John's Journal...

Proven Night Crappie-Fishing Methods

Bridge Pilings

Click to enlargeEditor’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.

Most anglers who fish by starlight realize that bridges that cross creeks, rivers and lakes home productive crappie hot spots at the bases of them. A bridge piling provides a current break and vertical Click to enlargestructure where the crappie can position themselves and hold out of the current at any water depth where they find bait and/or cooler temperatures. Oftentimes you’ll locate crappie and the bait they’re feeding on just above the thermoline. To fish these bridge pilings, first decide at what water depth the crappie seem to be feeding most actively. By letting your bait down to the bottom and counting the number of turns on the reel you take as you reel your line back to the surface, you can locate the crappie in the proper water depth. For instance, if you let your minnow down to the bottom and make six turns off the bottom with your reel and the crappie attacks, the next time you drop your bait to the bottom, you can reel up quickly six turns and assume you have your bait in the crappie’s strike zone.

Remember, the longer you fish next to a bridge piling at night, thClick to enlargee more likely the crappie are to begin to move from deep to shallow water to feed. Therefore, once I know at what depth the crappie are feeding, I usually set out two B’n’M poles with quills on them to suspend the bait half-way between where the crappie are feeding and the surface. For example, if I’m catching crappie 16-feet deep next to a bridge piling on my rod and reel, I’ll set the quills on my poles to suspend the minnows at 8 feet. When I start getting bites on the poles, I know the crappie are feeding up. Then I fish with my rod at 8 feet and move the line on my poles up to 4 feet. Using this tactic, I consistently can keep up with the water depth at which the crappie are most-actively feeding. When fishing a bridge piling all night, I may begin the night fishing at depths up to 25 feet. Then before daylight, I may catch crappie in less than 1 foot of water right under the lights of my boat.Click to enlarge

The best bridge pilings to fish throughout most of the year will be the pilings on the edges of creek and river channels. I prefer to fish creek bridge pilings during the pre-spawn and post-spawn periods and river bridge pilings in mid- to late-summer. Bridges across creeks seem to pay more crappie dividends just before and just after the spawn when the crappie move up creek channels and hold on pilings before they swim into the shallow water to spawn. Once the spawn is completed, the crappie generally migrate down the creeks and hold on the creek bridge pilings at night before the hot temperatures force them to move to the deeper water of the river channel. During July and August, I seem to find the most crappie on bridge pilings on the edges of underwater river channels. Even though the crappie tend to move out to deeper water and hold on cover along the river channel, they still seem to congregate under bridge pilings on the river channel during the hottest time of the year. At night, even in July and August, I’ve caught crappie as shallow as 1-1/2-feet deep as the fish move from the deep water to the shallow water to feed under my lights at night.

Tomorrow: The Great Light Debate

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