With a changing of the seasons comes a changing of the game. Ducks and geese are starting to make their move back North to their nesting grounds and deer, depending on your part of the country, are beginning to shed. In the state of Texas, spring turkey season is kicking off in April, but what should you do before then? Well, there’s never a shortage of hogs. And everything is bigger in Texas, so unfortunately, that means our hog population is the largest in the U.S. as well.
What if you’re burned out on bullets and bows. Maybe you’re just ready to relax and maybe you’re ready to not go crazy every time a twig snaps, thinking it’s that big 12 pointer that’s been eluding you all season. You just want to kick back with a cold drink in one hand and a fishing pole in the other, and you don’t really care if you catch anything or not. Sounds nice, right? Well then, my friend, crappie season is definitely NOT for you!
What Exactly Are Crappie Fish?
Crappies are part of the sunfish family and the two primary species are white and black. Your highest concentration of black crappie will be in the North, while white crappie reside in the South. However, during the spawn, white crappie males will turn a darker color. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two? Count the dorsal spines, which run on top of the back. White crappie will have 5 or 6 and their darker brothers will have 7 to 8.
Size is generally the same, but their body types differ in the fact that black crappie are more compact and white crappie are more elongated. A white crappie’s diet will mainly consist of shad and minnows while a black crappie is more apt to go after insects and crawfish. One characteristic they both share though is their mouth. There’s a reason they’re nicknamed “Papermouths”, but we’ll get to that later.
Crappie Fishing Entry-Level Gear
Fishing for crappie isn’t hard and it’s relatively inexpensive. That is, unless you’re like me and feel that you have to own every color jig on the market. So, pick yourself up a light action fishing rod, some 6 lbs. test line, a package of #6 hooks, a package of 1/8th oz. weights, and a bobber (if you feel you need it), and you’re good to go! Snag some minnows from the bait shop on your way to your fishing hole and you’ll be fishing in no time.
Crappie Jigs and Bait
“Wait, didn’t you say something about jigs?” Yes, I did, but once you start, you may never be able to stop. Even more so than live bait, jigs will always and forever be a crappie fisherman’s best friend. You read that right, jigs will trump minnows and shad for top spot in the crappie fisherman’s arsenal. The weight, color, and material combination of jigs is endless! Walk down the aisle of your sporting goods store and try to tell me with a straight face that you don’t get tired of looking at all the jig combos on the shelf.
A few years ago, I stumbled across a man named Jerry Taylor of JigginJerry.com in Newcastle, TX. He makes and sells his own jigs and he’s been my go-to source for jigs ever since. On one lake in North Texas, his “Old School” jig in 1/8th oz. weight is money, day in and day out. But travel just 15 miles up the road and his “Mad Shadder” jig is the crappie killer. My point is, when it comes to jigs, experimentation is key. And when in doubt, remember this: dark water, dark bait; light water, light bait.
Where Do I Fish for Crappie?
By now, you’re probably thinking to yourself “I’ve got all this cool gear, but where do I use it”? You see that stump sticking out of the water there? Throw next to it. See that patch of leafy cover creating a dark shadow on top of the water? Throw your bait over in there. Wherever there is cover and what might possibly be an ambush point, look for crappie. Crappie are aggressive creatures, when they strike your line, you’ll know it.
Catching Crappie Fish
One of my favorite ways to fish crappie is to take my kayak out, tie off to old Bois D’ Arc trees in the middle of the lake and drop my line right next to me. I’ll usually have 2 poles rigged with jigs and one pole rigged for minnows. I’ll fish one jig about a foot or so off the bottom and another jig halfway up between me and the bottom. The minnow will be positioned abut 3-5 feet below me. This allows me to cover three different depths at once and as soon as I figure out what depth they’re hiding at, I go all in on that area. Slowly, I’ll raise up my deepest jig up about 7-8 feet. If nothing strikes, I’ll slowly lower it back down, staying ready because most strikes happen on the way down rather than coming up. If nothing hits, I’ll move over to next jig and do the same thing.
Be careful when you set that hook. At the beginning, I referred to them as “papermouths” for good reason. Crappie have very light mouths and, if the hook is set too hard, you’ll either tear right through their mouth, like paper, or tear their mouth off all together. There’s no telling how many world records have been lost because someone set that hook with just a little bit too much muscle behind it.
When it finally all comes together for you, you’re going to wonder why you didn’t get into this sooner! Landing on a huge school of feeding crappie is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. It’s a rush you didn’t think you could get from chasing around a bunch of little fish. Just as fast as you can get one off your hook and you bait back in the water, you’ll have another bite. And they just keep coming and coming.
Make sure you’re legal, though. Crappie have a minimum of 10 inches in length to be considered legal. And many a fisherman have been taken down because the action was so hot and heavy that they misjudged that one fish by ½ inch. For $5, you can pick up a fish scale that will save you a lot of headache! Simply slide your fish head first into the plastic holder and see where its tail lands on the ruler. A cheap investment with immediate returns. The only thing left to do at this point: get your friends together, heat up that grease, and grab that cold drink we talked about earlier. You deserve it!
Article by W. Ringo