How to Fish for Crappie?

How to Fish for Crappie?

How to fish for crappie? There are several ways to fish for crappie. One of the ways is to fly fish. Then there is the traditional method where you use a floating rig that’s a bobber a split sinker and a hook. You can also swim a small crappie jig head with a grub behind it and marabou jigs

Fly Fishing for Crappies:

Fly fishing for crappies has become a very popular sport. This is because it is a fun outdoor fishing activity that adds some ‘character’ to the whole fishing experience.

You will probably need some guidance when you start fly fishing for crappies, but it is easy to learn.

And with a lot of practice, I am sure that catching crappies by fly fishing will quickly become one of your favorite activities.

Crappie Equipment:

Crappie fishing doesn’t require special equipment. Most trout-fishing gear will get the job done, or you might want to experiment with a 2- or 3-weight rod. There have been a lot of crappies and panfish caught on 5- 6 weight fly rod.


There are several kinds of strike indicators that will work from a piece of yarn to numerous commercial floats. One good choice is the Corkie, a steelhead, and salmon float because it’s inexpensive and comes in a variety of sizes and colors.

The Corkie has a hole that goes through its middle, and by sticking half of a round toothpick in as a stopper. Then you can move the indicator-up or down the leader to change its depths.

Often you might find yourself casting to exposed brush three or four feet deep, then the next cover might only be in six or eight feet of water. The Corkie will let you change depths quickly.

Typical Crappie Fisherman

If you are a typical crappie fisherman small jigs will usually work the best. We have found that usually, the 1/8 ounce jig is the most effective. There are a lot of people that recommend both spinnerbaits and minnow baits.

Using a Live Bait Rig

 A good crappie rig is using a#6or 8 hook with a split shot, with a slip bobber, and a live minnow. The bobber allows you to adjust it for any depth while not sacrificing casting ability. You should hook the minnow through both lips or just behind the top dorsal fin

Use the Right Fishing Knot

If you’re using a jig when fishing for crappie you should use a loop knot. This knot will allow the jig to move more freely when cast. It also provides the crappie with a subtle movement that is very enticing when done vertically to the fish.

Fish the Right Depth

Crappie, are normally found in water between three and six feet deep. Sometimes during the peak of summer, the crappie will move into the deeper areas. Then they will come out to the surface during dawn and dusk to feed.

Keep Your Line Tight

Crappie, are known to have some very soft lips. This means that they can tear easily and shake your hook if the line isn’t kept tight enough. Luckily crappie will put up a good fight, so keeping your line tight shouldn’t be a difficult task.

Don’t be in a Hurry

Crappie will give you a lot more action when you are slow and steady with your jig and/or minnow. Try to avoid retrieving your cast too quickly. If you’re not getting any action and you know crappie are in the area then try slowing down.

Crappies What Are They:

Crappies are considered a panfish. This is a non-technical term for freshwater fish popular for food and sport (usually with light tackle) and that can fit in a frying pan. There are two species of crappie, black and white.

Both are schooling fish, meaning they like to stay in loose groups. Though we don’t know why fish hang out in schools it could be to avoid predators, increase foraging success, or to swim more efficiently.

Black Crappie:

Black Crappie
Black Crappie

The black crappie is silvery with numerous black or dark green blotches and no distinct vertical bars. This makes them appear darker than white crappie.

Black crappie has a rounder body shape than white crappie with a smaller, more upturned mouth. Additionally, the dorsal fins of black crappie have seven or eight spines.

Black crappie tends to prefer cool, clear water with vegetation and their diet heavily relies on insects and crayfish.

White Crappie:

White Crappie
White Crappie Illustration by Virgil Beck

White crappie is often confused with black crappie. White crappie has silvery bodies with blackish green mottling forming narrow vertical bars on the sides.

The body shape is more elongated than black crappie and their mouths are larger and not as upturned. Their dorsal fins have five or six spines.

White crappie, are more tolerant of murkier water with less vegetation than black crappie and their diet mostly consists of minnows.

Where and When to Fish:

You can find crappie in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and large, slow-moving rivers across most states. The keywords are still or slow-moving waters.

Crappie fishing is best during the cool weather of early spring and fall when they move into the shallow ends of coves.

At these times, crappie will congregate in loose schools around sunken logs or brushy cover or just beyond the weeds in water that is 6 to 15 feet deep.

If you’re out when the sun is on the water, look for areas around sunken logs or stick close to boat or fishing docks.

In the mornings and evenings of spring and fall, when the sun is off the water, crappie will likely be in weedy vegetation feeding at the surface of the water.

During the winter and summer, crappie will often move to deeper water along with vertical structure such as pilings or dams.

If you’re targeting crappie during these seasons: fish deep, use different baits and colors to entice the fish and troll the water.

Fishing Techniques:

The hardest part of crappie fishing is finding schools of fish. One good technique is to change how deep you’re fishing until you find the depth where the fish are.

Begin by fishing near likely-looking cover or structure with a cricket, grasshopper, worm, dough bait or jig. If you’re using bait you’ll want to add lead weight to your line to help the hook sink.

