"Spring = Crappie Time"
Good Crappie Fishing is associated with Spring, and during this pre-spawn period we find ourselves getting out the jigs. We may fish much of the year by vertical fishing jigs over brush piles but as crappie head towards spawning areas, it is time to become a jig caster.
Crappie are already heading towards areas that will be used for spawning such as bays with gravel, hard bottom points and flats as well as feeder creeks with warmest water to will gorge themselves before the spawn. They nest in colonies and frequently around submerged vegetation in waters from three to eight feet deep. Timber or wood plays a big part of where to find crappie during the move into spawn areas.
Look for the warmest water you can find where spring air warms the surface as southern winds push this warm water into the north shore or go as far back into the creeks and start fishing. These same spots are good location for shore anglers to also target. As bays and channels on the north shore warm more quickly, crappie will move into them to spawn. Crappies also will be along rocky shoreline and rip rap at bridges.
When water temps near 55, males start nesting and may hit live baits best but will hit artificial baits as the spawn nears which occurs when water temperatures reach 62 to 65 degrees. Fish shallow wood by casting along a log or use a long rod and snag-free jig but avoid spooking fish by keeping the boat back from the target. Let the bait fall to couple feet and slowly retrieve it over the rocks or cast over the tops of submerged weeds and timber.
We prefer jigs and artificial baits for Crappie or Bluegills this time of year over live baits which must be kept alive; however, live baits do have their place especially when the fish are not active. Jigs are so versatile and can be brought to life by varying your retrieve and presentation with a small plastic trailer of different colors to appear more natural.
When fishing with a partner, use different baits or if regulations allow, try multiple lures to determine what works best. I use orange, white or chartreuse but Linda uses pink and non-painted jigs or roadrunners. In clear waters, we use twisters in colors like purples, blues, clear with metal flake. Crappie can see colors well and we will always keep changing jig/tube colors to let the fish tell us what they like. Start by fishing all types and colors at first to develop a pattern, then you can concentrate on what works best. To develop a location pattern, we cruise out along shore casting till we pick up fish while paying attention to shoreline for clues such as type of rock, etc. Many times it will be where gravel turns to rock or other transitions. Early season you will find fish staging alone major creeks edges near shallow spawning flats waiting for warmer water temps.
If you're fishing during a period of stable weather, shallow areas will produce but during adverse weather changes and barometric pressure changes, fish will move out to first break towards deeper water and the good news is they will soon return. Crappies tend to move out and suspend maybe 5-6 foot down in about 10-12 feet of water, many times at the same depth you found them near shore. So, fish at a depth a little shallower as they will be looking up to feed and keep moving.
Your presentation will vary depending on depth and water clarity. Crappie in clear water generally spawn deeper, while murky conditions draw the fish shallower. During spawning, you’re better off casting your jig, because if you get up too close you can spook them. A jig-and-bobber technique also produces in the shallows, set a bobber at 1 to 2 feet and slowly retrieve or let it drift with the wind. Enter a bay quietly and scan the water for weeds, rocks and wood. Go slowly and quietly with your electric trolling motor and fan-cast the area as you move along till you find fish. Always be ready to try something different if the first choice doesn't work.
Be courteous and thoughtful of others on the water as well as shore anglers so we can all have a great time while spring fishing.
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Till Next Time, GOD BLESS & GOOD FISHING.!