Here's the lowdown on summer crappie fishing.
For those that might have always wanted to do some crappie fishing, but have never tried, it's high time you invested a little of your hard-earned angling off hours to put yourself on top of some summer crappie. Many anglers pass off crappies in the summer as being too tough to catch. However, getting ahead of some of the summer's best calico bass fishing is easier than you might think. It's mostly a mental thing. Many regular crappie anglers have hard time getting away from the same fishing methods they used during the crappie's spring spawning season. Unfortunately, these methods rarely entice slabs when the water is as hot as it is in the summer.
Whatever they call them where you live- strawberry bass, calico bass, or plain old crappie, fishermen everywhere would be wise to take some time away from largemouth bass to fill a bucket or two with slabs, and small wonder since they fry up so darn well. It's a real shame most anglers quit thinking about them once the spawn has finished. However, their loss is your gain if you know how to target them at other times of the year. There are some big crappie out there waiting for anglers patient enough to locate them.
Summer success sometimes only comes to those anglers who know specific tactics for catching summer's choosy fish that have long since come out their spring spawning patterns. There are several great ideas that we can share for those interested in laying some pan-sized fillets into the skillet over an outdoor fire.
Any area where fresh water can flow can gather fish, especially crappie. Since a flow of water entering the lake usually comes in the form of feeder creeks, it carries with it extra oxygenated water. Baitfish will often take advantage of it, and the crappie aren't far behind.
This is especially true for areas that have adjacent cover like submerged brush. These areas are fish holding magnets in the first place, but add a fresh flow of water and it will turn into fish bazaar. In fact, when the summer heat comes, a fresh flow of water from a feed creek will also bring with it cooler temperatures which the fish will love.
Aside from the springs, there are other things to look for in the vicinity. You may need to look for these fish in both deep water and shallow water. Great places to start your search include submerged brush piles, creek and river channels, standing timber, and obvious weedlines.
Follow the Hatch
We're not talking trout fishing here, but some of the same things that the cold water species eat are also targets for the warm water bunch. Crappies are no different. Terrestrials and other bugs like crickets, grasshoppers, moths, worms, and even mayflies will appear and crappies cannot resist them for a minute.
Many veteran crappie fishermen will tell you that if you see a lot of mayflies, dispense with lures, and try fishing an unweighted cricket instead. Crappies and other fish will already be gorging on the hatch, but as soon as something meatier shows up, hang on to your rod.
Speaking of Live Bait
If you're not incorporating some live minnows into your favorite crappie haunt, then you may be wasting some time. You may land as many bluegills and bass as crappie, but where crappie are common, they'll comprise the main portion of your catch.
In fact, attracting minnows into the area that you're fishing can be one of the deadliest tactics out there. You would be surprised by the simple things that can attract baitfish to an area- bread crumbs, dry dog or cat food, a handful of worms, or some simple dry cereal can at least attract the attention of these baitfish, keeping them in the area while you fish.
Don't forget to add a big, juicy nightcrawler to your hook; the livelier the better to entice a great strike. Crappie are also suckers for live crawfish and freshwater shrimp. Any of these tipped onto a 1/8 to a 3/8-ounce jig for action leaves these venerable fish with their mouths watering.
Knock On the Stumps
Not everyone has access to an area where there are many submerged stumps, but for those that do a bonanza is in order. A double-hook, bottom-bouncing rig provides a great means for targeting summer crappie holding near stumps, especially on flats adjacent to bottom channels.
Drifting or back trolling with an electric motor, an angler can work this rig in a lift-and-drop method and fish with patience. Anytime you feel the rig bump against an obvious stump, raise your rod tip and get the bait up and over it.
Strikes often come just as the rig is lowered just behind a prospective stump, giving it time to angle in front of fish for just a moment.
Line diameter that is. Since you're not going after big bass or walleye, light line in the form of fluorocarbon virtually disappears completely and that's one of the most effective tools for summer crappie that you can have.
Actually, with a light spinning rig, light line, and small sized wire hooks tied right to it, you will have an offering that is invisible to fish. This is one of the most effective tools that crappie fishermen can have due to its finesse and light feel. Lightweight rigs like these are easy to handle and easy to pick up the light strikes of crappie when they're being finicky.
Watch the Water
Where crappies are prevalent, keep your eyes peeled to the water's surface at dawn and again at dusk to look for telltale signs that fish are feeding actively in the area. Shad and other baitfish tend to congregate in schools to feed making a blur on the surface of the water. It can almost appear like a rough patch especially when the water is calm.
Look for signs that the crappie have now found them and are targeting the minnows from every side. Light line is now your best friend along with a jig dressed with some kind of lively trailer or better yet, live bait. In fact, summer crappie may move fairly shallow if they can find overhead cover that shades them from the direct sun particularly overhanging brush. Boat docks and swimming platforms can provide good cover, but sometimes anglers in boats fail to get bites since crappies are so easily spooked.
The Bottom Line
Ask any veteran crappie fisherman and they will tell you that many summer crappie outings end in failure, even for those that have been hitting them hard for a lifetime. We won't sugar coat it, it's not easy to target slabs in the summer. Many regular crappie anglers have hard time getting away from the same fishing methods they used during the crappie's spring spawning season, and these methods rarely entice slabs when the water is as hot as it is in the summer.
Keeping an eye on the water temperatures all summer long can also help you to find fish when no on else is, even when the clear water seems to hide everything. Crappies are one of our favorite game fish to target in the summer months, but they shouldn't have to be so difficult to find. Follow these obvious steps and you should find fish.
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