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Crappie are, in my opinion, one of the most fun fish to catch and certainly one of the best tasting fish. They swim in large schools and are found throughout most of the U.S. and into Canada.
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Crappie are fairly active year round, but fall and spring offer the hottest fishing. The warming spring water temperatures triggers a feed-a-thon amongst fish. Crappie spawn when the water temperature reaches about 52-60 degrees. Just before spawning (when the water hits about 48-51 degrees), they move into shallower water and feed aggressively.
This is known as the pre-spawn period. Most crappie move into shoreline cover such as fallen trees and shallow coves during this time. The females will then lay their eggs and move to slightly deeper water while the males stay in the shallows and guard the nest. If you catch several smaller fish in shallow water, try moving to the nearest dropoff and you may find the larger females feeding. These pre-spawn and spawn periods of spring often offer the best fishing of the year.
The cooling water of the fall also offers good crappie fishing. When the warm summer waters begin to cool down, the fish begin feeding aggressively in order to fatten up for the winter. Schools of big slabs can be caught easily during this “fall feed-up”. Crappie are fish that love structure, so key in on areas with prominent cover. Rock piles, shallow coves, stumps, points, fallen trees, and submerged brush are all favorites. Many anglers sink Christmas trees, old bushes, tires, and even wooden pallets to create homes for big fish.
Vertical jigging is a good method to fish submerged cover. A 1/32 or 1/16 oz. jig dropped into brush and twitched will produce many fish if the conditions are right. Try swimming a small spinner through stump fields or along fallen trees to locate the slabs. When you identify the depth at which most of the fish are holding, try suspending a jig or minnow at that depth under a small bobber. This is an effective way to keep your bait in the desired depth for a much longer period of time.