THE SPRING CRAPPIE PROGRESSION
from the Fishing Wire
Many anglers, this one included, can’t wait for ice-out to head for their favorite crappie lake and wet a line in open water for the season’s first time. Those just-after-ice-out trips sometimes produce good fishing, but at other times the fish seem to be non-existent. The fact is that as the water warms and weather stabilizes during spring, the crappie bite gets better. Here are some tips to capitalize on what I call the crappies of “mid-spring.”
Most crappie anglers know that finding the warmest shallow water during spring up until the spawn is key. Warming waters, usually shallow waters, show the first signs of open-water life and draw hungry crappies. Shallow, dark-bottomed bays are classic early season spots, as are boat channels, marinas, and other shallow spots that warm quickly.
Just after ice-out, the crappies invade these areas looking to feed, particularly on warm, sunny days. The appearance of a spring cold front, however, often sends these fish scurrying off to deeper waters where the water temperature is more stable. As spring progresses and water temperatures continue to rise and the weather moderates, crappies spend more and more time feeding in the shallows.
Finding spring crappies involves staying on the move and searching various shallow spots. I often hit several spots during a fishing day, keeping an eye on the temperature gauge on my sonar unit in the boat when going from spot-to-spot. Shore anglers, though more limited in mobility, often do well this time of the year too as shallow areas that hold fish are often accessible from the bank.
Small panfish jigs tipped with crappie minnows and fished below bobbers produce fish, particularly when the fish are finicky. More aggressive fish, on the other hand, are often very susceptible to small jigs and plastics combos. I’ve become a big fan of the Mr. Crappie soft baits in recent years and prefer the Crappie Thunder and 2-inch Tubes during spring. Hungry crappies readily hit soft baits and usually several fish can be caught on the same bait without rebaiting. Regardless of whether tipping a jig with live bait or 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.
Bobbers and jigs go hand in hand for spring crappies, however, a cast-and-retrieve approach can also yield good catches on some days and can be a good “search” presentation as well. For this method, I rig a Mr. Crappie ShadPole on a small jig, cast it out, and slowly retrieve it back.
Regardless of whether fishing a bobber or cast-and-retrieve fishing, using your tolling motor to quietly approach and work potential fishing spots is important now. Shallow, spring crappies are notorious for being spooky and avoiding excess noise that may easily scatter these wily fish will generally up your catch.
Spring and crappies go hand in hand, especially as the season progresses and the weather stabilizes. Following some of the tips just provided can, in fact, probably help you capitalize on the hot mid-spring crappie bite this season!
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!