It was really cool having a dad that took me rifle hunting and bass fishing as a kid, then meeting someone as an adult that could expand my knowledge to different methods and/or species. My husband introduced me to so much just shortly after we met, with the main focus being archery. However, crappie fishing is probably one of my favorite things he brought into my life, and while we’ve been chasing them on the lakes around us for over 6 years now, I continue to pick up on new things each time I go. That inspired me to write up some fun facts for those of you that may have never been crappie fishing before!
TYPES OF CRAPPIE + HOW TO TELL THEM APART
Black: as you can probably assume, they’re much darker than whites, EXCEPT when whites go into the shallows to lay their eggs. During this time, the whites can look almost identical to a black crappie. However, black crappie have more dorsal fins than white. We always count 8 on each fish. I’m not certain if this number stays the same or if it can vary, but they will always have more than the others. Also, it’s been our experience that blacks fight harder in the water.
White: these are the most densely populated type of crappie, as they reproduce much quicker due to their dominance. You can expect to catch more whites in Central Texas, that’s for sure. They have less dorsal fins (usually 6) and again, I’m not 100% sure if that number fluctuates. Their body size is usually longer than a black crappie as well.
Hybrid: these are neat to catch and very easy to identify by the black stripe down their back, which many crappie fishermen will refer to as a “racing stripe.” They are a mix of black and white crappie, and we get excited every time we see them because they are definitely the least populated in our area.
Once you’ve caught all three types and put them side by side, you’ll notice the shape of their heads are a bit different as well. One thing I’m certain of: they all taste the same and they’re all fun to catch!
WHERE TO FISH
Shallows: during the spawn (typically end of February through April around here) when the water hits roughly 55 degrees, they’ll start moving into the shallows. You’ll need to be able to get into creeks and other shallow water, whether by boat or foot. The males go in about a week before and make the beds for the females to come in and lay the eggs. Once the females lay, the males stay around the bed to protect the eggs. This is when you’ll be flipping jigs or minnows and trying to hit that bed perfectly so they’ll latch on. They can be really aggressive during this time which is really fun! Side note: if you ever catch a male with a roughed up tail, most likely it’s because he’s been hard at work making a bed.
River Channel: the in between when the fish are going to lay or coming back from laying. They are suspended, meaning they’re not on top or on the bottom, but rather floating around at different depths depending on bait fish. We like to attempt spider rigging during this time where we drag 6-8 poles on the front end of our boat through the high traffic areas where we see lots of bait fish on the graphs. Sometimes you’ll have every pole getting hit which is a rush, but just pray that it’s not a bass because they’ll most likely tangle all your lines! I’m speaking from experience here and it’s not fun!
Deeper water: later in the spring (typically late April and on for us in Central Texas) they’ll be in brush piles in deeper water where it’s cooler. The magic number is dependent on the lake, and can range several feet. The trick is finding that depth and only fishing brush piles within that range. This can be a really fun or frustrating way of fishing them because it’s tough to learn the difference between not only the brush pile and a bite, but the TYPE of bite: sometimes they’re extremely aggressive and sometimes they just eat what’s conveniently sitting in front of them, which is a totally different feel. Other times, more often than not, you’re just hung up as a beginner because crappie love to stay close to structure. Whether the brush piles are naturally there or intentionally placed there by another fisherman, the crappie will gravitate toward them in larger numbers. A good sign of a freshly placed pile would be when you’re reeling green leaves in - might be better to mark it and fish it another day! It is not uncommon to catch 10+ fish on a good pile.
OUR GO-TO SETUPS
Shallows: a slip cork set about a foot above a beautiful hair jig is a very fast paced, successful way to catch them in the spring
River Channel: as I mentioned above, we will run 6-8 poles at a time using a minnow rig about 3 feet above a soft plastic.
Deeper Water: place an egg weight with a pinch weight about a foot above your hair jig and be very patient as you slowly move it through the brush piles.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to my hubs, Braxton Byers, for helping me write this article. He is passionate about crappie fishing and truly knows how to get into them no matter where we are. I’m a lucky gal to have him as my teacher!