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How to Catch Crappies: Crappie Fishing 101

How to Catch Crappies: Crappie Fishing 101

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The Appeal of Catching Crappies

Crappies are some of the most popular fish sought after among both experienced and inexperienced fishermen. Any fisherman worth his salt has done a good amount of crappie fishing and knows how to catch crappies. Crappies are a great fish to sink your teeth into if you’re just starting out on your fishing journey.

If you intend to start fishing in any capacity it would always be well advised that you make an effort to understand at least the basics of how to crappie fish. We will look at some of the most important aspects of crappie fishing in this article. You will become better versed in the art of fishing crappie with our expert fishing tips for crappie. You will become an expert on how to catch crappies with our help.

How To Catch Crappies and lots of them

About Crappies

There are two types of crappies, black crappies and white crappies. There are many variations of these two types of crappies as far as color. Variations occur due to a variety of factors, such as changes in region and climate. Black crappies are always darker, however, and white crappies are always lighter, but you can always count on them being some shade of a greenish color. There are also a few other ways you can differentiate between the two crappies besides color. White crappies will have vertical stripes along their bodies that black crappies do not have. Black crappies, on the other hand, will have higher dorsal fins and more spinal columns.

Crappies are a member of the sunfish family and are also considered a type of panfish. Panfish are called as such due to their small size. Panfish will usually fit perfectly into an average sized cooking pan. This is also what makes crappies and other panfish so popular among a lot of fishermen, as well as consumers. The biggest crappies can get up to 20″ in length and weigh up to 5 pounds. They are generally only about 1/2 a pound, however, with a length of only 12″. Crappies feed on a variety of small prey. This prey includes different aquatic insects and some small crayfish.

Places with crappies

Crappies are freshwater fish just like any other sunfish. The abundance of crappies and the fact that it is so easy to find them and catch them make crappies some of the most popular gamefish among fishermen today. Crappies can be found in all sorts of locations. They are often very easy to find and prominently featured in reservoirs, river, ponds, and lakes. Crappies can also be found all over the country at most bodies of water, but they are most commonly found in the Mid-East United States. Crappies are beyond bountiful in states such as Arkansas and Alabama.

White Crappie distribution map where you can fish for crappie
Distribution map of the white crappie. Yellow represents native and purple represents where it has been introduced. – Reference Wikipedia White Crappie

Crappies are known to move all around throughout the year due to such things as the coming and going of their spawning season and seasonal temperature fluctuations. There are still always some things you can rely on as far as where crappies will be located and when.

Where do they congregate?

Crappies will usually stay deep in the water during the day and only come up to the shore during dusk or dawn for feeding. They will generally be found at around 10-15 feet deep waters during the day. Crappies have come to prefer deep water because the temperature in deep water is more stable. This stable temperature makes for a more consistent living environment for crappie schools. Crappies can be found in more shallow waters during their spawning season, however. Spawning season for crappies is mid-March to mid-May, around Spring.

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Time To Go To School

Crappies are known to be a schooling type of fish. Schooling fish are fish that prefer to stay in groups, or “schools”. Schools tend to congregate due to the fact that there is stability and security in numbers. Crappies will school not only with other crappies but with many other types of panfish, as well. Crappie schools tend to favor locations around underwater structures such as aquatic vegetation and other elements that provide them some shelter. These are called “fish beds”.

Underwater in Kansas: An Angler's Dream

Topographical Maps

It is always a good idea to make use of a a topographical map of whatever body of water you are fishing in when fishing for any kind of crappie. These topographical maps can help you find all the deeper spots and sections that crappie schools tend to congregate in. Some topographical maps will even show you the location of different fish beds so you have a better chance of knowing where the crappies are hiding.

Topographical Fishing Map of Lake Sam Rayburn (Rayburn Reservior) - with GPS Hotspots from Hook N Line.  Click here to see more on Amazon.

Topographical Fishing Map of Lake Sam Rayburn (Rayburn Reservior) – with GPS Hotspots from Hook N Line. Click here to see more on Amazon.

