Informational Guide

Best Time To Fish For Crappie

To help you land a steady stream of crappie, we’ve gathered our top advice on when it’s the best time to fish for crappie.

by Andrew

Informational Guide

Best Time To Fish For Crappie

To help you land a steady stream of crappie, we’ve gathered our top advice on when it’s the best time to fish for crappie.

by Andrew

by Andrew

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.

crappie

Factors to Consider When Fishing for Crappie

Fishing Type

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.

  • Ice Fishing for Crappie
    Popular during winter and early spring, crappie will dive deeper and deeper as temperatures fall. The best time of day to ice fish for crappie is high afternoon with direct sunlight, as warming waters will lure crappie upwards, between 40 to 25 feet deep.
  • Fly Fishing For Crappie
    The best time to fly fish for crappie is during mild spring days when crappies migrate from the depths up to shallower waters. Wait for 2 to 3 days of consistently sunny weather, then set up a 4 or 5 WT fly line on a medium length fly rod for best results.
  • Jigging For Crappie
    A great solution for summer and winter, jigging for crappie can tempt the fish up from the depths of their vegetation cover. Crappie will often strike at minnows or smaller spoons, and we recommend fluttering a spoon up and down over brush cover, about 1 to 2 feet, to lure crappies’ attention.

Water Temperature

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.

Spawning Behavior

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. 

Feeding Time

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.

By Season

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

  • Texas
    Both white and black crappie can be found in Texas’ Lake Arrowhead year-round, although black crappies are most commonly found in East Texas’ alkaline waters. Texas crappie frequently strike jigs, small spinners, and crankbaits. The best time to fish for crappie in Texas is during their spring spawn once waters reach 60° F, generally between mid-March to mid-May.
  • Colorado
    Colorado also holds both black and white crappie, and also prefer 60° F waters. However, this tends to take longer than sunny southern Texas. Late spring is the best time to fish for crappie in Colorado, which can remain in deeper waters well into March. We recommend aiming for early morning and evening feeding periods.
  • Ohio
    Ohio is another state that can be slow to warm, but the best time of year to fish for crappie in Ohio begins with the spring spawn and stretches well into early summer, although some anglers also prefer the fall feed. Live minnows and jigs are a popular approach, and both black and white crappie alike can be found in Piedmont Lake.
  • Tennessee
    Tennessee’s early spring makes March a popular month for crappie fishing, as well as the best time of year to fish Reelfoot lake for crappie. Reelfoot Lake holds both white and black crappie, and great hauls can be found in Big and Little Starved ponds, Grassy Bend, Katie's Gourd, and the Burnt Woods areas.
  • Mississippi
    Like Texas, Mississippi has a southern coastal climate that makes for excellent crappie fishing all year round. But mid-March to early April is when winter waters draw down to summer pools, making it the best time to fish Grenada Lake for crappie. Grenada Lake is a 35,820-acre waterway renowned for its crappie and bass fishing, so be sure to bring a hefty cooler.
  • Alabama
    Alabama is home to such popular waterways as Weiss Lake, the eponymous Alabama River, and the well-stocked Kentucky Lake. Although spring is always popular, Alabama’s mild climate allows many anglers to swear the best time to fish Kentucky Lake for crappie is late fall and early winter. Less boat traffic allows for bigger catches, and winter crappie tend to have firmer flesh and a better taste.
  • Florida
    The mecca of all anglers, Florida’s well-stocked waters are no stranger to black and white crappie. Lake Talquin is nationally recognized as a haven for high-quality black crappie, who bite well on minnows and light tackle. The peninsula’s temperate waters allow the best time to fish Lake Talquin for crappie to be as early as January through April.
reelfoot

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.


Conclusion

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!

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