Another look: spring slab crappies prior to the walleye opener
Even though we had an early ice-out, crappies during April and May remain sensitive to noise, whether they’re in the shallows or deeper water. We can’t go cruising over the school with our massive outboards, then commence slapping the water with big lures. Do either of those things, and they’re gone!
Black and white crappies alike can hear 100 feet away, so we’ve got to cast to them. So if you’re going to drop anchor, do it away from the concentration of fish, then always cast to the outside of the concentration.
People often ask me whether they should use a marker buoy when they locate shallow or suspended crappies. If you’re going to use a marker as only a reference point, fine, but don’t toss it out in the middle of the school. With GPS as affordable as it is today, there’s really not much reason to splash around with a marker buoy (and alert adjacent anglers) if you can avoid it. Given a first choice, I’d mark the position on my GPS and work to stay in that location.
Where they’ve located themselves in the water column may also affect how we approach these fish. Crappies definitely suspend, but food locations strongly dictate where that occurs.
Here are a couple of good general rules: In darker and/or shallower water, expect suspended crappies. In clearer and/or deeper water, begin your slab search closer to the bottom of the lake. Light and the resulting position of zooplankton, a primary food source, are the driving force behind these rules.
Time of day factors in here, too. Many anglers often assume that early morning is the best time to target these fish. But that generally good rule doesn’t always apply this time of year. Remember, warmer water is what creates activity, so the afternoon (the warmest part of the day) often will be the best time frame. Of course, that could also be the busiest time on the lake, and all that fishing pressure could drive the crappies back out to the breakline.
Bottom line, there are many factors to consider all at once to find success. That’s the fun of fishing!