Crappies move shallow in spring

Across much of Sunset Country, we are fortunate that black crappies have established themselves in many of our watersheds.
While they are not native to our region, it is believed they likely were incidentally dropped into some of our lakes while they were being stocked with smallmouth bass nearly a century ago.
Over time, illegal stocking by individuals likely lead to crappies being introduced to even more bodies of water and today we are where we are, with some of the best crappie fisheries on the planet.
Great fishing can be found year-round on many of the larger lakes and rivers, including isolated sections of Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, the Winnipeg River, and Wabigoon Lake, as well as dozens of smaller inland lakes.
While they spend the rest of the year in deeper water, crappies move up shallow in the spring to spawn around pencil reeds, bulrushes, and any other kind of shallow cover they can find.
They make a small nest much like a bass and are protective of the general areas—making for some good fishing.
Over the past weekend, I got out fishing with a couple of buddies and after catching a bunch of bass, we decided to go and check out an area that has been good for spring crappies in the past.
As we snuck in closer to an old patch of pencil reeds, we quickly noticed crappies sunning themselves in two-four feet of water. I pushed the remote on my Minn Kota Talons and anchored us in position to where we could cast into the holes in the reeds.
Swimming small grubs and hair jigs through the weeds will catch crappies fine when they are up in shallow water. But the absolute best way to catch them is to use a small slip bobber with a small 1/16th-oz. jig and plastic set about a foot-and-a-half below it.
Crappies look up by nature so hanging a small bait in their face nearly always triggers them to bite.
The bobber also helps keep your jig from landing in the sometimes grassy, muddy bottom.
We caught eight nice fish for dinner within minutes, then proceeded to catch-and-release dozens more. Though they are not big fish, they are fun to catch because of their feisty attitude and aggressive nature.
It also is fun catching them on light line out of the weeds (there were some that escaped after wrapping us up in the reeds).
Crappies are very easy to clean and have a bone structure that is similar to a walleye (the bones just are shaped slightly different). We cleaned our fish, then battered them in flour, egg, and corn flake crumbs, much like we would with walleye, and cooked them in butter.
It was a great dinner.
These crappies will stick around the shallow water for at least a couple of weeks. So if you are looking to get out and try something different, you don’t need a lot of special gear to catch them.
If you have experienced the spring crappie bite in the past, then you should know it’s happening right now!