John's Journal...

The Crappie Almanac for Year-Round Fishing

Day 5: Where and How to Find Crappie after the Spawn

Editor’s Note: I’ve enjoyed fishing for crappie for more than 50 years, and I’ve also interviewed and fished with some of the greatest crappie fishermen in the world for the last 35 years. Here’s what I’ve learned from these great anglers.

Click for Larger ViewCatch Scattered Crappie:

According to Dr. Tom Forsyth, a fisheries biologist, “Once the spawn is over, crappie will scatter away from the bank. To catch postspawn crappie, either drift-fish with live bait, or troll jigs along ledges and bottom breaks. Remember after the spawn, the more water you cover, the more crappie you’ll catch.”

Remember Crappie May Concentrate in the Same Spots:

Crappie often will hold on the same sites immediately after the spawn that they’ve used during the prespawn. You can find them on points in the mouths of creeks on the first or second drop-off from the spawning area or on ditches and ledges that lead into the spawning area. In most places, the fish will hold in water 8- to 15-feet deep. You also can locate crappie in the tops of brush piles in 12 to 15 feet of water.

Use Spooning Techniques for Postspawn Crappie:

To catch large numbers of big crappie in the shortest time in either the postspawn or the prespawn, use a 3/4-ounce jigging spoon on 20-pound-test line. Vertically fish stumps and brush on the edges of river and creek channels. You’ll find this tactic especially effective during the hot summer months as crappie move out to the deep ledges. Let the spoon down slowly, working your way through the brush or around the stump. Once you reach the bottom, gently lift your rod tip to allow you to feel the spoon as it comes up the side of the stump or through the brush. If you feel the spoon hitting a limb or making contact with a stump, simply shake your rod tip, and give the spoon a little slack. The weight of the spoon will help pull the hooks out of the wood. Reel the spoon up about a foot, and repeat the slowly lifting and lowering motion to catch deep-water, postspawn crappie.

Hit the Docks after the Spawn:

Most shore-side residents will pile brush on the sides of, under and in front of their docks. When the fish leave shallow-water spawning areas, they’ll go to the underwater brush in the middle of a dock or out on the end of a dock.

Meet Panfish at the Crossroads after the Spawn:

After the spawn, crappie move down creek channels and often hold where those creek channels intersect the main river channel. By fishing at night and using a light to attract baitfish and bugs, you can concentrate crappie at these natural intersections. Fish vertically with live minnows, lowering your bait all the way to the bottom. Then take up one turn of slack on your reel, and wait 20 seconds before reeling again. Remember how many turns you’ve taken off the bottom before you get a bite. The next time you lower your bait to the bottom, reel the line up that number of turns, and wait for the crappie to attack. Most anglers use weights on the ends of their lines and two drop lines with hooks and baits coming off the main line when they fish at night.

Must Have Lively Bait:

During the summer, the condition of your bait often dictates the number of crappie you’ll catch. To keep your minnows alive and lively longer, fill medicine bottles three-fourths full of water, and freeze them. Then put the bottles with caps on tight in the water in the minnow bucket. You should keep additional frozen medicine bottles in your cooler. As the water begins to heat up in your minnow bucket, you can add more medicine bottles to insure the water remains cool. Also use a small, battery-powered aerator to insure that the minnows have adequate aeration, since a lively minnow will catch a crappie quicker than a sluggish minnow will.

Fish the Doughnuts:

If you fish ponds and lakes no more than 6- to 7-feet deep with cypress trees in them off the main river channel, you may find a honey hole for hot-weather crappie fishing. The roots of a cypress tree will form a doughnut shape around the tree below the water’s surface. Crappie will hold in the shade of these roots, even in 100-degree weather. Drop minnows or jigs around the base of the tree and around the outside root balls, and you’re sure to score big time.

Click for Larger ViewNotice the Clues to the Thermocline:

During hot weather, crappie will hold on or just below the thermocline in many lakes. You can locate the thermocline by watching your depth finder as you go across the lake or up a creek and pinpointing the depth at which you see the most fish. Once you’ve located the thermocline, look for a creek channel, a drop-off or brush that intersects that thermocline to find crappie.

Make a Buoy Trail to Troll:

Go to main river or creek channels during the hot summer months, and move your boat at a slow rate of speed along their edges. Every time you see a school of crappie holding on the edge of a creek or a river channel, drop a buoy marker. Continue to move on down the edge of the underwater river bank or creek bank. After you’ve located four or five schools of crappie holding on that channel break, then return to where you’ve dropped your first buoy. Stop well away from the buoy. Use your trolling motor on a slow setting to move in close to the buoy, and relocate the school. Fish vertically either with jigs or minnows to catch the crappie in the school. When the crappie in the first school quit biting, move to the second school you’ve buoyed off, and continue to fish. Once you’ve fished all your buoys, pick them up, and use them to pinpoint more schools of crappie.

Crank for Crappie in the Postspawn:

You can catch deep crappie on underwater drop-offs, ledges or stumps fishing small, deep-diving crankbaits. Cast the crankbaits out, and swim them along the edges of the cover. Or, crash them into underwater stumps and logs. As the baits float-up after the collision, the crappie often will attack.

