I recently had great success in one of my favorite springtime crappie spots in Connecticut. Fishing late night into the morning in 2 to 5 feet of water with 1/16- to 1/8-ounce finesse jigs, I caught a mess of big calicos with bellies so fat that I thought they were going to pop. The smallest fish was 15 inches long with a 13-inch girth. The biggest was a whopping 17 inches long with a 14-inch girth, that may have been close to a Connecticut State Record. I considered keeping it to be weighed officially, but I settled for a quick picture.
Spring is the best time to catch big crappie. When the big females wander into the shallows and stage for the spawn, there is a small window of opportunity to catch a platter-sized crappie.
Crappie spawn once water temperature reach the high 60s to low 70s. Unlike bass, crappie don’t sit on their spawning beds. The actually hide near the beds, and attack anything that comes near it. Their speckled camouflage allows them to hide among weeds and over darker colored bottoms, even in very shallow water.
This time of year, crappie are aggressive, hitting lures that they won’t even touch the rest of the year.. Bass fishermen often catch a slab while fishing spinnerbaits or swim jigs. I’ve had the most success by jigging micro soft plastics and small finesse jigs. Smaller baits have always done better for me when chasing crappie.
Some of my favorite finesse are the Entyzer Jigs in 1/16- to 1/8-ounce weights. Micro soft plastics can be just as effective and I also catch on The Joker from Mr. Crappie, the Berkley Power Nymph, and Crappie Magnet soft plastics. You can fish these tiny soft plastics in a variety of ways. Lighter jig heads allow for a slower fall that can make a huge difference. Crappie feed upward, so I can cover an area more effectively while keeping fishing a slow-sinking jig and keeping it above the fish. I like to pop and flutter my jigs above and near spawning beds until I see gills flare up out of the darkness as my bait disappears.
The time is now to dunk some shiners or jig small baits for some huge slabs. Take your trout setup and give it a new purpose. We have a few more weeks before the crappie head to deeper waters after the spawn.
Crappie are overlooked as gamefish here in the Northeast, but they are one of my favorite fish. If you get into a school of big slabs this spring, you’ll find out why. Get out there and good luck!