Don’t Forget those Summer Crappies


Summer is a busy time in the fishing world in Minnesota and the Dakotas, and there are many species to target. Although I do love chasing walleyes and bass in the warm season, I sometimes take a break from these and spend a day catching crappies. Crappies are a somewhat forgotten fish during the summer. Once the spring shallow bite is over and their spawn is completed, many anglers give up on crappies.

It doesn’t have to be so.

I have a proven process for locating summer crappies that has worked for years. It is not too complicated, and as long as it works, I’ll keep coming back to it.

The first step is to pick the correct lake. Most of my crappie waters are lakes that have a healthy population of this fish, are relatively shallow and have good weedlines with a mix of cabbage.

I find cabbage weed to be a key ingredient in locating panfish in summer. This weed offers cover, shade and protection for many species. Even though not every speck of cabbage or every inch of weeds is going to hold crappies, I use a search process that involves trolling. I tie on small jigs, such as Beetle Spins, and drop spin jigs tipped with Gulp 1-inch minnows or crappie minnows. I then work an area until I find a cluster of fish. Often, this depth is 8 to 10 feet.

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Once fish are located, I throw a marker to pinpoint their location and then cast to them instead of trolling. I like to reel my jig back very slowly so it barely clears the weeds. After I’m working the fish, tipping the jig with a little added “temptation” may not be needed—I let the fish tell me that.

If I’m targeting crappies on a lake that has clear water and deeper weeds, I’ll focus on the weed edge in 12 to 14 feet of water. By adding split shot in front of the jig, depth control is relatively easy.

Don’t be surprised if you find large bluegills attacking your jigs. Big ‘gills are pretty aggressive in the summer. Bass and northerns will also find these tiny morsels quite appealing.

I love to catch summer panfish because of their edible “qualities.” In my book, crappies are some of the best table fare around.      Some anglers claim crappies during this season are mushy and not good to eat. I don’t find that to be true as long as I take good care of them after they are caught. By taking along a cooler, I can put these fish on ice as soon as I pull them into the boat. And if I am not far from home, I will keep them alive in the livewell until I am done fishing. I’ll then clean them immediately when I get home. I also throw the fillets in very cold water to firm them up.

Crappies do not have to be a forgotten summer fish. With a little searching, a person can find locations that hold these panfish all season long. And once a crappie “hole” is discovered, they’ll tend to return to these haunts year after year.