Do you love big bluegill?
Early spring in my shallow NE New Jersey home lake (average depth 6-10' with a few spots deeper to 25'or a bit more ) Crappie really relate to willow tree branch blow downs and will hang in 2-5 ' in North West and North East areas of the lake.I'll catch them on 32nd oz. jigs( no float) and they will often hit just as the jig enters the water when conditions are right with a steady temp around 52-55 degrees . I have had success in warm May rains with Bass sized tube jigs right along with Largemouths dragging the lure over sandy bottoms while wading or shore fishing. These fish have been in the 12" -14" range.
After spawn through late Summer the Crappies I've gotten take to trolled Cranks like the Bomber 4F's and are suspended 4-6 ' down over 12-15' of water. Remember to go back over the same water with a slower jig or flutter spoon presentation to pick up other less aggressive fish in the area . .I suspect after the spawn they key in on open water areas and follow Bait fish into compression zones like incline deposit areas,/Dams,spillways and stream entry spots where the depths are closing in on rising hump structure. These areas are best explored in a boat at this time but shore fishing these spots on overcast or low light hours can still be productive .
Come fall they seem to stack up on the best structure they can find, like an Oak tree that fell into the lake extending out to 6-8 ft with deeper water up to 12 ' or more not far away. At another lake its a Bluff where the shoreline bank rises .Structure near basin areas can be key and check the Basin for suspended Crappie and troll slowly with a crank bait at their holding depth if they are spread out . From late October to mid December . This time of year can be a bonanza ! 32nd oz Buck-tail jigs ,even without tipping baits ,work great at times when faced with this situation.May have to slip bobber the jigs but not always necessary.
Also come Early Fall through Late Fall the last of the available medium Large Herring are killers on Big Crappie but shiners will do as well with fathead minnows as a last option when the first choice Herring are no longer available a t the local Sport shop .Structure oriented Crappie in 20 feet or more by a steep bank may be picky and only want that live minnow . #4 or #6 Aberdeen light wire hook on 6# test spinning rod drifting over their lair does the trick but you may find small light tube Jigs in a variety of bright colors are a faster way to catch numbers of smaller fish .The fat 12" and bigger with the bulging stomachs are keying on bait that swims. Big Herring or shiners drifted very slowly have taken Big Crappie from 12-15" and going two lbs.Below 52 degree water temps it is imperative to slowly present baits with very little movement or just letting the bait wiggle on it's own .(dead sticking) If you can get out on calm water days, or days with just a slight breeze ,action can be great ! High winds are the cause of many a skunking when one can't present slowly enough to a fish that has a slow metabolism at this point .When drifting ,finger the line with a flipped bail and when you feel that subtle tap, release line ,lower rod for a bit of slack, flip bail over to ready the hook set .Before a relaxed hook set let the rod tip load a bit with the fishes take then merely lift with steady pressure .Let papermouth help you set the hook securely as you embed the chosen light wire hook into it's paper mouth .Keep the fish coming slow and steady to the net . Don't give slack so the fish can slip the hook and don't yank like Bass fishing in summer so as to rip an escape hole in the fishes mouth .If you have the hook in the harder roof of the mouth and the hooks are sharp you should have him solid.
On ice in Winter Fishing near a steep bank ,it's small bait on ice jigs up in the column close to dusk for fish to 10"but the slabs will go for a heartier meal .Often as its getting dark and I'm headed home the last fish is an ice Crappie. Don't underestimate a dead salted minnow head on a Swedish Pimple ,Kastmaster ,Nungesser ,Hus, or Rattlin' Flash spoon for Slab Crappies . My best Crappie through the ice were caught this way12"-14" If not a Crappie a Yellow or White Perch may be the reward.
Mostly slip floating and the Crappie loved the Squirrel tail/chartreuse twister tail/Perch eye offering . Rip rap with a band of windblown leaves right up against the end of the lake was the ambush point for Crappie and Yellow Perch. Caught about 5 nice heavy and thick Crappie 11" - 13" and then it was all Yellow Perch besides perhaps another Crappie or two .
Love the evening Crappie bite just before and at dark .The Gills, and Yellow Perch are the most prolific catches I get 'round here!.Be safe and enjoy Andy ! What species are you most interested in ? Me ,I like them all through the ice but a nice Trout fights great and bangs a bait hard. I've only caught two Trout through the ice though . Mostly Bluegills, and yellow Perch ,followed in frequency by , Bass ,Crappie, White Perch, Pickerel and once a Bullhead .
very good fish John and presentation... this winter Ive decided to hit the ice a little harder... mainly due to better weather and ice conditions. my main focus was bluegill this year but i have always done well on the crappie in the past... years and years ago. im having a hard time locating the crappie on this lake ice fishing that during the summer there were days i would catch over a hundred mid day.still working on it and gathering data. thanks for the tips John.
Outdoor Life Article; Springtime Crappie: http://www.outdoorlife.com/articles/fishing/2007/09/crappies-degrees