John's Journal...

Catching the First Crappie Spawners

Day 2: Why Crappie Are Shallow Early in the Season

Editor’s Note: Looking into my binoculars, I couldn't believe my eyes. I watched two men catch and bring over the side of their boat slab crappie after slab crappie – bigger crappie then I’d ever seen caught in all my years of fishing. Every time their bobbers hit the water they’d sink. Their poles would curl like pretzels, and they would hoist 1-1/2- to 2-pound crappie into their boat. Watching this show made me want to crappie fish so badly I hardly could stand it, but I had a shotgun instead of a pole or rod, a turkey call instead of a bucket full of minnows or a box full of crappie jigs and a warm coat on instead of a light jacket and shorts. But I learned more about how to catch big, early-season spawning crappie on that turkey hunt than I ever did on a fishing trip.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewI went back to camp (see Day 1), called a fisheries biologist friend of mine and asked him why those anglers had found the crappie so shallow on a cool morning at the first of turkey season. "Those are some of the first spawners," my friend told me. "We’ve had four or five days of warm weather, and the water in that shallow creek has warmed-up before the water in the rest of the river. Also, the sun in the morning has heated-up those logs and limbs lying in the water, and you’ll find the warmest water in the lake right up against that wood. Shallow water heats up quicker than deep water does, and the water right next to the wood above water will heat up even quicker. Therefore the warmest water at the beginning of the spring will always be in shallow-water areas where you have wood cover that is above water."

When I explained that the fishermen had caught crappie in less than one foot of water, my biologist friend laughed and said, "When crappie want to spawn, the most-important thing to them is warm, shallow water. They’ll even swim with their backs out of the water to get to the warmest water they can to spawn. That creek this morning had the best-spawning conditions the crappie could locate anywhere on the river."

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewI asked my friend if he thought I’d find the crappie on those same logs another morning. He answered that if the weather remained sunny and warm, I should locate the fish there. Even though I wanted to bag the turkey I‘d hunted, I couldn’t pass up the chance to catch some of those big slab crappie. So, the next morning before the sun came up, I put my canoe in the river, paddled up the creek and fished those shallow stumps, logs and limbs with a B’n’M pole ( HYPERLINK "", live minnows and a cork about 2-inches off the hook just as daylight started to break. I enjoyed one of the best days of catching big crappie I ever had. Almost every piece of wood in 1-1/2-feet of water or less seemed to have a crappie by it. When my minnow hit the water, I could see the crappie attack. I caught my limit of slabs before noon, had all the fish filleted by 3:00 p.m. and late that afternoon, went after my gobbler and bagged him as he came back to his roost tree. Life couldn't get better than that.

For more crappie fishing tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter,” “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” and “Catch Cold Water Crappie Now.” Click here on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Where to Find the First Early Crappie to Catch

Check back each day this week for more about Catching the First Crappie Spawners"

Day 1: I Learned on a Turkey Hunt How to Catch Early-Season Spawning Crappie
Day 2: Why Crappie Are Shallow Early in the Season
Day 3: Where to Find the First Early Crappie to Catch
Day 4: How to Catch Crappie Before They Get to the Bed and How to Catch Duck Pond Crappie
Day 5: How to Troll Early Season Crappie Up

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Entry 757, Day 2