Fish the Bridges in Crappie Country:

Fish bridge pilings at night for big speckled sides. The bridge pilings that support bridges and railroad trestles often sit close to the edges of underwater creek and river channels. Hang a lantern over the side of your boat to attract crappie that move up and down the edge of the channel and that have related to the vertical structure of the bridge channel. Often during the summer months, you’ll start catching the fish close to the bottom or the edge of the channel. The later in the night you fish, the higher the crappie will move up in the water, close to the surface. You’ll have the most success at night catching crappie around this type of structure by fishing minnows. But always carry a few jigs with you. Then if the minnows die, or you run out of minnows before you have your limit of crappie, you can continue to fish.

Fish Summertime Currents for Crappie:

During the hottest part of the summer, you often can find crappie on a shallow flat where a creek channel runs into the main river channel. As the current is pulled through the lake, the fish will school-up on the inside of the upcurrent creek channel below the lip of the break. Crappie will look toward the surface upcurrent to spot baitfish moving along the bottom with the current. Using a slip cork to suspend a live minnow just above the bottom, cast upcurrent. Let your minnow wash over the lip of the break 2- to 3-inches above the bottom. The crappie will come out of the creek channel, attack the minnow and pull your cork and the bait down toward the bottom.

Click for Larger ViewLocate Invisible Treetops:

Search for hot spots during the postspawn and the prespawn on invisible treetops under the water. Look for holes in the bank where an old tree may have blown over during a storm. From the size of the hole on the bank, you can determine the size of the tree that once has stood in that spot. Also look at other trees on the bank close to the hole. Imagine if the wind blows over them where their tops will land in relation to where they now stand on the bank. Using this strategy, you may locate underwater treetops that hold crappie for which no other angler ever has fished.

Jig with Maggots:

Tip a 1/32-ounce jig with a live, Eurolarva (maggot). Fish the jig and maggot on 4-pound-test line where you find standing timber on the edges of underwater creek channels or in small creeks that home deep eddy pools close to the bank. Let the Eurolarva and jig free-fall to the bottom, and watch your line for the bite.

Force Actions with Three Aggressive Tactics:

* Take one of the crappie in your ice chest, and scale it. Sprinkle the scales on the water, and let them flutter to the bottom. The crappie will think the scales mean a school of baitfish is passing by. When you drop minnows or jigs back into that school look-alike, the crappie will begin to bite again.
* Change the color of your jig, because crappie quickly will wise-up to jig color. Then you often can get lock-lipped crappie to start biting again.
* Use the old jar trick. Fill a gallon glass jar with water, and put a lid with holes punched in it on the jar. Tie the neck of the jar with a strong piece of string. Put six to 12 minnows in the jar, and lower it to the depth where you’ve caught crappie. Although the crappie will spot the minnows in the jar, they won’t see the glass. They’ll attack the jar. When you put live minnows on hooks down right beside the jar, the crappie will take your bait.

Relocate Crappie with a Crappie and a Balloon:

During the postspawn and hot weather, crappie often will roam. To catch the most crappie in the shortest time, move with the crappie wherever they go. To keep up with their movements, take one of the crappie you’ve caught, punch a hole in its lip, and tie a small piece of monofilament to it. Let the fish have more line than required to get back down to the depth where you’ve caught it. On the other end of the line, tie a small, half-inflated balloon. As the crappie you’ve caught gets back with the school and swims with it, the balloon will show you the direction of the school and where you must fish to catch additional crappie from that school.

Locate a Crappie Hot Spot with Scuba Gear:

To find crappie hot spots on most lakes in the nation, pick a day with relatively-clear water. Either hire a scuba diver, or use your own scuba gear to swim along the edges of the bank looking for underwater sunken cover holding crappie that no one else has found. When scuba diving for crappie, I’ve located numbers of hot-weather summertime crappie honey holes underwater along the edges of sheer rock bluffs. Often I’ll pinpoint underwater caves, deep boulders or logs and brush on the edge of the bluff where fish will hold. After I’ve dived in the area, I’ll come back to the surface and later fish those spots I’ve identified as post-spawn hot spots.

Fish with Fluorescent Line:

When you fish deep water in the summer months, use fluorescent line and a light jig. Cast the jig out, and watch your line as it free-falls to the bottom. If the line stops before it hits the bottom or twitches as it falls, set the hook because the crappie has taken the bait.

Click for Larger ViewBuild Your Own Cover:

Brush shelters will attract and hold crappie. Some of the most-effective places where you can sink brush include:
* out in the middle of a bay off a main river channel;
* 30- to 50-yards out from a mud or clay bank;
* on the backside of a bridge or a railroad trestle piling;
* in the middle of open water 200-yards from the nearest bank;
* out on the very end of a long point; or
* on the edge of a creek channel out in the middle of a lake.

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,” “Catch Cold Water Crappie Now,” and “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish & Hunt for Ducks” Click 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. Check back at this website after April 16, 2014, to learn about new print crappie books.



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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.

Check back each day this week for more about The Crappie Almanac for Year-Round Fishing"

Day 1: Places and Tactics to Locate Crappie during the Prespawn
Day 2: Where to Find Crappie during the Prespawn
Day 3: Where Crappie Are during the Spawn and How to Catch Them
Day 4: More Ways to Locate Crappie during the Spawn
Day 5: Where and How to Find Crappie after the Spawn

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Entry 764, Day 5