Like many other freshwater species, the warming temperatures and longer days of spring mean one thing to crappies: it’s time to get ready to spawn. In preparation, this time of year huge schools of early season crappie start moving toward the shallow bays, flats, and undeveloped shorelines that they will eventually spawn on later in the spring.
Because they’re on the move, early season crappie can be tough to locate. The good news though is that once you do find them, the fishing is great as they aggressively feed to prepare for the rigors of spawning.
To help, we checked in with some of the best crappie minds in the business to identify the kinds of places crappies will stage as they’re moving toward their spawning grounds, and broke it down by water type.
1. Natural Lakes – Deep Weeds
Crappie in natural lakes most commonly spawn on the wind protected parts of shallow, weedy bays. Prior to moving up and spawning, they usually group up in big schools in any areas with deep weeds along the first break line. To find these areas, identify shallow bays on a map, and use your electronics to idle around the outside and look for patches of grass left over from the previous year. The schools can be so big this time of year that you often see the fish before you see the structure. Once you locate the correct depth, cast micro-jigs, or fish minnows under slip floats right above them. If the area is large, spider rigging and drifting the whole area can also be deadly.
2. Reservoirs – Secondary Creek Channels
On reservoirs, crappie typically spawn on shallow flats in secondary coves. Intercept pre-spawners by finding the old creek channel, and using your electronics to identify isolated brush and vegetation anywhere nearby. Schools of crappie use the old creek channels like highways, and hang out on any adjacent cover as they migrate. Where legal, trolling small cranks or jig/plastic combinations along the shallow side of creek channels can be a great way to identify areas holding fish – and then slow down and pitch jigs to load the boat.
3. Rivers – Running Sloughs
Because they nest, crappies tend to stay away from areas with heavy current on river systems. In the pre-spawn period, they gang up in sloughs that have just a little bit of current and relatively deeper water. Focus on any sloughs just off the main channel, and look for wood or vegetation. Cast live bait under a float to the cover, or work small tube jigs over and around it.
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