Spring Crappie Fishing
By: Jordan McKibbon
One of the most relaxing and fun species' to target during the fall are Crappie.
Crappie are a very easy species to target – they begin their Spring Run (in the southern Ontario region) as early as ice-out (March), and will continue to stick around as late as the end of late May/early June.. At least in the shallows – come summer/warmer temps, these fish 'tend to head out to the cool depths of the lakes/rivers.
During the Spring Runs, these fish like to head into shallow bays of lakes, and in rivers they will often head up into tributaries or shallow areas that offer cover.
My favorite local 'hot spot' to fish for Crappie would be the Grand River below Caledonia. In this area there are often many Crappie cruising around below the Caledonia dam, and they are very easy to catch (I will discuss Crappie fishing techniques/tactics in a moment).
When I'm Crappie fishing, I like to use a shorter ultralight or light action rod, paired up with a 500 series reel. I use this setup so that when I hookset and fight the fish, my rod has enough bend/shock absorption so that I don't rip my lure or hook through the mouth of the fish – Crappie, like most other panfish, have very thin 'paper' mouths. I also like to use very thin/light line – I often use 6lbs P-Line (this is my favorite line to use because I don't need to add a fluorocarbon leader), or a 4lbs diameter braid.
At the shop we've got tons of ultralight action rods and 500 series reels, with ultralight rods starting as low as $14.99 (Eagle Claw), and reels starting as low as $34.99 (Shimano Sienna 500 Series). Our most popular panfish combo that we sell would have to be the Shimano Sojourn Ultralight rod ($24.99) paired up with a Shimano Sienna 500 Series reel ($34.99), spooled with 4 or 6lbs P-Line. This is a fantastic combo for all panfish species.
Once you've got yourself set up with a combo to take-on some Crappie, you need to pic the technique/style of fishing you're going to utilize to catch these slabs.
The main techniques/styles I suggest to utilize include float fishing for them, or tossing small lures.
Float fishing for Crappie
To float fish for crappie you'll need a small float (I like to use no more than 5g floats); this float can consist of anything as cheap as a red/white 'old school' float, or one of the more advanced/fine-tuned balsa wood floats – my favorite float to use is a CoolWaters 5g fixed loafer float.
When float fishing for Crappie (in the Spring), I suggest you set your float a foot or two below the surface of the water, cast out, and wait for the bite! As for presentation, I have and will always suggest using live bait... My favorite is a small live minnow, or a small live trout worm. If we've had a lot of rain or runoff, I will use some Pautzke Fire Dye (my favorite is Blue or Chartreuse) to add a little bit of color to my live bait – Crappie often react positively to bright colors when they begin to get finicky.
Another presentation that you can utilize while float fishing, is the use of soft plastics under a float. When using soft plastics under a float, I suggest using a slip-float so that you have the ability to 'pop' and 'twitch' the bait vertically under the float, without moving your float substantially closer to yourself. My favorite soft plastics to use under the float include a Berkley Ripple shad (very small white/pink ones), a Phenix Micro Tube, or a Berkley Trout worm (in bubblegum pink).Again, for this presentation you will simply cast your float out (set about a foot or two below the surface), and lightly twitch your presentation every couple of seconds until you see your float drop under the water or dart in an abnormal fashion... Which is when you set the hook!
Using small lures for Crappie
One thing that most people don't know about Crappie, is that they are actually quite the aggressive species of fish. Using lures that kick off lots of flash, vibration, and noise are often great producers for putting some Crappie in the cooler!
My favorite lures to use for targeting Crappie include: a Small White Spinnerbait, Small lipless Crankbaits (small Rapala Rippin' Raps), and Small Spinners (small size #0 Panther Martins in Yellow/Red spotted are my favorite). This presentation is simple – just cast and retrieve!
So there you have it folks! These are my suggested ways to target spring Crappie. Hopefully I've been able to provide some people with the knowledge to get themselves a tasty shore lunch this Spring.
Any questions, don't hesitate to give us a shout at the shop and we'll be happy to answer them!
Good luck, Stay Safe, and Happy Fishing!