Top 4 Crappie Fishing Tips

By: Sarah Siddons

Fisherman holds Crappie fish weighing over 1.5 pounds on Crooked Lake in Quetico Provincial Park.
Fisherman holds Crappie fish weighing over 1.5 pounds on Crooked Lake in Quetico Provincial Park.
iStockphoto.com/George Peters

­Any angler will agree -- there is ­nothing­ like the thrill of a catch. The moment you see your line tighten, your heart starts to race. However, the aggressiveness of some fish, such as bass or carp, often sends rookies home empty h­anded and frustrated.

Crappie fishing is one of the most popular and productive types of fishing. Unlike the disheartening bass and carp, anglers of all skill levels can enjoy crappie fishing. It's often described as an easier, more low-key alternative to other types of fishing that require more skill -- and patience!

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Crappies are found in thousands of lakes and rivers across the country. They belong to the sunfish family and are close relatives of the bass fish. Native to the eastern United States and Canada, they've made their way into almost every pond and stream in the U.S. The abundance of crappie fish make them easier to catch than more illusive, deep-water sea dwellers.

On average, a full-grown crappie will measure 10 inches (25 cm) from nose to tail and weigh between a half-pound and one pound (.23 -.45 kg). This delicate fish has earned the nickname "papermouth" because of the caution the angler must take when hooking the fish. Yank too hard and the hook will rip right through the crappie's mouth. Its small size keeps the fish from putting up much of a fight.

­Another benefit of crappie fishing is the ability to fish them year round. Although some seasons are favorable (spring and fall), crappies are always available. While people usually think of fishing as a warm weather sport, don't forget about ice fishing in the winter!

When fishing for crappie, a light line will work much better than a heavy, bulky one. Fancy equipment is not necessary as any pole will do. The bait and lures you use to attract the fish are the most important pieces of equipment you will bring with you.

First though, you need to find the fish. Read on to find out how.

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Where to Find Crappie

Come out, ­come out, wherever you are!

Though crappies are abundant and seen as an easy fish to catch, that doesn't mean you can just go cast your line and find success. A basic understanding of crappie habitats will help you on your trip.

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­Most commonly, you'll find white or black crappie when fishing. Black crappie can handle water that's a bit deeper and clearer than the white crappie can. Appropriately, they also don't mind the water being a bit cooler. This is helpful if you've set your sights on one type of crappie over the other.

Overall, your best bet for finding crappie is fishing in large ponds and the shallow parts of lakes with sand and mud on the bottom. Lakes are especially abundant because they have a wider range of wildlife and vegetation, providing food and coverage. This is a key to finding where the crappies are.

So coverage is what we need right? Then get to know your favorite fishing spot as well as you can. Any water with points, inlets, holes, sunken islands, dams, submerged objects, reeds or weeds is prime real estate for the crappie [source: Take Me Fishing]. Those formations all provide the necessary coverage that the crappie seeks out. If you remember that, than you can use logic to figure out where you can hunt for fish.

Remember, structures in the water create shallows. The shallows allow underwater vegetation to grow. The vegetation will attract all sorts of water creatures, especially little baitfish that need coverage and shallow water. Finally (and hopefully the term baitfish clued you in!) game fish come to these structures looking for the little fish and coverage [source: Take Me Fishing].

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Crappie Lures and Baits

­Cho­osing live bait for crappie fishing is very easy. Crappies feed on minnows, worms and just about any insect they can get their mouths on. Live bait is easy to find in stores (or collect yourself) and even easier to fish with. The real-life movement of these creatures can appear extremely attractive to the fish. Since this is the crappie's natural food, it may seem like the most natural option.

On the other hand, live bait can be difficult to work with. Most complaints come from the inconvenience of keeping yourself stocked in minnows or worms. Keeping the insects alive, healthy and fed can be costly and time consuming. Artificial baits such as lures and jigs can be an attractive alternative. Lures can be tossed into the tackle box without worrying about their mortality. Plus, it's much easier to run to the store for lures than try to capture your own live bait.

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When choosing a lure, make sure to pick one that would appeal to crappies, one that could pass for their food of choice -- minnows, small crayfish or any type of insect. Crappies have keen eyesight, so coloring is important [source: Crappie.net]. Opt for lure colors that correspond with the surrounding conditions. In clear waters, use lures that are close to the typical color of crappie food such as silver and gray. At night, you can try blacks and dark blues. On sunny days, use the brightest color lures you can find.

