When the dogwoods bloom, the crappie are biting. There’s a lot of truth to that saying throughout most of the country since dogwood blossoming time usually coincides with the crappie spawn in the spring. The warmer climate in the southern half of the country triggers crappie into spawning earlier in that region, but the northern half of the country warms later in the spring and delays the annual crappie migration to the shallows.
While crappie reside in many bodies of water throughout the country certain reservoirs contain thriving populations of these tasty panfish. Various tactics will produce crappie when the fish move to the banks to spawn.
Crappie Spawn: Where Do The Fish Go?
My home waters of Lake of the Ozarks lacks natural cover, but has plenty of man-made fish attractors and ideal spawning areas that produce consistent springtime crappie fishing each year.
Sunken man-made brush piles and boat docks replace the deficiency of natural habitat at Lake of the Ozarks. It’s important to have a good locator on your boat where you can find some of the shallow brush.
What Should You Be Looking For?
When the water temperature climbs above 58 degrees male crappie start sweeping nests on my home lake and then the first wave of females arrive to lay eggs at about 62 degrees. This spawning process continues with males guarding the nests as the water temperature climbs to 70 degrees. Spawning activity usually ends by 72 degrees.
Nesting sites are usually along pea gravel banks protected from wind and waves. On lowland lakes with standing timber such as Missouri’s Truman Lake, crappie spawn along mud or gravel banks that have plenty of wood cover, such as lay-downs or shallow stickups. The most productive banks can be found in pockets or niches close to a channel.
Best Baits For The Spawn
Crappie spawn at various depths depending on the water clarity. During a wet spring, some waters turn muddy and crappie build nests as shallow as 6 inches. In clear water crappie can spawn as deep as 20 feet.
Minnows will catch plenty of spawning crappie, but I prefer throwing jigs because I can cover water quicker and employ a variety of retrieves with the artificial baits. Some of my favorite soft plastics I attach to my jigs include plastic tubes, curly tail grubs and shad-shaped baits. I favor lures in chartreuse, chartreuse and orange or red and chartreuse hues for fishing dirty water. In clear water I try lighter hues such as pink and white, blue and pearl or gold glitter.
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