spring slowly makes its appearance, thoughts of opening day crappie waken me from my
hibernation and begin to make my pulse quicken. Although their name might be a turn-off,
these wonderful little fish have everything an angler could want - they are fairly easy to
catch, they're feisty on ultra-light equipment and they taste delicious in the pan.
By understanding their breeding habits, knowing the equipment and techniques needed and
by following their locational patterns, this spunky fish with the funny name can share a
special place in your heart too.
Return to the Shallows
As the weather warms, and the ice retreats from northern lakes, crappies begin their
migration from the deep offshore areas where they have been suspending to the shallows in
search of food. Here the waters start to come alive with crappie feeding on baitfish and
insects that occupy the south-facing shores, since these are the first to warm up. This is
the best time for shore anglers to get in on the game. Among the favourable spots to find
large schools of fish are around man-made boat canals, although boat canal locks and docks
are also prime areas. This can make for a relaxing outing, with no boat to worry about and
oftentimes, very little fishing pressure.
Other crappie will stage at drop-offs outside of bays, periodically returning to the
shallows to feed. Shore anglers can pick these fish off if they are there at the right
time, although a boat is usually necessary to fish the drop-offs. If weed cover is slow to
start, many shallow water crappies will relate to alternate cover, namely sunken trees,
brushpiles, stumps or old reeds and cattails.
This early migration, or "fake spawn," usually only lasts a week or two, yet
these fish can be intercepted by paying close attention to the conditions and activity.
Once this migration has ended, the crappie does an about-turn and disappears for a short
period of time. Fishing can be tough during this retreat, since it is a guessing game as
to their location, but, due to nature's way, relief is in sight. Soon the shallows will be
teeming with crappies once again, as the mating ritual is about to commence.
In most parts of North America, when water temperatures reach 66 to 68 degrees F,
crappies begin their spawn. This activity takes place in water that is less than two feet
deep. Continued on Page 2