The Crappie (Pomoxis) is believed to be native to the eastern United States and Canada. Due to wide transplantation, populations of Crappie exist in all of the 48 contiguous states today, making them a very popular North American game fish. American Expedition is proud to present information, interesting facts, and photos of the Crappie.
The name crappie can refer to either the white crappie, which is lighter in color with vertical black stripes, or the black crappie, which is and darker with a pattern of black spots. Both species are similar in size, shape, and habits. The average crappie weighs between 1/2 and 1 pound and measures 5-12 inches, though they are capable of growing much larger. Crappie are very social fish and form schools to live in.
When to Find Crappie
Fortunately for us freshwater enthusiasts, you can find freshwater fish any time of the year. Unlike their saltwater cousins, these fish are trapped in the lakes and rivers, and you simply have to know where to find them during each season, which we describe below. In general however, “crappie season” is essentially the winter season when the fish come close to shore, making them easy to find and catch on any type of gear.
Where to Catch Crappie
During the winter season, crappie come close to shore to spawn. Similar to all of the other sunfish, they spawn in the shallows and make beds – shallow depressions in the sand – where they lay the eggs. This is where most of the crappie are caught during this season, right near the vegetation, in 3-to-5 feet of water. Throughout all other seasons, crappie will be offshore, which makes finding them a lot more difficult. The best way to find them during this time is by using several rods to test the depth profiles, as the fish may be anywhere. Usually, they will be somewhat near structures offshore.
The Different Types of Rod Choices for Catching Crappie
You don’t need fancy or expensive gear to catch crappie. Since crappie aren’t the largest or toughest fighting fish you’ll encounter, just about any fishing rod setup will work. You’ll want to avoid fly fishing rods and stick to Carbon Fiber or bamboo, and usually keep the weight on the lighter side. Here’s an overview of the rods best suited for crappie fishing.
Telescopic Crappie Poles: If you like the idea of the classic cane pole, but want the advantage of modern materials, a graphite or fiberglass telescopic crappie pole may be just what you need.
For many crappie fishing techniques, very long rods are required to fish effectively. The idea is that the further you get your bait or lure away from the boat, the better your chances are of hooking a fish before scaring the entire school away. Modern crappie poles come in lengths from 8 feet all the way up to 20 feet. Telescopic crappie poles, like the B’n’M Black Widow, collapse to a relatively small size, making them easy to transport and store when not in use.
Telescopic crappie poles are a good option if you plan on doing a lot of bank fishing, especially in heavy brush. They can also be used effectively from a boat for spider rigging, which we’ll cover later. One of the main advantages of a long crappie pole is that they often have a very sensitive tip that helps you detect the most subtle crappie bites.
The PLUSINNO Spinning rod and Reel Combo is a great choice for beginning crappie fishermen just starting out. If you already have a reel you can save a few bucks and check out the Shimano FXS 2 Piece Spinning Rod. This is also a great choice if you are looking for an ultralight option that comes in a variety of different lengths.
Ultralight Spinning Rods: Of all the rod types for crappie fishing, you’ll have the most options in terms of selection and configuration when you go with an ultralight spinning rod.
Ultralight spinning rods for crappie come in a wide range of lengths from less than 5 feet to over 16 feet. The length of the rod should be determined based on the fishing tactics and methods you plan on using.
Shorter rods in the 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 foot range are best suited for vertical jigging from a boat. Vertical jigging is usually done with the aid of a fish finder, with the fish you see on the screen located within a small circumference under and around your boat. Using a shorter rod allows you to keep your lure where the fish are without question.
Mid-length rods in the 6 to 7 1/2 foot range are perfect for cast and retrieve fishing with jigs and other lures. The longer rod length helps you make longer, more accurate casts. This is helpful when you want to skip your bait under a dock or an overhanging tree.
Longer spinning rods in the 10 to 16-foot range are the go-to choice for trolling baits and lures when spider rigging. The long length keeps the bait and lures away from the boat and propellers, and helps you cover a broader sweep of water when trolling. Long rods can also pull double duty for fishing slip-float rigs and dipping jigs into places with tight cover.
Most crappie anglers prefer rods with highly sensitive, soft action tips and sturdy butt sections. The soft tip helps you detect the delicate bites crappie are known for, and the sturdy butt section gives you adequate power if you need to horse a crappie out of heavy cover.
Some crappie anglers prefer rods with faster action tips, especially when vertically jigging in deep water. The faster (stiffer) tip helps you impart action to your jig when it’s down 20 feet or more.
TIP 1: Here’s a litle trick you can use when crappie get “lock-jaw”.
You’ll need 2 fishing rods. Rig one of the rods with a jig (or a minnow) under a bobber. The other rod need to be rigged with a large crankbait (or a spinner).
STEP 1: cast out your bobber rig.
STEP 2: cast the lure setup beyond the bobber.
STEP 3: reel it as quickly as you can, towards the bobber rig.
STEP 4: repeat step 2 and 3 above.
You’ll find you get a lot of strikes on the bobber setup because crappie think another fish is coming for the bait. This stimulates a natural instinct to attack the bait first. A survival mechanism.
TIP #2: Another trick, for when you’re night fishing…
Throw a few extra minnows in a glass jar and seal it with the lid. (Makre sure to poke some holes in the lid first.)
Next, tie a rope to the jar and drop it a 1-2 feet below the surface.
Make you’re using a light on board, and even shine it into the water, in the area of the jar.
Finally, drop your bait down by the jar. Crappie will be attracted to the small “school” of minnows in the jar, and will attack your bait in the process.
TIP #3: If you’re desperate, and nothing else is working, use a double jig rig. Put a chartruese jig on the top, and a yellow or white jig underneath.
Put these under a slip bobber, and give ’em a twitch periodically.
You’ll get your fair share of “double hook-ups” with this setup.
Tip #4: Give fly fishing a shot… yes. For crappie.
Use any streamer fly pattern… but the best are the small Clouser minnows, and Crappie candy.