Crappie are a popular catch throughout the United States, but these fun-sized fish can still be tricky to find and consistently hook. To help you land a steady stream of crappie in your cooler, we’ve gathered our top advice on crappie behavior, spawning seasons, and when is the best time to fish for crappie below!
Understanding Types of Crappie & Fish Behavior
There are two dominant subspecies of crappie, known as Black and White. Otherwise known as calico bass, Black crappie are easy to find in clear water around aquatic vegetation. They begin their spawning migration as soon as water temperatures reach 50° F.
White crappie are less discerning in their preferred water quality and can be found in muddier waters, but often coexist with Black crappies. White crappies' spawn season often begins shortly after Black crappies' end, around May and June.
Factors to Consider When Fishing for Crappie
Crappie prefer shallows in the spring and fall but dive deep during summer and winter. They gravitate towards woody cover and will often strike nearby baits while active. When they’re sluggish, you’ll want a jigging rig with enough weight to sink into the brush.
Crappie will remain sluggish with winter inaction until waters reach around 50° F, sparking black crappies’ spawn season. Crappie will often continue to bite indiscriminately throughout the summer and fall but will gradually flee to the depths once their shallows become too hot or too cold.
Black crappie begin to spawn in early spring, with White crappie following soon after once waters reach 55° F. Crappie prefer lessened visibility while spawning and will often dive as deep as 20 feet in clear water while lurking as close as 1 foot deep in murkier waters. The best time of year to fish for crappie is during their spring spawn, between early March and late May.
Crappie prefers shallows for both breeding and feeding in the spring, and the best time of day to fish for crappie is when they’re feeding. Crappie feed regularly between midnight and 2 am but can also be found during dusk and dawn if there are enough minnows and insect life.
Best Fishing Time for Crappie
By Time of Day
Early morning remains the best time of day to fish for crappie, specifically when they feed between midnight and early, pre-dawn morning. Dawn and dusk are also popular times during spring and summer, as crappie will be drawn to feed in the shallows. The late afternoon usually sends heat-shy crappie to cooler depths, which is when jigging works best.
High noon is usually an insufficient time to fish for crappie, save for late fall and winter when the sunlight will lure fish closer. Night fishing can be surprisingly effective with crappie, particularly with the use of headlights. Light will attract insects and smaller fish in the spring - early fall months, which can summon crappie in turn.
In winter, the best time to ice fish for crappie is high-noon on sunny days, when sluggish crappie respond best to slower presentations. Schools will huddle together near brush about 20 - 40 feet deep: Once you get a hit, keep casting nearby. Warm spring days can lure crappie to the shallows in the early morning to afternoon, but cold spells will send them back to 20 ft depths that only sunny afternoons can offset.
Summer can also make shallows uncomfortably hot for crappie, but insect life & cooler evenings make summer the best time of year to night fish for crappie. Fall can be great for aggressive crappies, and the best time to fish for crappie in fall is morning to late afternoon on mild days, when they loiter in shallows and below docks before the winter chill sets in.
Fishing For Crappie in Different Locations
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Is crappie fishing better in the morning or evening?
Technically, crappie fishing is equally excellent in the early mornings and very late evenings. Aim for past midnight and before dawn as the best time to fish for crappie.
What is the best month to catch crappie?
Although this varies depending on regional spawn seasons, March or early April is usually the best time of year to fish for crappie.
What temp do crappie bite?
Crappie are at their most active once waters reach 52° - 60° F.
Where do crappies go during the day?
This depends on the time of year and the body of water. Crappies are fond of cover and will naturally gravitate towards vegetation, woody cover, docks, and overhangs. During warm weather, they will flee to warmer depths, but cold months can find crappies lingering closer to the surface in search of sunshine.
How deep do crappie go in the wintertime?
Schools of crappie can be found over 40 feet deep during cold winter months, but they can rise to depths of 20 feet during sunnier afternoons.
Crappie may be an easy catch and a great-tasting panfish, but consistently catching crappie throughout the year can be tricky for any angler. Research your state’s water temperatures and spawn season, and hunt down the best nooks and crannies of local waters. Once you’ve discovered what is the best time to fish for crappie, you’ll be golden. Tight lines!