Crappie Fishing – Species Information and Facts
Exactly what is a Crappie? Where do you find Crappie? What is the best Crappie bait?
The Crappie (Pomoxis Annularis)
A hugely popular pan fish native to North America, offering all year round sport.
There are two types of Crappie Fish. The White Crappie (Pomoxis Annularis) and the Black Crappie (Pomoxis Nigromaculatus) and both can be found in Ponds, Rivers and Lakes throughout the continent.
Both types are very similar in body shape, but do have a couple of differences. The more common Black Crappie is, as the name suggests, darker in colour. As can seen below they are silver/gold in colour with black markings. The Black Crappie has 7-8 spines along is dorsal fin.
The White Crappie has 6 spines on its dorsal and it lighter in colour, often with darker vertical stripes down its flank.
Whilst an all year round fish, the best times to target Crappie would be Spring when the fish start to form large shoals ready for spawning. However, find the fish throughout the year and you’ll catch.
The crappie has a large mouth that extends out and suck’s in its food. These mouths are very soft and thin, and the reason why Crappie is often know as ‘Papermouth’. When hooked into a Crappie you must go lightly and not rush getting the fish into your net as its easy to pull the hook out of its fragile mouth.
Average weight 0.5-2lbs
Average lifespan 10 Years
Where do Crappie Live
Crappie is native to North America and can be found in almost every state, in particular the eastern side of the U.S.
Found in Ponds and Lakes, they do love to be in or around structure, and thats where you’ll often find them in large shoals. Piers, sunken trees, rocks and weed are the favorite spots for Crappie, where they can find sanctuary from their natural predators like birds of prey or the Northern Pike. Add to that, its also where they’ll find an abundance of their natural food sources such as smaller bait fish like minnows.
Dont rule out deeper water though.
Certain times of year, when the weather is colder, Crappie prefer to shoal in deeper water, around 10-15ft, in search of a more comfortable temperature. This can obviously make finding the fish harder, but once you do they are there for the taking.
The key to Crappie fishing is not go in with too heavy tackle. With weights averaging between the 1-2lb mark, and super soft mouths, it would be advised to go lower down the range in terms of rods and line weights.
If targeting areas of the lake which are particularly dense in cover, then step it up a little, but not too much. Too heavy a rod and you risk pulling the hook through their soft mouths.
The key really is setting up with tackle that will be sensitive enough for these shy baiting fish.
Best Crappie Rods
As you’ll be using light lures and baits, by far the best choice of rod would be a light or ultra-light class spinning rod. Given the popularity of the species, many tackle companies produce rods specifically for crappie.
As always, you need to match your tackle to the environment your fishing in, But generally a good spinning rod is perfect for most fishing situations. A light, quick rod makes casting with light lures and lines easier, aswell as being sensitive enough to pick up the light bites crappie are known for.
If boat fishing, then a rod around 5-6ft in length will allow you to fish over the side of the boat, where as when fishing from the shore, then a longer rod from 6-9ft will help you cast out and cover more distances. Telescopic rods are readily available and help when both travelling to your favorite pond or when walking through dense brush to the best crappie hotspots.
If drop fishing from piers or rocks, then a rod up to 15ft can help place the jig exactly where you want it.
All this aside, the beauty of Crappie fishing is you can take the kids to the local store, buy a bit of cane and some line and catch fish like the old days.
Best Crappie Reels
Again, you want to choose a reel suited for lightweight freshwater fishing.
Small spinning reels are perfect. As you’ll be using light lines, you wont need anything big, so look for the smaller sizes in the range. A small spinning reel paired with a light rod will enable you to flick out your lures for hours on end.
If shore fishing with a longer rod, then maybe look to move up a reel class.
Due to the lightweight tackle recommended for Crappie fishing, baitcasting reels are not really the choice of many anglers. They have a place when using larger jigs or lures, fishing drop off style from say a pier, but generally they are not the best choice when trying to cast light baits with light lines.
Best line for Crappie Fishing
As discussed already – you need to keep it light. Many would think to look toward braided mainlines for jig and lure fishing, but crappie would be a species where we would suggest a monofilament line would be more suitable.
