Crappies can offer fast action

If there is one species of fish that attracts the attention of anglers during winter and then gets a major break in during the open-water season, at least during the summer months, it’s the black crappie.
Although not native to Sunset Country, crappies likely made their way into the region in the early to mid-1900s, coming in milk cans on the railway, along with bass.
Now plentiful throughout the region, crappies can offer some fast action and are great eating.
The key to consistently catching crappies is to understand their predictable seasonal movements. Seldom do they travel alone so if you find one crappie, you’ve likely found a school.
It’s my experience that if you can put a jig tipped with a minnow or small plastic in front of them, they’ll be willing to bite on most days no matter the season.
Once you know that a body of water has a population of crappies in it, there is no better time than right now (late spring-early summer) to look for them because they will be in shallow water for a couple of weeks.
Before I explain how to go about catching them at this time of year, let me fill you in a little bit more on their seasonal movements.
Crappies generally are homebodies, meaning they typically don’t migrate too far from their core area, especially on large bodies of water like Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. If they live in a bay that is isolated from other parts of the lake, they usually don’t leave it.
When fall rolls around, crappies make a predictable move to the deepest basin in the bays they live in. So if there is a 30- or 40-foot hole or flat surrounded by shallower water, that is most likely where they will be located in the fall.
These locations continue to hold fish throughout the winter.
The same thing goes for smaller lakes—look for those isolated, deeper holes to hold fish.
A spring-spawning fish, crappies make an annual two-three week pilgrimage to shallow water to take care of these duties. This movement takes place when the water temperatures reach the high 50s or low 60s F range.
Across our region, this is happening right now.
Another way to time the shallow rush of crappies is by the bloom of the lilac bushes. When lilacs bloom, crappies will be shallow in big numbers–and this is coming soon!
Throughout the summer, crappies are seldom caught most likely because they do not receive much angler attention. My experiences catching a few while I’ve been bass fishing have been in large weedbeds, where they likely spread out and spend the summer, in water depths ranging from six-14 feet.
If we put in the time, they are likely catchable in the summer, as well.
When they move to shallow water, there is no better presentation you can use to catch crappies than a small jig rigged below bobber. The reason the bobber is so effective is it will hang your jig right in the face of crappies that usually are located in the pencil reeds, bulrushes, or trees.
Without the bobber, you jig will fall past the fish and end up on the bottom. Crappies are not known for eating off the bottom and you’ll snag up on weeds a lot more.
You will want to set up the float so it is 12-24 inches up the line from you jig. You’ll be fishing two-four feet of water.
I’m not sure what it is about watching a bobber get pulled under by a fish but it’s fun—no matter what your age or how many fish you’ve caught.
As I previously mentioned, the best places to find crappies is around various types of cover like pencil reeds, bulrushes, and trees in the water. If you can find these elements, and they are located near some harder sand bottom or there are some rocks around, you likely have a hot spot.
Seldom do they spawn on a pure mud bottom.
Beyond the jig-and-bobber rig, when crappies get really aggressive, you even can catch them on small crankbaits and topwater baits.
This shallow water campaign should last for a couple more weeks so if you get a nice day or evening to get on the water, rig up some bobbers and small jigs and get ready to have some fun!

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