will very often hold Crappie. Depth finders and fish finders often have settings to find the thermocline.
Throughout the summertime, Crappie will move from shallow to the middle, to deep water depths as the weather patterns change and the thermocline changes. It’s very important to experiment at different depths to find where the Crappie are located.
Crappie Fishing In The Fall
As the water temperature begins to cool with the onset of Fall weather, the days will shorten and this can make for fantastic Crappie fishing. This is a period of transition for Crappie and a time when all fish are feeding heavily on baitfish and other forage from the summer months.
You may have to work a little harder this time of year to locate Crappie, as they will be transitioning from deep summer basins into mid-depth ranges. Try focusing on points, troughs, submerged river beds and creek mouths. Crappie are on the move, feeding heavily and very active this time of year!
Keep a close eye on the weather this time of year; big storms and weather patterns can really influence fishing. Any drop in barometric pressure, or low pressure system is great for making stubborn crappie bite. I love fishing before a big storm front or just after the rain!
Crappie Fishing In The Winter
Some Crappie fisherman will tell you that actually the winter or pre-spawn months is the best time of year to catch crappie. They are beginning to gather up into larger schools to prepare for the spawn. They are feeding heavily, and are often the fattest that time of year before depositing their eggs.
Quality rods and reels are important when fishing for Crappie, no matter what the season. I use Piscifun products because they are affordable (perfect for the working man or woman), but never compromise on quality.
During the Winter, a depth finder or fish finder can be a priceless tool to find large schools of Crappie in deep water.
By slowly idling your boat over the deep areas of your lake, you can find schooling crappie and what depth they are staging. I use the Humming Bird Helix 5– it’s very affordable and extremely effective.
Additionally, cloudy skies and overcast conditions are common during the winter and that tends to make Crappie more active and feed closer to the surface.
Without a doubt, the best time of year to Crappie fish is during the spring spawning season. The weather is generally better for fishing, both male and female Crappie are moving into shallow spawning areas, and they are feeding and defending their eggs.
This makes them easier to target, less picky on what they’re biting, and more enjoyable time spent in the outdoors. No one likes to fish in the freezing cold!
Tips for catching crappie during the Spring-spawning season:
- Focus on shallow areas during the Spring (8 feet deep or less)
- Look for water temperatures at least 56 degrees or warmer
- Use ‘search baits’ to cover water such as ultralight crankbaits, jerkbaits and small swimbaits
- Find shallow underwater structures; such as roots, timber, weeds, lilypads, docks or bridges
- Fishi during Low-light conditions (dawn and dusk) or overcast days when Crappie are most active
Once you find a Crappie during the spawn, rest assured there are others nearby! Anchor up and get ready for some fun! Good luck and thank you for reading.
Don’t have a boat? No Problem…Click here to learn about How to Crappie Fish from the Bank!
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