The springtime crappies most fishermen miss
If there’s one thing just about every fisherman knows, it’s this: Crappies move shallow in the spring and, for the most part, are relatively easy to catch. While they spawn in the shallows, their initial forays into the warm, skinny water are to eat, not reproduce.
In reality, though, to the angler casting a bobber and minnow near an emerging bed of reeds, whether crappies are there to eat or spawn doesn’t really matter. In both cases, they’ll readily slurp a minnow or whatever else lands in front of them.
It’s always worthwhile to check for these shallow fish first. In many cases, you’ll be able to see them as they suck in your offering. Plus, it’s simply easier to find the crappies when they’re in shallow water.
But it can be just as productive – and even more so, in some instances – to back out into deeper water. While that’s especially true if the water temperature in the shallows has dropped – which pushes crappies deeper – the reality is that not all crappies move into the shallows at once. In fact, it’s often more likely that you’ll find bigger concentrations of crappies outside the shallows than in them. Compared with fish in the shallows, these crappies tend to be less spread out. Finding them can be difficult, but once you do, it’s quite common to catch fish cast after cast.
The process is fairly simple. Find a bay or other area where you’d normally fish shallow for crappies. (Everyone knows northern bays warm first this time of year, but it bears repeating.) Now, instead of heading right up to the shoreline, find the first structural element before you come to the shore. It’s usually a drop-off or weedline. You either can motor along until you see a big concentration of fish on your electronics, or just start following the contour or weedline, casting along as you go. I prefer to use a light jig with a spinner. A live minnow typically isn’t necessary.
Once you get a bite or see a concentration of fish, keep making casts to the area. If there’s a school of crappies, you’ll know it. Once you’ve locked down the location, you can start fishing with a bobber and minnow if you want. But in my experience, it’s just as effective to cast a jig and plastic. And once you get used to fishing a jig and plastic, you’ll be able to catch crappies throughout the summer (though that action, which I’ll write about in a few months, occurs off the deep weedline).