By Pros4- 1Source's Steve Worrall
The crappie spawn is still underway across the upper Midwest as water temps hit the middle 60’s. The spawn can last in a geographical area for two weeks due to varying lake types and river water heights and temperatures.
As the spawning cycle ends, the female crappie move off the nesting areas while some males remain to ‘guard’ the nests. The areas the fish were spawning will rapidly empty out, and the fishing in the shallows will drop off sharply. The big question is…where do they go?
Post Crappie Spawn
On most upper Midwest lakes, the crappie will have gathered in a foot to two feet of water in reeds, timber areas, and back bays where the correct substrate exists. As they move out, they will follow the break line that drops off first from where they were spawning. On most waters, that will be the break between the shallows and three to four feet. I usually start at the beds, and begin working the outside edge a casting distance or so out from where the crappie spawned.
Cover is everything, crappie do not like to be out in the open this time of year. Big schools of fish will gather around any available cover in the three to six-foot level wherever cover exists, and once you find them, it is easy to duplicate that scenario elsewhere on most lakes.
Weeds Hold a Lot of Fish
Weeds are the best cover possible as they will hold large numbers of fish. The inside edge is where they will pile up at first, actively feeding and cruising the structural edges.
Approach the area slowly, fan casting a small beetle spins like the Johnson Original Beetle or bobber and jig tipped with small plastics or GULP ALIVE 1” minnows. Use your Humminbird marine navigation charts to track where you find the fish and where you lose them, so you can repeat that track again. When you find the fish, hit Spot Lock on the Minn Kota Ultrex to stay put effortlessly.
Cabbage is he best vegetation available as it provides a canopy, and still has openings in which the crappie can feed. There are two types we see regularly in the North, green cabbage and tobacco cabbage, which is easily identified by its reddish-brown broad leaves.
Both will hold crappie for a few weeks on the shallow edges until the water heats up. Fish the area slowly, and cover it well, the schools can be in as small an area as a few dozen square feet, and surprisingly, they move quite a bit. Once the direction the fish are traveling is discovered, simply follow them!
Downed Trees, Stumps are Crappie Magnets
Downed wood and branches are crappie magnets this time of year. Find some close to the spawning areas in that desired three to six feet of water, and the crappie will be there. Beetle Spins kept just above the wood can be effective, move them only as fast as is needed to avoid snagging up. We prefer using slip bobbers, as when one reels, the jig travels up out of the wood nearly vertically, and when stopped, sinks straight down into the pockets. When a crappie hits, lift them quickly to the surface by reeling fast to avoid getting hung up. Cane poles or long crappie rods can also be used dipping into the pockets one at a time.
Bog Edges on Water
Some waters in the North have extensive bog edges trailing out from the backs of bays. In these waters the water is usually very tannic, so weed growth is limited to shallow water. The bog edges are usually in two to three feet of water, and the crappie will follow along them looking for brushy areas on the edges. A bobber and jig work well in these locations. Watch the sun angle and fish the bog edges that provide some shade first.
Best Fishing Gear for Crappie
A 6 to 7 foot medium light spinning rod is our go-to outfit. Heavier line is used now due to the need for getting big slabs out of cover, so we wrap 10 or 20 sized spinning reels with 6 or 8 pound monofilament fishing line or 15 pound super line. A one inch to inch and a half round foam float will do the job well suspending the bait in front of your quarry. All that’s left now is to get out on the water! As with the spawn, remember to limit your catch to sustain the fishery.