How to Catch Crappie

By Get Fishing •  Published: 07/06/22 •  9 min read

You’ve heard that Crappie is one of the best tasting freshwater fish and how fun they are to catch. Now you want to know how to catch crappie for yourself. Well this post will tell you everything you need about catching crappie.

How to Catch Crappie

Catching crappie can be fun to spend time on the water, but there are a few things to learn that will make your time fishing for crappie way more productive. Knowing where to find them during the different seasons, what water temperature is best to catch them in, and the different techniques you can use to catch crappie are all important things to know.

Best Water Temperature to Catch Crappie

Water temperature is the key factor in finding crappie and setting expectations on how your day is going to go. Knowing the water temperature will help you understand if crappie are in a pre-spawn, spawn, or post-spawn stage. The best temperature to catch crappie is between 50-75 degrees.

We know this is a big range, but during that period crappie go from pre-spawn to post-spawn habits that include aggressively feeding to prepare for the spawn or to recover from the spawn.

How do you Catch Crappie in 50 Degree Water

Focus on chasing baitfish. Once the water hits 50 degrees, crappie are looking for a good meal. Whether they are preparing for the spawn or preparing for the winter, they are looking to feed. Fish around structure near a food source and you’re likely to find a school. Usually between 10-16 ft of water or medium water column, depending on your body of water. Use a minnow style bait and you’ll be catching fish in no time.

Best Time of the Day to Catch Crappie

Like most game species, the best time of day to catch crappie is early morning or early evening. This doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish during the day, but it can be a little more difficult especially in the warmer months of the year.

In the winter time however, the best time of day to catch crappie shifts to being the warmest part of the day. Remember that crappie activity heavily relies on water temperature.

How to Catch Crappie in the Winter

The winter time can be a difficult period to catch crappie. The main reason is because you have to spend time searching for them if you’re not familiar with the body of water. The winter season varies across the country, but essentially, you need to find where the crappie are.

In the winter, you will want to search for them in the deepest parts of the body of water. Whether you have open water or hard ice finding them usually leads to a successful trip because they tend to school up. You might spend more time looking than fishing, but once you find them and find what they are willing to bite you will be stacking them up in no time.

Catching Crappie in February

In certain parts of the country the water is transitioning from cold water to spring time temperatures. In the South you might have fish in the pre-spawn. This is a great opportunity to get into a good amount of crappie quickly. In the North you might be ice fishing and you’ll want to stick to looking for crappie out deep where they are schooled up.

Catching Crappie in the Spring

Spring time is the super bowl of crappie fishing. Waters are thawed or at least beginning to thaw in most places around the country. Crappie are beginning to feed aggressively in preparation for the spawn and will go after anything that moves.

Water temps ranging from 50-60 degrees are a strong indicator that you are going to be able to get some aggressive feeding fish. Look for schools around food sources. You can still find them set up on structure, but you’ll have more luck fishing structure where baitfish are present. During this time you’ll find them in the shallows, think 10 feet or less.

How to Catch Crappie in the Summer

The summer can be a difficult time to find crappie. In most of the country the spawn is over which means the fish are no longer in big schools and because the water temps are rising or already hotter than a habanero they are no longer feeding as aggressive as before. Crappie will head deep if the water is 75 degrees or higher looking for good cover.

Catching Crappie in the Fall

Catching crappie in the Fall is similar to catching them in the Spring except you’re not working with spawning behavior. As water temps begin to cool, crappie will move more shallow and start chasing bait more consistently. This is a good time to be aggressive and fish a little faster.

Once the water temps dip closer to 45-50 degrees, crappies will begin to slow down and you’ll need to slow down your fishing style as well. Sizing down your presentation, working it more slowly will help trigger those hard to catch crappie into biting your lure.

How to Catch Suspended Crappie

Once you’ve found a school of crappie there is a good chance they are going to be suspended. Basically what that means is the crappie are not moving up or down the water column. The best way to catch suspend crappie is with a float rig.

A float rig can be set up different ways, but we like a slip float rig for versatility. All you need to set up a slip float rig is bobber stops and beads, a slip float, and your hook or jig. Our favorite slip float is the Mule Peg Float from Mule Fishing. It comes in two hi-vis colors and two sizes that match perfectly with their jigs.

Mule Fishing Peg Float

Mule Fishing Peg Float

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The benefit of fishing a slip float rig is you can fish deeper as long as your fishing guides are large enough to fit the bobber stop. If you’re fishing shallow water you can skip the bobber stops and run a standard peg float set up. Here is a video on how to rig a peg float and a slip float rig.

Catching Crappie on Crankbaits

When crappie are aggressively feeding on baitfish is a good time to mix it up and use crankbaits. There are two main ways to fish a crankbait and successfully catch crappie. That is straight cranking and trolling.

Crankbait Fishing for Crappie

A crankbait is a great search bait and can be used from the bank or from a boat. Focus tossing your crankbait around cover and ripping it through grass or structure where crappie could be waiting for their next meal.

Rebel Super Teeny Wee-R Lure

Rebel Super Teeny Wee-R Lure

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The Rebel Super Teeny Wee-R Lure is a favorite our ours. The wobbling action and small baitfish profile makes it hard for crappie to ignore during the aggressive feeding seasons

Trolling Crankbaits for Crappie

If you’re on a boat or a kayak, trolling for crappie can be a great way to find crappie. When you’re trolling lures you are covering a ton of water.

Rapala Ultra Light Shad

Rapala Ultra Light Shad

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For trolling we like the Rapala Ultralight Shad. The action and slow sink keep it in the water column and make it easy for a fish to spot. If you’re looking for crappie in open water. Trolling with this lure is a great way to find them.

How to Catch Crappie with Worms

Catching crappie with worms is probably the best way to catch a lot of fish fast. Live bait works better most of the time. A bobber, some split shot sinkers, and a good worm hook will keep you in the fish.

Mustad Classic Aberdeen Hook

Mustad Classic Aberdeen Hook

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For nightcrawlers we recommend a #4 size aberdeen hook. This size make it easy for a crappie to eat and great for rigging a solid piece of worm.

How to Catch Crappie from the Bank

Catching crappie from the bank is a lot like catching them on the bank. Depending on the season you’re going to want to find where they are staged. If it’s in the Winter or Summer time and you can fish the deepest part of your body of water. Fall or Spring time, stick to more shallow water. This can be difficult on larger bodies of water, but if you have a pond you can fish from any part of the bank, you should be able to find crappie no matter what.

How to Catch Spawning Crappie

Catching crappie during the spawn is one of the easiest ways to catch crappie. Crappie spawn around docks, brush, and other hard structures. They tend to school up and once you catch them you’ll find the males a darker color. The male crappies change color during the spawn and are darker no matter the species of crappie.

Once you find them you will usually find a good amount of them because they tend to gather in larger schools around spawning areas.

How to Catch Crappie in Muddy Water

It’s easier to catch crappie in muddy or stained water. Crappie prefer low light conditions because it makes them feel safer. If the water temperature is right, you can find crappie shallower than usual. Use vibrant color lures during this time or something that is more opaque that cast a solid profile in stained water.

How to Catch Crappie Year Round

Hopefully this post has given you some insight into the different factors you should be paying attention to. Thing that impact your success in catching crappie like time of day, water temperature, water clarity, and structure. Now grab your favorite crappie reel, get fishing and catch some donkeys!

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