Many anglers also advocate using both live and artificial lures to bait crappie. It's effective in fishing dense vegetation (where crappies like to hang out the most) while making the bait appear more life-like. Your choice of jig color can aid in attracting the crappie to the live bait.

There is no wrong way to hook a crappie, so experiment with whatever methods suit you to find your favorite way to catch.

Looking for a more exciting way to catch your crappie? Read on to find out how to fly fish for a crappie.

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Fly Fishing for Crappie

Fly-fishing is one of the most exciting forms of angling, and fly fishing for a crappie ­is no exception.

Both wet and dry flies are effective and fun ways to catch crappie. Dry flies are best on still, calm days with sunny, cloud-free cover. After hatching, smaller fish who are feeding at the surface for insects are perfect candidates for the dry fly -- just make sure your fly color corresponds to whatever the fish are feeding on [source: Fly Fisherman]. The most successful fly fishing will most likely be done with nymphs and streamers, which are fished underwater (this is also the best plan of attack on days with more adverse conditions).

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­The light bite of crappie can be difficult to feel when using underwater lures. This provides another advantage for fly-fishing. When using flies, it is easier to notice motion and movement on the other end of the line.

In the spring, the crappies navigating towards the shallower waters are skittish and frighten easily. In this scenario, the fly is ideal because of its lightweight form -- they won't cause a commotion -- and life-like movement [source: Hartmann].

In the heat of the summer months, try fly-fishing while wading, or hop in a small boat or inner tube. Navigate your way toward the dense brush, fallen trees or underwater stumps where crappies like to lounge and hide away from the sun.

Tip: Don't be too eager to hook your fish. A crappie may brush or nudge the fly before actually taking the hook. Wait until the fish has returned to the water before setting your hook.

If you want to stay out of the sun but still get your fishing in, read on to find out how to fish for crappie at night.

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Night Fishing for Crappie

­Fishing at night can be one of the most ex­hilarating fishing trips you'll ever make. Not only is night fishing a great event, but it can be an extremely productive outing. Just make sure you get to know your lake ahead of time so no underwater obstacles affect your trip. As always, if fishing from a boat, make sure the proper safety equipment is on board and visible.

Crappies are cold-blooded creatures on a constant search to regulate their body temperature. They move in toward surface waters at night when the temperature cools [source: Knol]. This is also where crappies feed.

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Crappies feed off plankton, minnows and other baitfish that are attracted to light, so the most important equipment for night fishing is the light selection. Lanterns are helpful because they attract mosquitoes, which in turn attract insect-eating baitfish. Floating and submersible lighting project down into the water and attract a gathering of baitfish and crappies. Night fishing can be done from shore, off a dock or from a boat. There are benefits of fishing from each.

Crappies are available at all times throughout the year, but the best thing you can do is schedule your trip according to the moon [source: Crappie Fishing USA]. Reportedly, your trip will be the most productive if you go out around the time of the new moon and avoid the full moon. This will also be the time where you'd like to use a darker colored lure, or one that can reflect light in a similar manner to minnows or worms.

To learn more about crappie fishing, visit the links on the next page.

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More Great Links

  • A., John. "John. A on crappie Fishing." crappie.com. Accessed 11/30/2008.http://www.crappie.com/johna/johna.htm
  • Crappie.net. "Crappie Lures." Accessed 11/30/2008.http://www.crappie.net/crappie-lures.html
  • Crappie Fishing USA. "Crappie Night Fishing." Accessed 11/30/2008.http://www.crappiefishingusa.com/id78.html
  • Crappie Fishing USA. "Using Live Bait for crappie." Accessed 11/30/2008http://www.crappiefishingusa.com/id15.html
  • Curwensville Lake Fishing. "Crappie Facts." Accessed 11/30/2008.http://www.curwensvillelakefishing.com/CrappieFacts.html
  • Fly Fisherman. "Bass and Panfish." Accessed 11/30/2008.http://www.flyfisherman.com/skills/ffmbass/
  • Hartmann, Erich. "Fly Rod Tactics for Spring Panfish." Fishing Minnesota. Accessed 11/30.2008.http://www.fishingminnesota.com/fishinfo318.html
  • Knol. "Crappie Fishing After Dark." Knol by Google. Accessed 11/30/2008http://knol.google.com/k/the-judge/crappie-fishing-after-dark/14g5pj4cyuk5u/128#
  • Take Me Fishing. "Black crappie - Pomoxis nigromaculatus." Accessed 11/30/2008.http://www.takemefishing.org/fishing/fishopedia/species-explorer/details/overview/fish/black-crappie
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