On the Lookout for Spring Crappies


Without a doubt, some of the most special times my son and I have had involved fishing crappies in the spring. It is usually the most hooting and hollering we do, with all the excitement of a successful outing. A lot of the fish we catch, we get to see them eat the bait—and that doesn’t happen a lot in open water. Ice fishing, we get to see that through the screen of our Marcum camera. But, watching it happen through your own eyes is pretty special. With all the cool screen technology that seems to plague our kids, these on-the-water experiences involve so many senses that my son is always game to partake. As a dad, I am more than happy to make sure we have positive experiences on the water.

Wanna see your strikes? You may need glasses

Visibility is super important if you want to be consistently successful in finding and catching early season crappie. Investing in good-quality polarized sunglasses can make all the difference in the world. Most anglers know that when the fish are shallow they tend to seek out cover. This cover comes in the form of weeds, brush, docks etc. Being able to see it and cast near to it is super critical. Flying Fisherman offers good quality optics in many frames and lens colors to meet all your applications and budgets. They are a must for my son and I as we head onto the water.

Small bays and harbors are gold mines for early season panfish and crappie. Early season, there is typically poor weed growth which can shrink down the bay to where the fish will be found. Harbors are usually full of docks and boat lifts that will provide the cover for them. Being in there first will usually cement your odds of catching a mess of fish. Often in small harbors there is one sweet spot and a few halfway decent spots. However, I have been decently surprised while on my way into a harbor by watching closely while steering my Minn Kota Ultrex toward the hotspot.

Of course the fish can come and go out of the marina throughout the day and the few weeks of spring. Sometimes they will school up in the deeper portion of the harbor. It’s almost like what they did all winter by suspending out in the basin, but this is within the bay or harbor. With good glasses, you can see them before the trolling motor spooks them out in front of you. As you get close to potential fishing areas, take your time and ease into it ever-so-slowly. Turn down the trolling motor speed to limit the output and the noise. Always keep your eyes looking into the direction of travel, looking for movement. Sometimes you just see the flick of a tail, sometimes you see the boil from when the fish speed off.

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Give ‘em room

If you notice that there are fish scurrying out of the way as you motor in, then slow down and back up. Give the fish a little room and then target them. This is a great time to deploy your shallow-water anchors such as PowerPoles, drop an anchor or hit spot-lock on your trolling motor. Often these fish will remain schooled up in the deeper section and you can have a lot of success catching them.

The fish will obviously move around throughout an area, but they do tend to stick to one area or another for whatever reason. When fishing the deeper water, the other cool thing is that you don’t have to worry about snagging up in the boat dock nor the brush that other fish hang out by.

Always keep watching the area and looking for fish. Most of the fish you will see will be at the point where they are a comfortable distance away from the boat. Your casts should be in that vicinity to start out. Long, smooth casts are essential. The fish in these areas are willing to eat, but keep the presentations small. Small crappie minnows on Gypsy jigs with a light float setup is tough to beat. If you prefer to be more active, you can pitch soft plastics in and around them. Three-pound line, such as Sufix Flourocarbon, is a great choice for both castability and for strength to fight fish. A steady, slow retrieve is all you need to entice a few bites with a small tube bait or minnow-profiled soft plastic. An Impulse mini-smelt on a VMC Tungsten Mongo jig can be deadly when enticed in front of some crappies.

Be sure to take some time this spring to connect with nature and go target the shallow-water panfish. Once you realize the visual part of it, you’ll uncover a whole new part of fishing that brings excitement even to the kids.