It’s the end of July, and it’s only going to get hotter… which means you’ll have to continue “changing” your baits and strategies if you want to keep the crappie nervous.
Buried in the awesome crappie fishing tips below, for this week, is a GREAT strategy for catching a load of crappie in the heat.
(Hint: it’s all about finding their “habitats” and fishing them with targeted technique, proven to work.)
It works like a charm.
And finally, remember that if you’ve ever used a tip I give you in this newsletter… it’s NOTHING compared to the deadly little tricks these old fishing survivalists figured out.
Just look at what they’ve got up their sleeves:
Here’s just a few tricks (out of hundreds) they’ll show you:
* A secret ingredient to put in your bait water that instantly transforms minnows into little crappie magnets! (In our tests, these spiced up minnows out-pull regular minnows by 3 to 1)
* The “spinning minnows” technique for catching loads of crappie in clear bottom areas (If you fish in clear water you’d be crazy not to use this instinct-stirring presentation)
* How to create the “illusion” of baby minnows schooling around your jig (Whip this secret out when your jigs aren’t working. Crappie will usually hit it immediately!)
And they’ve got HUNDREDS more.
Prepare to be amazed:
Seeing is believing.
And now…on with your crappie fishing tips for this week!
One thing that needs to be understood to successfully pursue crappie is that they are a migratory fish. They are constantly in transit from one mode, to another.
And, just like birds, each school follows its own regular path to and from the same destinations every year. Where you find them this year at this time, you will find them in the same time and place next year.
In January and February in the south, and April and June up north, crappies begin to prepare for the ordeal of spawning.
All winter, they have been holding in mid to deep water, usually at least 25 feet deep, where they suspend at different depths according to the temperature.
They hold over structure and off of creek beds, channels and coves.
When the water temperature approaches 60 degrees F., crappie will begin to move towards suitable spawning grounds in shallow water. Bear in mind that surface temperature is usually several degrees warmer.
You want to know what the temperature is at around 10 feet deep. Males will begin to come in first, traveling along lines of structure, along creek beds, channels, submerged timber, and any other available cover. Brush piles in 8-15 feet of water are good places to start looking. Females follow soon after. Pre-spawn crappie often hold off of points that slope towards channels and drop-offs.
This is a perfect place to use small sinking crank-baits. Use light line and work them from shallow to deep water. In rivers, look for pre-spawn crappie in tributaries, and siltier water, as it warms up first.
Crappie will leave the main river channel and move towards areas with less current. Look for them anywhere there is a current break, and heavy cover. Crappie move upstream looking for spawning places. When they come to tailraces behind dams, they will congregate in large numbers in the slower water along the edges, especially near undercuts and current breaks.
Spring weather can be unpredictable in some parts of the country. If a cold front moves in after crappie have started their migrations, they will return to deeper water, and start all over. They will follow the same path in and out, so if you found them once, you can find them again.
When the water temperature approaches 60 degrees, females will come into shallow water, 4-6 feet deep, on flats near cover, and lay their eggs. Then, the females move off to deeper water and the males remain to guard the nest, striking viciously at anything that comes near it. Any time of day or night is productive now.
This is the time of year that crappie aficionados wait for all-year. All, you have to do is find them, and they will hit virtually anything thrown at them!
They will migrate along natural cover such as submerged timber, creek channels, and especially feeder creek beds, and then nest in nearby shallow flats, and especially coves with stick-up type structure such as pilings, docks, trees, rocks, etc. They build bowl-shaped nests in gravel, sand or substrate.
After the eggs hatch, usually within 48-53 hours, they move off to mid-depths, relating to structure, and suspending usually near the thermo cline. They will remain in this state until the water begins to cool in the fall.
Post spawn crappie are the most difficult to catch of all the seasons, even for experts. It requires knowledge, good equipment, expertise and, well a little luck to locate the schools and goad them into cooperating.
Obviously, one of the difficulties in post-spawn fishing is finding the schools. They are no longer concentrated in a limited area, but have hundreds of acres of water to hide in.
