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special note for diehard crappie fishers!
"Just Crappie" - the book - new release June/2004 - now available at my product page.
This book is for the dedicated and hard-core crappie fishers of the northern US and Canada, north of the Mason-Dixon line. It covers large medium and small water bodies and includes a large chapter on ice fishing.  Find out where crappie go - and why after the 'easy spring fishery'. Not the 'same old, same old'!
 After reading the article below - go to product page, please!

Crappie fishing is excellent fun, a wholesome treat for the whole family too! 
Trouble is, many have trouble finding them after the waters have warmed up a bit in early summer. But finding crappie isn't rocket science, if you know a bit about this relatively flat looking critter. Crappie on a finger

Photo, a nice crappie, and when cooked up taste much like perch - except sweeter!  This one is a nice greenish colour, but out of some water-bodies, they will be a silvery color.

Crappie are also called 'Calico Bass' by some fisher-folk in a few areas of this fine fish's range, and there are both white and black crappies, but for this article, well lump them all in one.  Primarily though, we'll be dealing with the black crappie. 

Black crappie prefer warmer water than many fish, and you'll find their range extending into southern Canada, especially around the great lakes basin, but not into central or northern Canada.  Of course, the bulk of the crappie's range is in the US, where the more southerly sun exposure warms the water to a higher degree than in the north.  But all those reading this should take note, and be aware that in the water around Georgian Bay, and into the Lake  Simcoe area of Ontario (Canada), crappies have been rated as OVER POPULATED in many watersheds, and thus; for those so inclined, these waters can afford excellent fishing opportunity for 'slab' crappie. 
Lots of Crappie

Photo; a nice catch of crappie from over populated waters of  Ontario's Georgian Bay watersheds

To ardent crappie fisher persons, 'slab' crappie is the name given to larger members of this fish, which to a bass fisherman - would translate into 'a lunker'. 

Perhaps more crappie are taken in the spring-time than any other season of the year, partly due to their accessibility.  At this time of the year, they come into the shallows, usually shortly after ice-out, and remain their until after their spawning period, usually in mid-May; early June in the cooler northern waters.  The waters in these shallow areas are the first ice-free (usually shallow )water areas, as they warm-up sooner than deeper waters. 


For sure, this thought would make a tackle shop owner giggle and grin - the sky's the limit if you wish - but not necessarily so though - as you prefer - or your budget dictates.  I'll cover here, some of the basic stuff, and let you go from there. 


Personally, I prefer to use a five foot ultra light rod, using four lb test Trilene XL.  The reason for the four lb test, rather than the two lb test is simply because most of the waters I fish also hold reasonably large smallmouth and largemouth bass, and the occasional  mundo (slang for 'very large') pike, as well as the the odd walleye.  If you will be exclusively fishing for crappie, the two lb test line will be a great choice, especially the Trilene, or other BRAND name line, as they are often under rated, so that a two lb test will likely break at three or four lbs of tension.  The two lb line will give you much better handling capabilities, including casting distance.  The only trouble is that it is so fine, it's hard to see for an older fellow such as myself.  This comes back two-fold when trying to tie on small hooks/jigs/flies needed. 

Ultra light long, in an eight foot rod or longer is also fine to use for crappie, but personally I find them cumbersome to cast and maneuver around.  Either of the two choices are good (long or short UL), but in either case, choose a small reel that has a good drag/tension system, as your bound to catch larger fish occasionally too. 

If you are going to use standard gear that you already have - this is fine - I've used six and seven foot conventional rod reel combos for years, and did very well thank-you.  I like to use four lb test line on the standard rod & reel set-up, and have a spare spool along, with six lb test line for switching over to bass or pike if I'm not able to get a 'line on' crappie. 


Again, tackle shops have a whole huge panorama of crappie catching paraphernalia - each one better than the one beside it! 
Plain & simple is the best way to start off - you can fill your tackle box - and likely will - over time.  But here's the basic stuff you should consider. More Crappie

Hooks - choose short shank hooks, the best quality you can afford.  The standard shank hooks are fine too, but I've personally gotten used to the short shank jobbies - less metal for a fish to detect - and spit out.  Size six hooks are as large as I like to use, and prefer a size eight for crappie fishing.  These should be the favored size for any lures or flies or jigs used in crappie fishing.  I tie up weighted attractor flies, allowing me to use the color of the fly, and the rest of the hook for a natural offering such as a maggot, grub, or tag of worm.  Use small hooks for minnows.  Incidentally, the best sized minnow, I've found, will be not longer than about two inches, with inch-and-a-halfer's best! 

