Spring usually best for crappie fishing

One of the best things about fishing here in Sunset Country, particularly during the spring, are all of the great multi-species options we have right across the region.
You can catch lake trout, bass, walleye, and pike almost anywhere, with opportunities for plenty of other species, as well.
Black crappies spend nearly the entire year in deep water. But for a few weeks in the spring, these panfish move shallow to spawn and offer some of the most action-packed fishing you’ll experience all year.
Over the past week, I’ve led several guided trips and we’ve spent a few hours crappie fishing every day. It’s been fun because most of the people that I’ve been taking out fishing have never caught crappies before or if they had, it was on an ice-fishing trip.
The fun part about fishing for them right now is that it is very visual and these crappies are aggressive.
Like bass, crappies are not native to Northwestern Ontario. It’s believed these fish were stocked incidentally into our lakes when bass were stocked.
Many of the bass in the region were brought here in the 1920s and ’30s from Lake Erie. They were transported in milk cans on railway cars and some crappie fry likely were mixed in with the bass.
Across Sunset Country, most lakes that have bass have crappies, and many of the lakes along the railway tracks have crappies.
Fortunately, there is not a lot of evidence to suggest they are harmful to any native fish populations so I am happy that we have them. At this point, they aren’t going anywhere.
When crappies move up into shallow water to spawn, we’re talking between two and four feet in most cases. They like to be around some kind of cover like pencil reeds, trees, and even beaver huts.
The key is to find these types of cover around some sort of harder bottom like sand. Crappies will make a small nest, similar to a bass, and they don’t seem to like the soft mud bottom, so that is something to keep in mind when you’re looking for fish.
On a couple of these trips that I recently was on, I was able to go and visually look for crappies before we started fishing.
I would sneak along with my trolling motor watching for crappies in holes in the reeds and was fortunate to spot several before we dropped our lines into the water.
Once I found where some crappies were located, I could drop my Minn Kota Talons down at the back of my boat to anchor us in place.
I was fortunate to have caught crappies in the past in a few of the places that I checked out on Lake of the Woods on these recent trips, so I knew I was looking in reed patches that the fish liked. It was just a matter of whether they were up in the shallow water yet or not.
It’s safe to say they are up shallow pretty much everywhere now, and should hang around for at least a couple of more weeks.
When it comes to catching crappies in the spring, the best way to entice them is with a small jig tipped with plastic fished beneath a slip bobber. Crappies don’t seem to like to pick bait up off the bottom that much, so the bobber will allow your bait to hover in their face–triggering them to strike.
I like to leave about 18 inches of line beneath the bobber.
If they are really skittish and tough to catch, live minnows will get the job done but usually small soft plastics work great.
Simply pitching jigs with small grubs or swimbait tails into holes in the reeds also is a good tactic, but precision casts are important because if you’re constantly snagging on the reeds, you will just spook the fish.
Spring is the only time of the year that crappies can be found in shallow water–and it is a short window that lasts only a few weeks.
So if you’re looking for some fun action, get yourself a good pair of polarized sunglasses, a couple of bobbers and some small jigs, and you can get in on the fun.