There are no more concentrated schools, and with crappies natural tendency to range far and wide, and suspend at mid-depths, refusing to move 6″ up or down to take a bait, it can drive any piscatorial pursuer insane.
The first, and most obvious place to look for post-spawn crappie is the nearest drop-off with cover, such as weeds or submerged timber. The next place I would look is at the mouths of coves.
Crappie that have entered the coves to spawn will move back to the drop-off, in weedy or woody cover after leaving the beds. They will usually be right on the edge at the mouth of the cove, where it meets the main lake.
Next, crappie that have spawned on the banks of a creek, or inlet, will move to the mouth and suspend in weedy, or brushy cover along any change of depth in bottom contour.
Look for them near shelves, creek channels, bowls on the bottom, or under-cuts. Off steep shorelines, such as cliffs or long points, crappie will spawn in the shallowest part they can access, then move to the nearest brush or weeds in deeper water to recover.
Early morning, twilight and night-time are the best times to search. If there is no cover nearby, crappie will simply find a depth with a temperature they like, and suspend in open water…every crappie fisherman’s nightmare!
When dealing with suspended fish, there are a few things to consider. Post-spawn crappie will normally suspend in 10′-20′ feet of water, but bear in mind that the clearer the water, the deeper they will suspend.
Also, crappie do not suspend in the same manner as bass, or other panfish. Bass and sunfish will pick a depth, and ‘stack’ up and down it at different depths, in small groups. Crappie pick a depth and suspend side-by-side at only that depth, over an entire lake, sort of like a fish ‘blanket’.
They will not change depth to feed. They will suspend over structure without actually relating to it much. This is why most late-spring fisherman are unsuccessful. They will find cover, but fish under the crappie, resulting in Angler=0, Crappie=1. As much as I like fishing, scoreless trips aren’t that much fun.
Crappie use two factors to determine at what depth they will suspend. One is the thermo cline, which, if you remember from High School science classes, is where the warm, less-dense surface water meets the colder, more dense deeper water, forming an invisible line with a sudden temperature change. The other factor is PH.
Crappie will look for a depth that has a PH factor they find agreeable. To find the thermo cline, Lower a temperature gauge probe down until you record a significant drop in temperature. That is the depth of the thermo cline, and will be consistent over the entire lake. Some good depth-finders can also indicate the thermo cline depth.
The only way to know the PH of water at a given depth is to guess at it. I usually ask the local lake biologist for a break-down of PH levels at depth and go from there. The next step after determining these values is to look for structure at these depths. Crappie are not necessarily structure-oriented at this time, but it gives you a place to start.
Find several areas of structure at the correct depth and fish the open water in between them. This can often fill a stringer when nothing else works. The most productive way to find post-spawn crappie is slow-trolling with a jig.
Set your jig depth close to the thermo cline and …just troll. Double-jig rigs work really good for this. Use two different colors and rig them about 2′ apart. Troll along lines of cover and structure, creek and river mouths, off of coves, points and river-beds. Sooner or later, you will find them. Remember, depth is critical. They will not move up or down to hit your jig.
Fish the jigs under a bobber to maintain the correct depth. Another neat gadget that really works is Zebco’s Crappie Classic reel. It has a depth-set feature so that when you catch a crappie, you can set the depth and when you drop it back down, it goes to the exact same depth, I say, pretty neat!
If you thought that finding them was all there is to it (LOL). WRONG! Post-spawn crappie are also lethargic, moody and downright uncooperative (I would be too if I only got to have fun once a year). They are most likely depressed because their party is over and it’s back to the same old, boring, suspend here, chase a minnow here, suspend there…for another year.
They are probably a little tired as well. Minnow and jig size are very important at this time of year, and smaller is better. I’ve seen times when switching from a 1/8 oz. jig to a 1/16, or even a 1/32 oz. jig was the difference between going home empty-handed, or having fish for supper. Also, use light line, no larger than 4 lb.