Depth Finders and Fish Finders

Another useful tool for the crappie fishermen is the depth-finder, or fish-finder. Depth-finders and fish-finders are electronic devices that allow you to scan the water with SONAR technology to find out where the fish are located. A sound wave is emitted into the waters by the device and the physical presence of the fish will bounce the sound wave back to the device. This information allows the device to determine the location of the fish. The location of the fish will then be displayed for you to read on a small screen.

Click here to see our review of the best wireless portable fish finders.

Where to Catch Crappies by season:

Fishing lake side view where to fish for crappie in spring summer fall winter

Spring

Mid-March to mid-May is crappie spawning season. This makes Spring the best time of the year for fishing crappie. Crappies will have an increased appetite during this period due to their intense activity. They will be voracious and biting. They will also be more out in the open and easier to find. Crappie can be found in more shallow waters during the Spring. Look for crappies in small water arms feeding into the lake or other shallow areas with lots of shelter from brushes and other vegetation. Also take a look under docks.

Summer

Crappies are known to go deep into the water during the peak months of the Summer and spread out due to high temperatures making their usual schools unbearably crowded. This makes the peak months of Summer a slightly hard time for fishing crappie than some other seasons. You will still be able to find crappies but they will be fewer and farther between. A boat will help. You will have to cast out farther and deeper if you want to catch crappie in the Summer. Look for crappies among drop offs or around submerged structures.

Best time to catch crappie

Fall

Fall can be a great time for fishing crappie. Crappies will be out and about and excited after the long hot months of Summer. The decreased temperature will get them active and hungry. They can often be found at shallow depths during the Fall, similar to the Spring. They will come out in greater numbers and they will be looking for a meal. Crappie will be commonly found in shallow waters during the Fall. Look for them in shallow shelters along the water and along banks.

Winter

Fishing crappie is also an option during the Winter months.. Crappies are actually a very common fish to go after when you go ice-fishing. Crappies do not hibernate at all unlike some other fish. There is no time of year when you are not able to catch some crappies. Crappie schools will stay huddled together in the Winter at the deepest depths that they can find. This is so they stay warm and they will work together to find food. They will certainly be grateful for any meal that comes their way. Crappies may be in more shallow waters if the Winter isn’t too cold, not too dissimilar from Fall. They will go back into the depths when it gets cold, however. Be sure to go into the deeper sections of the water if the lake is frozen over for ice-fishing.

Fishing for crappies:

Use a light hook

Eagle Claw Crappie Fishing Hook Set great for catching crappies
Click here to buy Eagle Claw Crappie Fishing Hook Set on Amazon

You should always be sure to use a lighter hook than usual when fishing crappie. Crappies are known to have very soft lips that will be pulverized by too large or heavy of a hook. This means that the kind of hooks you would use to catch a bass are off-limits for crappie fishing. You will not be able to reel in your crappie if the hook doesn’t even stay in its lips. You should also always be careful to keep the line tight when fishing crappie. Lines with a lot of slack tend to better allow the hook to slip out of the crappies soft lips.

Use a light rig

Crappies don’t always go straight to the bottom even though they prefer the depths. Crappie schools instead tend to hang out all around at different depths in the lower parts of the water. You will thus need to ensure that you keep some activity in your line at all times in order to attract crappies. You don’t want your line to sink to the bottom and stay there. Light rigs are a great tool when fishing crappie because they will allow for the line to sink slowly to the bottom and dance along the way. This will make sure that any schools hanging out at some mid-point along the way are allowed to take notice of your lure or bait.

Use light equipment

Cadence CC6 Lightweight Reel & Rod Combo
Cadence CC6 Lightweight Reel & Rod Combo. Click here to learn more on Amazon.

Crappies are very light so you do not need a lot of heavy-duty equipment to catch them. Lightweight equipment actually works best when fishing crappie as it better allows you to feel the pull of the light crappie. Long poles are often preferred by fishermen when catching crappies on boats because they can be cast out far and away from the boat. Boats can often scare away crappie schools if they are too close. Ultralight poles will also often have very light and sensitive tips that make it easier to notice the weak bite of the crappie. You will simply see the end of your pole starting to bend when the crappie bites. Ultralight spinning rods are the best type of rods to use when catching crappies.

