John's Journal...

Springtime Crappie

Finding Prespawn Crappie

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: You can catch some nice-sized crappie in the prespawn, if you know where to look for them.

Locate Waterfowl De-Watering Areas - On water systems with de-watering areas for waterfowl, in March, and even later in the North throughout April, the water from these duck ponds will drain back into the river or lake. Warmer than the main body of water and often loaded with nutrients that draw baitfish, this water attracts large numbers of fat, prespawn crappie. Fish the areas where this water re-enters the main river or lake. Look for shallow bays, beaver ponds or big shallow sloughs cut off from the main river. During the prespawn, crappie move into these places first searching for the correct water temperature to spawn. You'll find the most crappie in shallow, warm-water bays just before the spawn.

Sight-Fish for Prespawn Crappie - Before crappie begin the spawn, you'll locate them wherever you find large schools of shad. If you live on a lake or a river where you can see seagulls diving on shad, you'll have pinpointed a Click to enlargeproductive place to catch prespawn crappie. Crappie below the school will force the shad to the surface where the birds will attack them. Fishing jigs or minnows under diving birds will allow you to locate and catch plenty of crappie. On a warm day, you can spot the schools of shad on the surface, even if you don't see a bird diving on them. And often, crappie will come from their deep-water haunts to feed on those surface shad.

Use Bass Fishermen as Birddogs – Sometimes bass fishermen build brush shelters at the mouths of creeks on points. During the prespawn, crappie often will hold on these brush shelters on points that lead into creeks where they'll spawn. When you hear bass fishermen reporting strikes on points with no success, more than likely they've had crappie instead of bass attack their baits. In the prespawn, look for crappie on brush piles in 10 to 20 feet of water on major points leading into creeks.

Find Crappie in the Mouths - Before the crappie move up into the creeks to spawn, they may suspend in large schools in the mouths of creeks and in open water 50 to 200 yards from the mouths of Click to enlargecreeks. To catch these crappie, either troll or cast jigs through the schools. Once you start to catch crappie, drop a buoy to pinpoint the school, and cast to it. When the crappie quit biting, use your depth finder to relocate the schools, and change the color of your jig to continue to catch crappie from that same school.

Troll the Ledges - During the prespawn, crappie frequently hold on underwater creek ledges close to the spawning grounds. By using your trolling motor to move very slowly along the edge of a creek channel, you may catch large numbers of big crappie when you troll jigs.

Locate Ditch Crappie - You'll also find crappie during the prespawn in little ditches only a foot or two deep coming off creek channels and leading into spawning areas. Crappie will move into these ditches and hold there waiting on the right water temperature to spawn.Click to enlarge

Fish for Dock Crappie - Lake residents may show you where to find productive brush piles that hold crappie in the prespawn. If you notice a dock that either has poles on it or pole holders on the front, there's a very-good chance you'll find a hot, prespawn crappie spot in front of that dock. Most lakeside residents will build brush shelters about a pole's length from the ends of their docks in 8 to 15 feet of water. These brush shelters will hold crappie throughout the prespawn.

For more information about how to fish crappie, go to and learn about John E. Phillips’ book, “The Masters’ Secrets of Crappie Fishing.”

Tomorrow: Hunting Crappie



Check back each day this week for more about "Springtime Crappie"

Day 1: Catching Icicle Crappie
Day 2: Finding Prespawn Crappie
Day 3: Hunting Crappie
Day 4: Fish Man-Made Structures
Day 5: Winning Crappie Recipes



Entry 396, Day 2