Crappies are the perfect winter fish because they move in shallow water when other species retreat to deep holes. They will eat year-round, but the food is most abundant in the coldest months of January and February. Read our in-depth guide below to make most out of this cold season!
Winter Crappie Fishing Tactics
When the water temperatures begin to drop, crappie will move back to deeper water for the winter. They’ll spend the winter there feeding on shad and other baitfish.
Brushing in deep water might be beneficial. Large schools of crappie can be found in ledges and stream channels that empty into the main river channel, where they will all take place underwater. You’ll need your gadgets to discover these streams routes because they’ll happen under the water.
Many of these locations where you may look for winter crappie can be found using a good map or an APP. Knowing when crappie temperatures fall 10 degrees in a short period may assist you in deciding whether to fish deeper water to catch wintertime crappies.
Crappie will congregate near any deep water in standing timber on steep cliffs or artificial brush piles. During the early winter, the greatest crappie can be found in brush heaps around 40 feet deep at the bottom of a creek channel.
When the water temperature continues to drop or a cold front approaches, however, larger fish can be found in brush heaps about 20 feet deep on the bottom of a creek channel.
The climate has a big impact on fishing wood cover for crappie in clear water highland reservoirs. On a sunny day or after a cold front passes through, Crappie may get in a brush pile and you’ll have to work your jig straight through the thickest part of the bush near to a ledge drop-off.
Crappie in the highlands will congregate around steep bluffs or artificial brush piles near deep water.
On highland reservoirs, the biggest crappie may be caught around 20 feet deep during early winter, but when a cold front comes in or the water temperature drops, the bigger fish can be found in brush piles about 40 feet deep on the bottom of a creek channel.
On lowland impoundments, fish the crappie habitat by casting vertically with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce tube jig and varying the depth until you get a strike. Because the fish will be moving slowly in cold water, move the jig slightly or not at all.
Sunny days (in winter)
When it comes to fishing wood cover for crappie on clear water highland reservoirs, the weather is a key consideration. Crappies enter a brush pile after a bright day or after a cold front passes through, and you must jig your rig straight through the thickest portion of the brush next to a ledge drop-off on such days.
Cloudy Days (in winter)
On overcast days, look for crappie hanging in the trees’ limbs near bluffs or the tops of brush piles that are drawn down when the lake level is lowered. These fish hang from 2 to 10 feet deep in the bushes or in the tree trunks.
You’ll want to use a slower-falling bait for these fish, so switch to a 1/32-ounce jig with a plastic curly-tail grub and cast it out past the canopy.
When counting to five or ten, allow the jig to drop. Then, by raising and lowering your rod slowly, begin swimming the jig back to the boat.
Do They Bite When It’s Winter?
In the winter, crappie will bite. In fact, from January through March, when the spawning season begins and lasts until May, is one of the greatest years for crappie fishing ever. This is when the breeding season begins in February and continues through May.
Male and female crappie move from deep sites to smaller, more concentrated spawning grounds during the spawn. Because they are constantly feeding and protecting their nests, catching them is quite simple.
The most vital time to catch crappie, according to some crappie anglers, is during the winter or pre-spawn months. They’re getting ready for the spawn by forming bigger groups. They’re eating a lot and are generally the fattest at that time of year before laying their eggs.
A depth finder or fish finder may be a useful tool for locating big schools of crappie in deep water throughout the winter. By slowly cruising over the deep parts of your lake, you may identify schooling crappie and the depth at which they are staging.
Cold Water Fishing – How Cold is “Too Cold”?
It’s increasingly difficult to catch crappie as the water temperature drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Crappie will be difficult to discover, and it will cling to river channel ledges at this time, necessitating a slow, methodical approach.
The most significant thing to remember when fishing in these conditions is to be patient. A fast presentation in cold water seldom works; patience is required.
When the water temperature dips below 30 degrees, crappies become uninterested in biting. Some fishermen insist that they may still catch crappie as low as 25 degrees, but it will be difficult to even land a bite.
Attaching a thermometer to one of your poles to make it easier to drop down and rewind up the fish is one of the finest strategies. The goal is to eliminate as much unproductive water as possible as soon as feasible.
Once you’ve found the active zone, you’ll be able to remove a substantial quantity of the lake and concentrate on proper depth, cover, and presentations. On a point or ledge along a stream channel, I’ll generally be near to cover. Fish are sluggish because to this, so your bait will be as well.
The Right Water Temperature for Crappie
The ideal temperature range for catching crappie is between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures can be found throughout the pre-spawn and start of the spawning period, when crappie fishing is at its peak.
Crappies may be found shallow in the summer when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The annual crappie fishing season is in full swing, and bobbers and minnows will go fast.
The crappie will be in a feeding frenzy around 55 to 56 degrees F. If you find that the minnows, or jigs are likely to capture them. Crappie may be found throughout the spawning bay at these temperatures. They’re searching for a suitable site to lay their eggs.
By this stage, the males had retreated to safety. Spawning crappie may be found in stake beds, stumps, and laydowns.
The crappie will restock with fish during the spawning season, so return frequently to catch more crappie as they will be extremely lively throughout the duration of the spawning season.
When the water temperature rises above 56 degrees in late August and early September, larger females will move into cover to lay their eggs. If you can find cover while the water temperature is below 57-58 degrees and can’t bring them out, you may return later when the water temperature rises to capture slab crappie as they go up to spawn.
When the water temperature reaches 57 to 58 degrees, start looking for spawning crappie. Check all of the transparent covers in the spawning area, but look for completely hidden places as well.
Fishermen have beaten the visible cover. While this cover may take a few hours to repopulate, you should also look for the hidden coverage in shallow water. Unseen areas might contain a large number of crappies that haven’t been caught before.
Please don’t overlook this cover because it has the ability to fill up your livewell quickly. Although invisible cover takes a little more work, it may be gold in the end. Crappie will produce in 2 to 19 feet of water based on clarity, so keep that in mind.
Effective Baits for Catching Crappie
When it comes to crappie fishing, live bait is never a bad option. Crappies like minnows, worms, and insects, among other things.
You don’t have to be concerned about the bait’s color, and you’re just feeding them what they would eat. The majority of anglers prefer minnows, with some even using a live minnow tipped on a jig for double effect.
If you’re not using live bait, experiment with the color of your lures. You won’t believe how much difference a change from a pumpkinseed grub to a chartreuse grub can make in crappie fishing.
Although no precise science can determine which colors will succeed, certain broad ideas may assist you in getting started.
Does Cold Rain or Snow Play a Role?
Cold fronts significantly aid the movement of crappie to deeper water. According to consensus, they move out to the first significant change in depth. Finding that zone is essential when fishing these fronts.
Nighttime Ice Fishing for Crappie
Crappies eat the most at night during the winter, with optimum bites occurring at dawn and dusk. Make the most of these chances to catch the highest-activity fish. At twilight, jig a colorful plastic like a chartreuse wax worm with an orange or green jig head to catch active crappies.
If you’re having trouble with your night bite, try dead sticking a live fathead or crappie minnow on an ice fishing pole to persuade picky fish. A glow stick or an underwater light are two more effective methods of ice fishing Crappie at night in jurisdictions where it is permitted.
If you utilize a glow stick, fish, plankton, and crappies will all come to your area.
Final Thoughts on Winter Crappie Fishing
Crappies are one of the more challenging prey for anglers, and there is no such thing as a simple way to catch crappie. However, if you pay attention to the water temperature and changes in water depth, your chances will improve dramatically.
Overall, being prepared with a custom battle plan each season is key, and will increase your chances of scoring an abundant catch!