Crappie fishing is a total blast. Add to the mix the fact that they are absolutely delicious and you have a pretty cool target species!
While you can catch them off docks, the best way for consistent success is to fish from a boat. If you are not familiar with a lake, there are a few things you can look for.
Where to Look
First off, in the spring, crappie will move out of their deep water winter haunts and head for old creek channels in the river arms of lakes. A good graph with built in contour mapping is essential for finding these creek beds.
This time of year, I’ll look in 15-40 feet of water. Crappie will usually be using the channels like highways to migrate to and from spawning areas. Watch your meter closely for marks near or slightly suspended off the bottom — also be on the lookout for schools of shad.
Often crappie schools — at least the ones that are dense enough to fish on — will show up as many blobs or arches that make a Christmas tree type of shape. You can catch the odd fish on scattered schools but the best action comes from the bunched up ones.
While looking around in the creek channels, watch for submerged trees or brush piles. There will be a lot of good cover that’s been growing above water during the drought that’s now well below the surface. Crappie love structure and if you locate some cover in a channel, chances are you’ll find the fish.
If no brush or trees are present, pay close attention to the edges of the channel — where the bottom starts shallowing up. Crappie love those transitions as well.
When you discover a good spot that’s full of holding fish, be sure to first mark it with your GPS. Old school marker buoys work well too.
How to Catch ‘Em
Now, it’s time to fish! I like 1/32 to 1/16 ounce jig heads outfitted with 1- to 2-inch plastic grub tails, tubes or jerk shad. Crappie seem to like white, chartreuse, hot pink and red/white lures best.
There are times when they like a vertical presentation — get directly over the fish and drop your jigs down to them. Other days the fish want a more horizontal presentation. To get that, cast out just beyond where the fish are holding, let your lure sink down to the right depth and then slowly retrieve it through them.
If you pay attention, the crappie will tell you what they want on a given day.
Crappie are truly one of the best eating fish in freshwater! They have slightly sweet, delicate white fillets that are absolutely delicious!
If you are keeping fish for a fry, be sure to bleed each one immediately and put it directly onto ice. My favorite way to cook them is panfried with brown butter. Here’s how to do it: I do this with halibut but it works great on all white-fleshed fish! Brown Butter Recipe YUM!
Give crappie fishing a try this spring…you’ll love it!