When you are using a jig, the weight is already built into the lure. If you’re fishing bait use a size 10 or 12 hooks. For jigs, smaller is usually better — some experienced anglers use jigs as small as a 1/8th ounce.

Jigs come in many colors, but red and white, green and white and chartreuse are popular choices for crappie. Use a medium or slow action rod that is 5- to 7-feet long with a light spinning reel.

Light monofilament line – 4- to 6-pound test — will let your bait or lure move in a lifelike way.

You might want to check with your state’s fishing regulation, there are some that do and some don’t. If your state does offer a two-rod validation you can fish with two rods.

Take advantage of this by using different techniques to search for crappie. Try switching up the color of jigs or the type of bait between the rods, or you can actively wiggle one and leave the other alone.

Or you can fish each rod at a different depth. Have fun experimenting and honing your crappie-targeting skills.

Crappie Life Science:

The black crappie is, related to the white crappie and they are both sunfish. It is marked by silvery sides, dark-olive or black backs, and spots scattered on its sides and fins.

They are better fighters than white crappie and prefer the clearer, cooler waters found in the northern lakes of North America.

Both the black or white, crappie will begin to feed when the water temperatures reach above 40 degrees F. As the water warms, they become increasingly active, and in spring when the temperature hits around 65 degrees Fahrenheit they begin to spawn.

Both crappie and panfish are aggressive during the late pre-spawning and spawning periods. During the late spawn, they patrol in schools and take a variety of baitfish, insect, and popper patterns.

Their springtime willingness to smash flies, bait, and lures has gained them the reputation of easy prey, but they can be more difficult to take with flies in summer.

After The Spawn:

After the spawn, the crappies will return to deeper, cooler water. Getting a fly to them is not as easy.

You need to find some deep-water structure and fish with sinking-tip lines and slow retrieves.

The crappies will return to feed in the shallows when it starts to get dark.

They will also do this later in the fall when the shallows water temperature falls back into the 50- to 60-degree range.

They also return to the shallows when there is an abundance of bait or a hatch.

Crappies are live-food predators that eat minnows, aquatic insects, terrestrials, shrimp, crayfish, leeches, and aquatic worms.

They ambush their food, by using camouflage and let it approach, and then they suck it in. All flies should be fished slowly.

Takes are subtle and strike indicators help, as do poppers fished with dropper flies.

Crappie has tender membrane-and-cartilage mouths similar to a shad, so you should use barbless flies that won’t do damage.

What Do Crappies Eat?

Crappies are live-food predators that eat minnows, aquatic insects, terrestrials, shrimp, crayfish, leeches, and aquatic worms.

They grow to sizes as large as 4 lbs. or more. At this size, the crappies will are less prone to becoming prey. However, the smaller sized crappies are not safe from other fish such as the bass.

What Type of Fish Prey on Crappies?


Bass Fish illustrations by Virgil Beck,

Bass and crappies are two common freshwater fish; they have some similarities in their migration patterns and feeding behavior.

Big bass will not hesitate to eat smaller crappie in the river or lake. The bass also eats newly hatched crappies if they can get to them.

When fully grown, the average-sized big bass is larger and weighs more than the crappies (except if it is slab crappie).

Big bass fish species have been used to check the population of crappies because they multiply very quickly.

Farmers in an attempt to check the crappie population will introduce the bass into a pond where the crappies are kept.

The adult bass eats up smaller crappies leaving the bigger slabs which the farmers want to survive. It is also known that bigger crappies can eat smaller ones if they are hungry.

These methods of checking the population of crappies should be done carefully to avoid losing all your fish.

If the population of bass cannot be controlled, you may lose all the crappies; they will be eaten by the bass. Breeding two or more species of fish is a common practice by farmers.

The selection is made in a way to breed fish that can survive together or where a fish serves as food to another.

For example, the minnows are known to multiply very quickly, in a controlled setting; the reproduction of minnows can be sustained to provide enough food for the crappies or bass.

Fresh Water Catfish:

Flathead Catfish
Flathead Catfish Photo by C Patchen-Flathead Record-Scales

Another common freshwater fish that feeds on crappies is the freshwater catfish. The catfish also grows very large, and they eat a variety of things such as the minnows and smaller freshwater fish like the crappies.

Catfish are not usually bred in the same pond with the crappies because of the difference in their sizes at the adult stage.

Catfish have also been used to check the population of crappies in farms that grow slab crappies. Only the smaller fish will be eaten, leaving the slabs to thrive in the pond.

Anglers have studied how these fish species behave towards each other. For example, an angler will not waste time searching for crappies in a river where there are many large-sized basses.

It is very likely all the smaller crappies may have been eaten of forced to find other places to hide from the bass and anglers.

Anglers who go fishing for larger sized freshwater fish have also been known to use small-sized crappies as live bait to lure the bigger fish.

These larger freshwater fish such as the sturgeons, eels, and small shark species will easily catch the scent of the crappies and take bites.

The typical crappie fish behavior and migration patterns protect them from other larger sized fish that prey on crappies.

These large-sized fish rarely come to the shores where the crappies spawn. Hence the crappie population can be sustained.

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Dean Jensen

I started fly fishing in 1972 and I have learned quite a bit about this wonderful sport called fly fishing and I want to share some of the things that I have learned.

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