When choosing colors for twister tails, flies etc. my all time crappie favorite is chartreuse, followed by yellow. In the early spring, white is also good, especially if there is some fuchsia or hot pink in combination.  Bright greens are also good - in fact any fluorescent color will have value on various days.  If it is cloudy, early morning or late evening, use black, white, chartreuse or dark colors.. Use jet black if fishing at night! 

Jigs should be small, and I like a thirty-second of an ounce jigs best, but prefer my  weighted attractor hooks best.  You will in most cases, except possibly during the spring of the year, be fishing for suspended fish, using a bobber, and heavy weight will just not 'cut it'. 

Small spinner type lures can be a great thing, especially in the summer, just before dark.  I like the Panther Martin with Fly best, and my second favored lures for crappie is the sonic lure called a "Vibrax", by Blue Fox. 


Much of the time you'll be fishing off the bottom, and will use bobbers to keep your bait/lure in the 'kill zone'.  Use the best quality float you can afford.  The new slip bobbers are great for crappie fishing, and I urge you to learn the simple procedures needed to properly fish them - not rocket science - and they'll open a whole new fishin' dimension for you, and expand your fishing savvy for other fishing opportunities too.  If you are gong to choose bobbers, you want the most sensitive types you can handle.  The Thill 'Stealth', and 'Mini Stealth's' are excellent bobbers for many applications - especially crappie.   The long pencil floats are fine, I've used the spring type, with the slit on the end where the line passes through.  The spring is to keep the line in place.  The only trouble is that they don't do a great job of staying at a given depth because of the very light test lines that we are using. 


As mentioned, crappie come into shallow areas just after ice-out, as the water starts to warm.  After the ice has been out about a week to ten days, and the water  had warmed a bit more, these fine little denizens go on feeding frenzies, seemingly making up for the long cold winter.  Crappie will be eating many of the insect life (types) and small minnows found in these 'warming' areas. 

Summer will find crappie hanging out in open sections of water, and often in other favored locations such as around bridge abutments, rock piles and similar structure.  They especially like 'hangin out' behind such places when they are in a current, such as when they're in a river shed, rather than a lake.  They don't like too much current, and will use such places to break the flow/current for them. 

Crappie are not a deep water fish, although they may be found suspended in relatively deep water, but up in the top layer of water, usually not much deeper than 15 feet down. 

As a simple rule of thumb, I've taken more crappies in the five foot down range of water, in water that is fifteen to twenty feet deep, than at all other depths.  Once in a while though, you may find them in deeper water, but I've found most often, for excellent crappie fishin'', the water won't be too deep.  To my mind, more important is the depth that you will be catching them at, often only a few feet under the surface.  As mentioned, my favored choice of depth to start fishingis five foot down, and I'll vary this BOTH ways, when trying to locate crappie.  In a nutshell, find water that is about 20 feet deep, put on a slip bobber rigged at about five foot down, using your lure/bait; if nothing doing within ten minutes, change the depth at which the bait/lure is at.  Use Bear Paw connectors to attach other hook set-ups if need be.  This will enable you to test the various depth levels for crappie where-a-bouts, quickly! 


Once you've arrived at your desired location, bait up, cast out your rig with about five foot of line under a bobber.  Let this rig drift around.  If nothing is happening, vary your depth accordingly, up or down about a foot at a timeTry various depths until you hit fish.  I've caught crappie right on top, with less than a foot of line under the bobber, as well as right next to the bottom. As a rule of thumb - if you are picking up the occasional smallmouth bass, or bottom feeder type fish - you're likely fishing too deep.  I have rarely (but have - none-the-less) caught crappie right off the bottom, but only during the early spring, just after ice-out. 

The single most important tip for catching crappie that I can give you is to very GENTLY - keep your bait/lure moving - EVER SO SLIGHTLY.  You'll have the best chance of landing a crappie doing this - they bite so incredibly softly, and if you allow your bait to just sit there, they'll mouth and fool around with the bait/lure - and drive you nuts. If you are lucky enough to catch a fish using the 'just sit there' method - you'll be very lucky indeed; and likely the fish will have swallowed the hook. BE SURE TO KEEP YOUR HOOKS NEEDLE SHARP - NOTHING ELSE WILL DO! 

I hope you've enjoyed my basic crappie fishing write-up - look for my NEW RELEASE BOOK - "JUST CRAPPIE" - in the spring of 2004! For now, please check out my product page for some super stuff - and be sure to review the jig fishing 'how to' section ( see side bar to the left) - some great crappie fishin' techniques for ya!

Author: John A Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A Vance. . . 
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