Video: Finding and Catching Pre-Spawn Crappies

The first push shallow by spring crappies has nothing to do with spawning, it’s all about finding food.

Video: Finding and Catching Pre-Spawn Crappies

Where I live in southeast Minnesota, the ice has been off the lakes for a couple weeks now, and I’m chomping at the bit to launch my boat for the first time to fish open water. Yes, I love ice fishing, but for me it’s a distant second to catching fish during spring, summer and fall.

Because of Minnesota’s fishing regulations, I can’t begin targeting bass, northern pike and walleyes until mid-May, which is still a few weeks away. And muskie season doesn’t begin until early June. However, the panfish season never closes, so my first trips of the spring are always dedicated toward catching panfish — specifically crappies.

Through the years I’ve learned that the best place to first find and catch pre-spawn crappies isn’t in the super-shallow water of the spawning grounds. While it’s tempting to tie on a small jig and attach a fixed float (bobber) and begin peppering the edge of cattails and fallen logs in 2-4 feet of water, the crappies typically aren’t there yet. In fact, if you’re casting to these shallow spots and not getting bit, the solution might be as easy as turning 180 degrees and begin casting away from shore. Yes, you’ll need to adjust your bobber deeper, or remove the bobber entirely so your jig can explore deeper water.

Not catching crappies along the shore? Turn around, put your back to the bank and begin casting for fish holding in deeper water.
Not catching crappies along the shore? Turn around, put your back to the bank and begin casting for fish holding in deeper water.

Typically, anglers in natural lakes will begin catching pre-spawn crappies on the outskirts of spawning bays in 10 to 12 feet when water temps are in the high 40s and low 50s. If the wind is manageable, it’s best to keep moving your boat slowly along these depth contours as you cast small jigs and let them penetrate the depths. You can also drift and drag jigs behind the boat as you search. Anchoring your boat will reduce your chance of finding the school, so keep moving until you find active fish.

When water warms to 55-58 degrees, crappies push shallower into depths of approximately 6 to 8 feet. That’s the scenario shown in the video below from the guys at Lindner’s Angling Edge. 

As Jeremy Smith explains between catching and releasing crappies, he’s found a spot with stalks of green cabbage growing along the drop-off. Jeremy and his fishing buddy are using fixed bobbers, but look closely and you can notice the bobbers are set at 4 to 5 feet (they’re using 7-foot St. Croix Panfish Series spinning rods). As crappies often do, they’re attacking their prey — and the anglers’ jigs — by rising from the weeds.

Remember as you go searching for crappies this spring: Green-weed areas in 6 to 8 feet are dynamite for catching pre-spawn fish before they make their final push to the shoreline.


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