Daiwa Mini System Minispin Ultralight Spinning Reel and Rod Combo in Hard Carry Case
Daiwa Mini System Minispin Ultralight Spinning Reel and Rod Combo in Hard Carry Case. Great option for the traveling shore fisherman. Click here to learn more on Amazon.

Use lightweight line

Stren Crappie Monofilament Crappie Fishing Line
Stren Crappie Monofilament Fishing Line. Click here to see on Amazon.

It is best to always use lightweight line when fishing crappie. Some fishermen will use heavier line when fishing out of fear that their line will break when it gets snagged on some fish bed close to the bottom, but light line is better because it is easier to maneuver away from and through these obstacles.

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Different rigs for catching crappies:

Using Jigs

Crappie Magnet Best of the Best Fishing Kit Great for Catching Crappies
Crappie Magnet Best of the Best Fishing Kit. Click here to buy on Amazon.

Jigs are the best type of fishing lures to use when fishing crappie. Jigs are lightweight and tend to dance to the bottom of the water when you cast them. This is perfect for attracting any crappie schools lying somewhere in the depths. Small jigs are the best jigs for crappie fishing. A great jig to use would be a minnow jig. Crappies love minnows. You can also use a spinner jig. Using a loop knot for your jig will allow freer movement of the jig. It is ideal that your jig is allowed to move and sway as naturally as possible as it sinks to the depths or is slowly reeled back in.

Crappie Magnet Catch
Crappie Magnet Catch

Bobber and bait for Catching Crappies

How to Tie a slip BOBBER for Crappie! EASY!

You can also leave the lure behind and go a more traditional route. You can use a live-bait rig with a small split shot, a live minnow or artificial bait, and a slip bobber. The split shot will allow the rig to casually sway down in the waters and make the line easy to maneuver. The slip bobber will allow you to customize the depth the bait will sit at in the water. This is incredibly important given the variety of depths at which crappie schools can congregate. Simply cast your line out once it is prepared then slowly reel it back in as it sinks into the water.

Recommended: Thill Pro Series Slip Bobber Rig Kit for Catching Crappies on Bobber
Recommended: Thill Pro Series Slip Bobber Rig Kit. Click here to buy on Amazon

Vertical jigging for ice-fishing Crappies

Ice Fishing Crappie Secrets

Vertical jigging is the method you will use for fishing crappie when ice-fishing. The best baits to use for vertical jigging for crappies are larval insects such as waxworms and mealworms. You can also use live minnows as well. Simply hang the line down below you and let it sink all the way to the bottom. You will then begin to “jig” the line as it reaches the depths. This means to lightly bounce the line up and down as if the line was performing a dance or a “jig”. This dance allows your bait to be better seen by any school of crappies. You will know there are crappies in the area once you’ve gotten a bite. Keep jigging until the bites begin to slow down. Move onto another location when the crappies stop biting and then repeat.

Spider rigging

Crappie Fishing: Spider Rigging Beginner’s Tips

Spider rigging is another common method that a lot of fishermen use when fishing crappie. This method involves a small trolling boat. You will set up multiple rods around the boat with different depths set on each line. These multiple rods hanging off of your boat will give your boat the appearance of a spider, hence the name. You can set the different lines with different lures for further experimentation on top of playing with depth. Keeping track of which poles get the best results will help you understand both the appetites and locations of the crappies in the area. You will slowly troll the boat through the waters once all the lines are dropped. Be sure to check local regulations before performing this method of fishing. Some areas do not allow fishermen to use multiple rods.

Ready To Learn More?

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The golden rule for How to Catch Crappies

Crappie Fishing statue

The ultimate tip for fishing crappie is to be patient. Don’t reel your line in too quickly just because you aren’t getting any bites. Crappies will bite eventually. Be patient and allow your line to dance down through depths and eventually you will find a school of crappie. They are out there and they will come to you if you let them. Just find the deep waters and look for fish beds and let your lure or bait do the trick.

Recommended Further Reading

Instant Crappie Catching Tricks E-Course

Best Types of Fishing Worms for Fishing

Different Types of Fishing Rods and Their Uses

What is the Best Wireless Portable Fish Finder?

What is the Best Fishing Line Stripper?

The Best Collapsible Fishing Pole, Rod and Reel

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