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The Boatless Angler - Chapter 8 - Early Spring Crappies; the Where’s, the What’s and the How’s

Well it is finally here, the transition between the ice of winter and the melt of spring. During this time the water conditions can best be described by most anglers as, high and murky and often not attractive to the boatless angler. These are the conditions however, that drive one of the most popular panfish close to shore in high numbers. This popular panfish for both the sport and the dinner table is of course the crappie!

Where to Fish

Creek Fishing for Panfish

Creek Fishing for Panfish

The spring run-off delivering its high silty waters is often the trigger for crappies to school up and begin migrating to spawning areas; the key is to be there when it happens. This sometimes can mean trying a spot multiple times before it even produces a single fish, though when you get one you can be sure they are going to be plenty that follow.

Key target areas for locating crappies this time of year is in fact creek or stream mouths, large sandy bays, corners of canals or dams, and sand flats off of points. The type of spots will vary depending on where you live and the waterways around you but if you can find a creek mouth with stained waters, that is your best bet! A good indicator of the arrival of crappie is the arrival of spawning minnows.

If you see that minnows have entered the creeks and streams you can be sure the crappie are around. Whether this migration is synchronized on purpose or rather just a coincidence, that is unknown, but it does give the boatless angler a sign, and that’s good enough for me!

What to Fish With

The Rocket Bobber

The Rocket Bobber at

To catch these crappies this time of year is relatively simple; it doesn’t take too much special equipment and gear to get these fish in your bucket. First off, I recommend having a light action fishing rod, one that provides sensitivity as well as flexibility. Flexibility is important when fishing for crappies as often anglers will have an over powering hook set and just assume they are missing the fish when in reality the hook is often ripped through the thin skin that a crappie is known for.

A light action fishing rod with good flexibility will help prevent this problem and also will make the fishing experience more enjoyable! I also recommend using 4lb test fishing line. This minimizes visibility and allows you to catch those bigger reluctant crappies.

In terms of a rig to catch crappies is the simple float and splitshot rig which was outlined in one of my previous pan fishing articles (to view an image of this setup click here). Use this rig with a live minnow and the crappies can not resist!

How to Fish

Blacknose Crappie

Blacknose Crappie

There is a bit of technique when it comes to catching crappies, and all it takes is a bit of practice and patience. Firstly what you want to do is get your bobber where the fish are. Depending on where you are fishing, this could be close to shore or sometimes it can be quite far. I recommend using the Rocket Bobber when you notice the fish are further away, as it will allow you to achieve further casting distance.

Once you have your bobber in the right location, you can keep it still and wait for a bite, or you can once in awhile flick it. Just a simple snap of the wrist will flick your bobber a foot closer to you. This is the movement that often triggers a bite. Once you get a bite, you will notice sometimes your bobber will move off to the side rather going down, or you may notice your bobber will all of a sudden lay flat on the surface.

These are characteristic crappie bites, and knowing when and how to hook set will catch those crappies. Once you see the bite, do not pull right away. Let the crappie take it, give it a 2 to 3 second count, reel up the slack to your bobber then provide a smooth consistent hook set. The smooth consistent hook set will provide the perfect force to hook those crappies!

Keep these tips in mind the next time you try some early spring crappie fishing as I know they will help you catch those big slabs!


PS: don’t forget to check out my previous article on The Boatless Angler - Chapter 5.1 - Shore Pan Fishing with Live Bait

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