Tips for locating and catching crappies around spring spawn
By Ashley Rae of SheLovesToFish.com
Spring is my favorite season to be out on the water! Here, where I live in Ontario, it means the start of a new open water season and a variety of fish species that can be targeted as their seasons open up. There are also plenty of species that are open year-round, such as black crappie.
I love targeting these beautiful, feisty fish in the early spring, and they are easily my favorite panfish to chase. Crappies are accessible to all and can be targeted from shore or watercraft. At this time of year, they can be caught in great numbers as they stack up and get ready to spawn.
My adventures typically start when the ice is just coming off the lakes and lasts up until they spawn. Pre-spawn, these fish can be savages on the feed and so much fun to catch on ultra-light equipment. During spawning, they’re not interested in much else so this is when I move on to other species and let them do their thing.
Locating Early Spring Crappie
It’s quite easy to locate crappie in the early spring if you keep a few points in mind. Crappie make their way from their wintering areas to the adjacent waters that warm first. Staging typically begins in water temperatures at around 50 degrees. Be on the lookout for baitfish, and crappie shouldn’t be too far off.
Spawning temperatures range from 60 to 70 degrees. Keep in mind that northern shorelines receive the most sunlight and these waters will warm quickest. Shallow bays and sheltered areas, especially with dark bottoms, are ideal spring crappie waters.
It doesn’t take much gear-wise to get out there and catch some crappie. I’m using a 7-foot Rapala Finesse Ultra Light rod, Shimano Sedona reel (500FD), 4-pound test monofilament mainline with a bobber stop, bead, Thill Stealth float (bobber) and then a micro swivel to a 4-pound test fluorocarbon leader.
The bobber stop saves so much time on the water as it allows me to quickly adjust the depth of my float instead of re-tying each time. The bead enables a smooth cast as the bobber stop won’t get stuck in the eye of the float and it also protects the stopper from getting damaged when casting.
I have three favorites when it comes to presentations including: a 1/16 ounce tube jig and a white 1-inch micro tube, the VMC Hot Skirt Glow Jig and the Berkley Atomic Teaser. I love trying new presentations each year, but these have been my top three producers over the years.
How To Work It
Crappie can be finicky and sometimes prefer a still presentation, while other times they’ll only hit a moving bait. They’re known to suspend in the water column and hit in an up-ward fashion. Using a float enables me to place my presentation right in their strike zone and also adjust on the fly if they move up and down in the water column throughout the day or to deeper or shallower waters. The up-bites can be so subtle that it’s important to have a good float that will detect any movement whether it’s up or down.
Keep an eye out for baitfish, as the crappie are not usually far behind. If they’re not biting right away, experiment by adjusting the depth of the float and also varying the movement of the presentation. Dead-sticking, twitching or slow retrieves should give you an indication of what they want. Once you figure them out, you can get into some serious crappie action!
Ashley Rae is a year-round multi-species angler from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Follow her fishing adventures on her blog at SheLovesToFish.com.