Given crappie are shy biting and have very soft mouths, using a low stretch braid could cause problems when setting the hook and increase the changes of pulling the hook from the mouth of the fish.
Mono, with the extra stretch, greatly reduces the changes of hook pulls.
But, again, its a choice based on where you plan to fish. There is no point hooking a fish with mono if you’re fishing near thick snags, as you’ll lose the fish. Here, braid would be the best choice, with extra care taken on the strike to make sure you dont suffer hook pulls.
For more information on different types of fishing lines, and the individual characteristics, please check out our Guide to Fishing Lines.
Our recommendation would be to start with a mono around 4-6lb mark.
Best Crappie Bait and Lures
A crappies natural diet is varied, with juveniles feeding on small insect larvae and plankton, through to adults preferring fish fry and small fish species such as minnows.
Due of their varied diet, Crappies can be caught on both bait and artificial lures.
Being part of their natural diet, crappies will readily take minnows or shads and these are seen are the best baits for crappie by many a fisherman. These are normally presented using a bobber float set-up with a small split shot used to sink the bait down to the desired depth. Other natural baits to consider would be grubs or crickets. All of these can be brought from your local tackle store.
If you don’t like the idea, or can’t get fresh bait, then shelf life soft baits are a good alternative. Berkley Powerbaits are a popular choice and offer a decent selection of shelf life baits in a jar, giving convenience and longevity. Available in a variety of colours and flavours, these are well worth a look.
Probably the most popular method of fishing for crappie. Whilst more expensive than real bait, jigs will last and can be used season after season.
Every angler has their favorite jig or lure, one that they’ll go to when fishing is tough.
There are literally hundreds of jigs aimed at crappie fishing. You want to mimic the natural bait, so anything that resembles a small fish or has a similar action in the water will work well.
You can buy ready made jigs, or buy the heads and bodies separately. This is a good idea as you can play with different patterns and colours throughout the session. Some days one colour will catch you a fish a chuck, others it will not work at all, so it pays to be ready to change.
How to catch a Crappie
Its possible to catch Crappie on a number of methods.
But first, some top crappie fishing tips.
- Keep the line tight. Crappie are known for soft bites and even softer lips. A tight line will help pick up those bites and stop the fish shaking the hook free.
- Try different depths. Crappie will find the most comfortable depth based on oxygen levels, temperature and food. If one depth isn’t working, try another.
- Try different baits. Be prepared to change baits, be it from fresh to artificial, or to a different jig head colour. What might work in the morning might not work in the different light of the afternoon.
Cast and Retrieve
The cast and retrieve method of fishing is the one you’ll use when fishing with lures or jigs. When followed properly, you can cover all areas and depths of your chosen swim.
Get to your swim and try to fish in an arc shape. Say working from left to right, hit the same point for a few casts, varying the depths on each retrieve. Next, move a foot to the right and repeat the process. This way you’ll ensure you’ll cover every point of the swim.
Then there is the speed and pattern of the retrieve.
Retrieve the bait at different speeds whilst working the swim. This is also important during different seasons. Fish are more active during the warmer months and will be more likely to take a faster lure than in the winter, where you would be better with a slow moving bait.
Next think about the pattern of the lure.
Little twitches of the rod tip will cause the lure to twist and pulse just like a real fish. Any knocks of the rod, either left or right to create small changes in direction, or vertical for depth changes, can induce the crappie to strike.
Bobber float fishing is a great way to present a live bait such as minnow. The use of the float helps in a number of ways.
The float will tell you when you have a bite. Seeing the float either bob or disappear under the surface tell you you have a bite.
Use the float to set the depth. You can attach the bobber say 2ft from the hook and the small dropper weight will sink the bait down to 2ft under the float. Most bobber floats have springs to allow you to adjust the depth quickly and easily during your session.
It’s also possible to drift the float into areas you cannot cast to. Using the wind or the surface drag, let a bit of line off the reel and allow the bobber to drift into the real fishy areas under bushes and so on.
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External Resources On Crappie Species Information
Wikipedia.com has a nice summary article containing many facts on Crappie Species. To read this, please click Crappie on Wikipedia.