Crappie time

The author pulls in another catch.

Lakes across the Midwest are ice free and warming and that means crappies are spending more and more time shallow.  These scrappy panfish are in those shallows looking for food meaning they can provide some of the year’s fastest open-water fishing action!

Veteran early season crappie anglers know finding the warmest shallow water is usually key.  Warmer waters usually attracts crappies as the first signs of open-water life often occur in the warmest of the shallows, drawing hungry fish.  As mentioned previously, these crappies are there to feed first and later to spawn. 

Shallow, dark-bottomed bays are classic early season spots as their waters warm quickly drawing hungry fish.  Marinas and boat channels are other shallow spots that will warm quickly and draw panfish too.

A good way to find early season crappies involves staying on the move and searching various shallow spots.  When fishing from a boat, I keep an eye on the temperature gauge on my sonar unit when going from spot to spot as, again, finding warm water is key.  Shore anglers, though more limited in spots than the boat angler, often do well this time of the year as shallow areas that hold fish are often accessible from shore now too.

Once located, a small panfish jig tipped with a crappie minnow or waxworm and fished below a small bobber usually works, particularly when the fish are finicky.  When a bit more aggressive fish are encountered, it’s usually hard to beat a small jig and plastic combo.  In fact, a Mr. Crappie Jig Head paired with a “Mr. Crappie 2” Joker is an awesome combination when a school of hungry shallow crappies is located.  The “Electric Chicken” and “Tuxedo black/chartreuse” color Joker are two of my favorites. 

Whether fishing a jig and live bait or jig and plastic, fishing the combination a couple feet below a bobber and casting near shallow cover like weeds, brush and timber usually results in bites if fish are present.  Another key is to set the bobber so the bait is presented above the level the fish are holding, as crappies are notorious for “feeding up.” 

Also, using a small bobber usually increases catch rates as well as a small float slides easily underwater on the bite.  This can be key for finicky fish that are often spooked by the floatation of more buoyant bobbers.

A final suggestion is to approach potential fishing spots quietly using your trolling motor and to avoid any unnecessary noises when fishing.  Spring crappies in the shallows are notorious for being spooky and avoiding any noise and commotion that can easily scatter these wily fish will probably up your catch.

Spring is here and so is the urge to fish open water.  For many anxious anglers, spring and crappies go hand in hand.  These fish offer some of the first angling opportunities of the year and they are often cooperative now, too.  Following some of the tips just provided can, in fact, probably help you land some of these scrappy fish on your spring fishing trips this year!

As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure!


Mike Frisch hosts the popular “Fishing the Midwest” TV series.  Visit www.fishingthemidwest  to see more fishing tips and view recent TV episodes as well.

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