If you happen to belong to the Crappie Fan Club (no meetings, dues, weird handshakes or membership cards required), you’ve got plenty of company. For anglers, the Crappie makes it to the top of popularity lists because they’re fun to catch, found in thousands of bodies of water throughout the U.S. and you can snap them up during all four seasons–including winter. If you know the ins and outs of catching this fish species, they’re so easy to catch, they practically hang out waiting for you to come get them.
Even the most primitive gear can be used to pursue this fish, so you needn’t worry that your wallet will take a huge hit in order to equip you for your fishing expeditions. Dare we add that, if properly prepared, this fish can be turned into delicious recipes calling for flaky, white meat?
But perhaps we’re preaching to the choir about the merits of Crappie when all you care about is how to snag lots of them. We’ve got you covered with the following 12 tips that include equipment, gear, technique and style. If you can’t catch Crappie after reading this, you may wish to set your sites on trout instead.
1. Learn where they hang out. Crappie is native to North America and there are two species of them: black and white. They live in freshwater only and prefer highly-vegetated, moderately acidic water where they can get their fill of aquatic insects and minnows. Since they are schooling fish, if you find one, you’ll find a lot, though they often hide in submerged places. They feed at dawn and dusk and don’t hibernate over the winter.
2. Arm yourself with the rod and reel combination that fits the body of water you’ll fish. If they’re hiding deep down, a spinning or spin cast combo with 4- to 10-pound line should do the job. In shallow water, go for a plain cane pole, unless you like to show off and have already asked Santa for a fiberglass or graphite one. You can our guides to rods and reels by clicking those links.
3. Purchase a roomy tackle box. A dizzying array of tackle boxes could make you a little crazy because they come in so many sizes, styles and sizes. Overlook the bells and whistles; you need a proper number of tray compartments to hold essentials like jigs, jig heads, spools of line and extra reels. If you have huge plans, choose a tackle box that can accommodate add-on boxes that pile on the compartments.
4. Select hooks, sinkers and bobbers in varying sizes made of different materials. The lead head jig or spinner is a favorite tool with Crappie anglers. Stock up on monofilament line in any of the obnoxious colors that permit light strike detection. If you’re a basics guy, stick with minnows, Crappies’ favorite food-du-jour.
5. Don’t ignore your own needs. Consider filling a backpack with contour maps of fishing lakes, lighted floats, a fillet knife, fold-down rain suit, towel, rod tip repair kit, flashlight, waterproof matches and signal flairs, just in case you need emergency help and your tackle box is already crammed to the brim. A GPS device is recommended, too.
6. Pick your season. If you intend to fish in the spring, it’s spawning season as water temperatures range between 58- and 68-degrees and Crappies move to shallow water and can be found amid vegetation, inlets and dam rock reinforcements. During summer months, move to locations with cooler waters that are between eight- and 25-feet deep. You can also find these fish hiding in artificial “attractors” like tire reefs. In the fall, Crappie again move to shallower depths, congregating along shorelines where you may discover them in weed lines.
7. Master the right angling techniques. You can operate from shore, dock, wharf, pontoon or get yourself some waders if you want to position yourself for success. Be careful baiting your hook because Crappie have very fragile mouths, thus you risk a tear that can lose your catch. Crappies like their bait to move, so don’t leave gear languishing in one place on the lake surface if you want to attract these fish.
8. Master fly fishing techniques. This alternative way to snag Crappie is best employed using dry flies on calm waters because this fish bites very lightly. Fly fishing for Crappie in the spring is recommended and a great place to troll is where underwater stumps hide them from sunlight. That stated, spawning season makes Crappie jumpy so if you fly fish, make sudden movements or wiggle your lines at your own risk.
9. Understand how “Dipping the Cover” works. This means vertical jigging along the bank to probe the shoreline for spawning Crappie. Hold your rod in one hand and line in the other, pull the jig to the pole apex, thread the bait and slowly drop the jig into the water. Alternately, try “Casting and Retrieving,” best used when there’s an insufficient amount of water for fish to thrive, thus they will likely chase everything that moves.
10. Try out the third technique Crappie fishermen employ: “Bobber Fishing.” Using assorted floats, one controls the speed of bait tempting Crappie fish just below the surface. Says one expert, a split shot around 6-inches above a light wire hook has been known to produce miraculous catches and that’s your objective, right?
11. Use the proper knot. Expert anglers recommend using a loop knot for the best Crappie fishing experience because it allows a jig to move loosely after it’s been casted, teasing fish using subtle movements. If the last time you tied a knot was at Boy Scout camp, ask another angler to show you the ropes.
12. Don’t spoil your experience by rushing. This is a slow and steady game and if you are in a hurry, you’re going to make mistakes like pulling in a cast too fast. Don’t laugh but if you know the water is full of Crappie but you’re not getting any, your stress levels could be keeping them away! Crappie live in the wild for around 10 years and they’re not going anywhere so remember why you’ve gone fishing in the first place: to relax.