Spring great for crappie hunting

Outside of a few weeks in the spring when crappies move to shallow water to spawn, they spend the rest of the year in deeper water.
They seem to disappear over the summer months, when they suspend in deeper weeds and simply are hard to find.
In the fall and winter, however, they group up in deeper holes and basins, where huge populations of these panfish are easy to find with our electronics.
When they do move up to spawn, which is happening right now, crappies look for various types of shallow cover like reeds, bulrushes, or submerged wood in two-five feet of water. The key is to find this cover where it grows on a harder bottom like sand or rubble.
On many of our waters across Northwestern Ontario, shallow bays often have soft mud bottoms, which is not what crappies prefer.
Crappies actually make small nests, much like a bass, which is why they need the slightly harder bottom to lay their eggs on.
These fish are notorious for schooling up and while the schools are not as big right now as they are in the fall and winter, they still are hanging in little groups so if you find one, you’ve probably found a few.
If you’re fortunate to get a nice day with bright sun and low winds, I like to put my trolling motor down and just drive along the bank looking for crappies. Although they do blend in pretty well, once you see a few of them, you’ll get an eye for spotting these tasty little critters.
I like to look closely at holes in the reeds and especially around trees that are in the water.
Another sign of a group of crappies are a bunch of small nests bunched together (if you’ve seen a smallmouth nest before, they look like that only smaller).
These will be cleared-off little white spots about 30 cm in diameter in amongst the reeds.
Once you find crappies, they usually are easy to catch but not always. Over the past week, I’ve seen several schools that were really tough to get to bite.
It could have been the cold front following all the hot weather last week, or it could have been fishing pressure, but you could put a small jig right in front of many of them before one finally would bite.
Other groups I found would bite on almost every cast so it was just a matter of moving around to find biting fish.
The best method for catching crappies in shallow water is to use a slip bobber with a small jig and plastic rigged up to stay about a foot above the bottom. The beauty of a slip bobber is that a small bobber stop goes on your line and can be easily adjusted simply by sliding it up or down the line.
The bobber stop goes on first, followed by the bobber and then you tie on your jig.
If you’re fishing water where you can’t see crappies, then pitching your bobber rig into holes in the reeds is the best way to find fish.
The shallow crappie bite should be good for at least another week or so before they start to disperse into deeper water for the summer. So if we get a nice day, get out there and find a few crappies for dinner.
They are excellent eating and are very easy to clean, with a bone structure similar to a walleye.

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