John's Journal...

Proven Night Crappie-Fishing MethodsClick to enlarge

Drop-Offs and Docksides

Editor’s Note: Any time a writer mentions where crappie will be at a specific season, he only can be sure he’s explaining where some of the crappie will be found. During both the cold winter months and the hot summer months, I’ve caught crappie at 2-feet deep and in 20 feet of water on the same day. In the spring of the year during the spawn when the crappie usually are shallow, like you, I’ve taken crappie in 1-1/2- and 15 feet of water. The truth about crappie fishing is there are no absolutes. The suggestions I’ve made this week produce crappie for me most of the time in most of the areas I fish at night in hot weather. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.

River ledges and creek ledges can produce hot, summertime crappie action even when the daytime temperatures are 100 degrees or higher. To find and take plenty of big crappie in the hot summer months, determine where the fish are located and where the anglers are not. Night crappie fishermen usually will concentrate where the most crappie fishermen fish. By avoiding the obvious and pinpointing crappie hot spots away from the crowd, you’ll often take more and bigger crappie than most other anglers. Study a lake map. Search for places where creek channels run into underwater river channels. In most regions, these sites will be in the middle of the lake where few other anglers will fish after dark. Once you’ve located these points on your depth finder during daylight hours, tie a weight to a length of monofilament, attach a stick to the other end of the monofilament, and drop the weight into the water to mark the point before dark. Notice a tall tree or some other landmark you can watch for on the bank and recognize after dark. Then when you’re ready to fish, use that landmark to return to your stick, anchor down, and catch crappie. You can use your GPS (Global Positioning System) to mark these spots aClick to enlarges waypoints.

Some anglers use trolling motors that also include a multi-function LCD display giving the fishermen bottom depth, surface temperature and other information. The angler can press: depth track to use his trolling motor to keep his boat in a certain depth of water for the best fishing; shore track, which locks on the distance to the shoreline and then tracks and maintains this constant distance, regardless of contour, for fishing riprap and flats; or creek track, which senses the location of a creek or a river channel and then positions the boat directly over the edge of the channel. Perhaps an easier way to fish points is to find them before dark and either start fishing or mark them as waypoints. In many lakes, bass anglers and daytime crappie fishermen have located these same spots and will have sunk brush on them, which will make the underwater drop-offs even more productive.

Anglers who fish for bass at night often fish around docks and piers. Many of these same docks and piers hold crappie too. However, the most-productive crappie hot spot may not be under the docks and piers but rather in front of them. Motor back and forth in front of docks with your boat to pinpoint submerged brush piles with your depth finder. Then you canClick to enlarge anchor-down and fish the brush at night. Oftentimes, the best places to fish will be in front of docks where brush has been piled-up on the edges of creek channels. Fishing in front of docks seems to irritate residents far less than fishing directly under their docks at night.

Usually the longer you sit on a site with your lights on at night, the more crappie you’ll generally catch because the crappie will concentrate under the lights. However, when you’re fishing docks for crappie, crappie either will be on the brush when you get there and may bite all night long, or you’ll catch very few crappie on a spot. I only may fish an hour on each of several different brush piles, until I pinpoint which dock has brush in front of it that holds the most-actively-feeding crappie. When I’m dock hopping, I like using floating lights better than my usual Coleman lantern. Then I can drop the floating lights in the water and fish the spot. It I don’t get a bite, I move to my next place.

My favoriteClick to enlarge lights to fish are those on docks that are suspended out over the water, 2 to 5 feet above the water. Many lakeside residents use dock lights to attract bass and crappie at night. I believe the best way to fish these dock lights is to use light line like 4- to 6-pound-test and small fluorescent corks on ultralight rods and reels. If the water below the dock is deep, and you believe the crappie to be deep, then utilize a slip cork. A slip cork will allow you to cast the cork and the bait out. The line will slide through the cork until it reaches a knot in the line that’s tied at the particular depth you want to fish. Using this tactic, you can anchor well-away from the light, easily cast to the edge of the light and let your bait hold in the depth of water where you expect the crappie to bite. The further you can anchor away from the light, the less likely you are to irritate dock owners.

Even though I usually fish only with minnows for crappie at night, I also carry a wide variety of colors of 1/24- and 1/32-ounce crappie jigs with me. Two other essential pieces of equipment for fishing hot weather with live bait are an air pump, which will keep the water in your minnow bucket highly oxygenated, and an ice pack. A sealed ice pack can be frozen and put in the minnow bucket to keep your minnow water cool without adding chlorine or other chemicals found in ice to the water, which may injure live bait.

Tomorrow: Bridge Pilings

Check back each day this week for more about "Proven Night Crappie-Fishing Methods"

Day 1: Night Crappie Fishing
Day 2: Drop-Offs and Docksides
Day 3: Bridge Pilings
Day 4: The Great Light Debate
Day 5: Night Fishing Safety


Entry 365, Day 1