If you want the best of both worlds, many times, I’ve rigged a small, lively minnow on a small jig head. As a rule, when you can no longer find any beds, or fry in shallow water, the post-spawn is over and you can look for crappie in their structure-oriented summer homes.
As the temperature get hotter, crappie will still follow the thermo cline and suspend, but they will aggressively pursue schools of baitfish, and especially shad. In the heat of summer, you will most likely find crappie along the edges of channels, river beds, bridge and dock pilings or deep submerged cover, anywhere from 8-50′ deep.
The thermo cline is the key to finding the correct depth. Also, in summer, night-fishing can sometimes be the most productive, but early morning and twilight are still good times as well.
In summer, live minnows are much more productive than jigs. Rig a small minnow (I usually hook them through the rear, so they stay lively and live longer) under a very light sinker or split shot, on light line.
You can use a slip-bobber if you want. I use a fish-finder rig with two minnows at different depths, and rig several rods, as many as four, sometimes, at different depths, until I find them (check to see if this is legal in your state, first). Drift fishing is far and away the most productive summer tactic.
Drift along likely spots with these rigs and be ready. You will often catch two fish at a time like this. Don’t neglect the main channels, because crappie like moving water. Don’t forget that crappie are a major schooling fish. Where you catch one, you will catch others.
When the dog-days of summer give way to cool, foggy mornings, it signals a change in crappie behavior from mostly moody, to aggressive predator. As water temperatures drop, crappie begin to move once more in to the mid-depths, usually along the same routes they moved out on. They will cruise shallow flats in search of baitfish.
The best times to search are early morning, twilight and night-time. What actually triggers this behavior is as much the appearance of Midges, as water temperature. When Midges appear, baitfish such as shad and shiners will attack them voraciously, in turn attracting schools of hungry crappie.
When you see small baitfish jumping at this time of year, crappie will not be far behind. Look for crappie schools along shallow bays, winding creek beds and any other irregular bottom topography that can create a ‘holding’ zone. Where you find schools of baitfish, you will find crappie.
One of my fall tricks in locating fall crappie is one I learned while striper fishing. Look for wheeling and diving sea-gulls or other fish-eating birds.
Also, look for jumping schools of baitfish. Where you find them, you will find baitfish, and where you find baitfish in med-shallow water, you will find crappie. Crappie will once again become structure-oriented, so look for submerged timber, or other cover near drop-offs, in 5-15′ of water.
Coves and points with shelves in 5-15′ of water are excellent places to search. In rivers and tailraces, look for flats in 5-15 ‘ of water, near bottom structure and current breaks.
When the water temperature approaches the mid 50s, crappie will begin their winter phase. Crappie are one of the most sought after winter species nation-wide, and with good reason. When you find them, you can catch them. But be advised, winter crappie fishing is not for everyone. It can be tough at times, due to the weather, and sometimes even dangerous.
Safety is always important, but never more so than in winter. Hypothermia can strike without warning, and in some parts of the country, even frost-bite is a very real danger. Be sure to dress accordingly, have a cell phone within reach at all times, and stay alert to hazards. Crappie are pretty consistent through-out the country, so what works down south as far as locating schools will also work on ice up north. As the water cools into the 50s, crappie will move to shallow structure in 12-20 feet of water.
Look for submerged and standing timber, bridge pilings, boat docks, secondary creek channels and other structure. The best of all worlds is a shelf or channel that runs near a boat dock, bridge pilings or weedy flats. In rivers, look near current breaks and irregular bottom features. They will remain in these locations until the water temperature rises enough to trigger the pre-spawn mode, starting the entire cycle over.
Each body of water has it’s own unique patterns, but they will be close to these. Locals are a wealth of information on new lakes. But these generalities will give you good places to start.
By the way…it’s the “summer heat” tips above that you should test and focus on during the next month or 2. Give it a shot, and I think you’ll love what happens!
It’s all about “calculated” tweaks to your technique, baits, and strategies for catching crappie… based on season, temperature, conditions, etc…
It’s the only way to “win” this game.
And here is a great equalizer…
That’s it for this issue… see you next week!