Shallow spring crappie action make for fast, fun fishing

One of the best parts about living in Sunset Country is that we are fortunate that there are always open fishing seasons for some species of fish. Of the most popular sport fish species, the walleye season closes for a month in the spring, musky season is closed from the start of the year until the third Saturday in June and the lake trout season is closed from October 1 to January 1. Bass, crappie, pike, whitefish and the plentiful stocked trout are good to go year-round on most waters so if you like to fish, there are always options available.

Crappies attract a lot of attention from anglers because they are fun to catch. Despite their relatively small size, they are often found in schools so they provide good action. They can be easy to catch one day and then provide a challenge the next, where you need to alter your presentation to get bites sometimes. They are also easy to clean and good to eat so some people like them for that opportunity.

Throughout the rest of the year, crappies are found in deeper water, but in the spring they move shallow to spawn around shallow reeds, bulrushes, wood or any other kind of cover they can find. Their shallow foray usually starts two to three weeks after the ice goes out and then lasts for around a month to get through the whole process.

Initially, when they first move shallow they’ll show up in tight schools around some of these different types of cover. Large boulders should not be overlooked either. One of the most important elements of the locations that they choose is that the bottom is slightly hard, typically sand more than soft mud. This provides a good base for them to make their small nests where they will lay their eggs. Much like a bass, when they actually spawn, the male will make a nest, the female will come and lay the eggs, then the male protects the nest until the eggs hatch.

In my experience, the first couple of weeks that crappies spend in shallow water are spent almost acclimating to the new habitat before they are actually sitting on their nests. Once they are on the nests you can spot them with a good pair of polarized sunglasses. In fact, since most of our waters are generally clear, I seldom ever fish until I actually see fish with my eyes. I’ll sneak around in shallow water with my trolling motor and cover ground looking around in likely locations before I actually fish. On some waters where it’s tougher to see, you might have to simply fish to find crappies but you can save a bunch of time actually looking with your eyes and finding a school of fish before you actually drop a line in the water.

When it comes to presentation, a small jig with a plastic swimbait or grub attached can be good for casting and swimming around likely areas but the absolute best way to catch them is to use a bobber with a small jig and plastic beneath it.

Spring crappies can be found in shallow water around reeds, bulrushes or trees. They can be found in schools, and are a fun fish to catch year-round. Along with bass, pike, whitefish and stocked trout, there is always something to catch in Sunset Country.
– Submitted photo

The bobber keeps the jig from sinking into the bottom and hangs the jig right in the face of the crappies. Typically I like to have a foot and a half between the bobber and the jig but that can be adjusted depending on how deep of water you are fishing. Pitching the jig and bobber to holes in the reeds, next to trees or beaver huts and any other type of cover is the ticket.

Throughout the rest of the year when crappies are found in deeper water they can be tougher to release but they are easily released back into the shallow water. While they are good to eat, please consider just keeping enough for dinner and not exploiting the spots that you find. While the perception is that they grow fast and really productive, larger crappies over 12 inches in length take 8-10 years to reach that size, they don’t grow that quickly in our northern waters. We have all seen great crappie fisheries decimated across the region so if you find a good spot, keep it to yourself, enjoy a few to eat and release the rest. You’ll be glad to did a few years down the road when you can share the spot with your kids, your friends or someone special in your life.