What Does a Crappie Fish Naturally Eat for Food?

Crappie consume a wide range of foods in their normal diet. Knowing which foods they naturally consume and prefer can help fishermen better prepare themselves, and choose the appropriate bait or lures to catch them. Let’s look at the crappie’s diet a bit more closely.

crappie hanging in lure

What Crappie Naturally Eats by the Season


During the winter, crappie feed less frequently. Their metabolism slows down as a result of a lack of available food, which is why they eat less in the summertime. Crappie will still eat throughout the winter, though their bodies require less food now.

During the winter, aquatic bugs make up a minor portion of a crappie’s diet. Terrestrial insects will not be accessible in frozen lakes. Small crayfish, shrimp, fish, and plankton constitute the majority of a crappie’s winter diet.

The foods crappie most frequently consume are listed below, and you should consider them while winter crappie fishing.

A winter crappie’s diet consists largely of minnows, shad, and little bluegills. These are wonderful alternatives in states where fish can be used as bait.

You might also employ jigs, spoons, spinners, and tiny crankbaits that resemble these baits as well as crayfish to catch crappie on the ice. You may capture crappie by jigging little jigs and spinners as well as hanging tiny fathead minnows beneath the ice.

crappie laying on ice


Crappie fishing in the fall is one of the most popular seasons. Crappie will be eating voraciously in preparation for the colder months ahead. Crappie will overfeed to build up fat reserves so they can get through the winter when food options would be more limited.

Crappie will aggressively pursue lures now, so work crankbaits, spinners, and jigs in deeper cover. Bait such as minnows, shad, and crayfish are all good choices. Now that crappie will actively pursue lures, bait like they do.

Black crappie prefer shallower water, whereas white crappie prefer deeper water with a depth of more than 20 feet. These fishes will pursue prey, making fall fishing an exciting pursuit.


The spring is when baitfish, aquatic invertebrates, and insects make up the bulk of a crappie’s diet. Grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, mosquitoes, and flies become more numerous as air temperatures rise towards the middle and end of spring.

Crappie fish will focus on these insects at sunset. This is a fantastic time to throw grasshopper lures and catch crappie on the fly rod with a hopper lure or dry fly. At this time minnows, shiners, and shad make up the majority of the fish-based diet.

If you can match the patterns to known prey items, anything from jigs, crankbaits, spinners, and baitfish work well. Worms may be a good way to catch crappies now, but you’ll likely catch far more trout, bullheads, and bluegills than crappie on them.


During the summer, almost any bait is acceptable. Crappie eat zooplankton, minnows, shiners, yellow perch youngsters, young bass, young trout, young bluegills, suckers, tadpoles, crayfish shrimp , and even tiny frogs. For some nice dusk crappie action, zip dry flies on the surface near sunset.

In this time of the season, crappies will bite plastic lures, spinners, and crankbaits. Jigs and tiny tubes are my favorite crappie baits. These things are effective all year, but they’re especially deadly in the spring and fall when fish feed on them late at night or early in the morning.

Dynamite may also be used as bait. Fathead minnows and tiny crayfish are the best choices.

Typical Feeding Behavior

Crappie are ambush hunters, utilizing an energy-saving approach of hunting. Rather than waddling about in search of food, crappies sit and wait rather than chasing it.

Crappie are seldom daytime feeders, but they are very active at night and many anglers capitalize on this.

Effective Baits to Use

crappie held by the mouth

Fathead minnows are the crappie’s favorite food, in my opinion. Crappies begin their lives eating mostly zooplankton and tiny aquatic invertebrates.

Crappies grow to be bigger, live longer, and eat more as they mature. They will still consume insects and aquatic shrimp, tadpoles, and crayfish as they mature but shift their diet toward primarily feeding on baitfish. Crappies enjoy eating tiny bluegills, small yellow perch, small bass, shiners, suckers, small shad, and minnows.

Fathead minnows are the greatest bait for crappie. Fathead minnows can be found naturally or may have been introduced to many crappie fisheries across the continent.

Fathead minnows are useful to freshwater ecology since they consume huge amounts of insects, including nuisance mosquitoes, houseflies, and horseflies.

They are also a major food source for many species of small and medium-sized gamefish, including crappie.

For crappie, I’ve found that no live bait compares to fathead minnows, especially combined with a specialized crappie pole. In states where live fish can be used as bait, you may typically purchase minnows at any bait shop.

Can Crappie Eat Worms?

Worms are eaten by crappies if offered. Worms can be uncommon, but they can still survive on natural foods. Heavy rains may dislodge worms from steep banks and transport them down main lake systems in rare instances.

Other fish, such as crappie, can consume them long after they have died. It is exceptionally uncommon for a they to encounter a wiggling live worm in its lifetime, but it is not impossible.

A wiggling worm on a hook, like many other fish, attracts crappie. For crappie fishing, I would rather use grasshoppers or minnows than worms. Minnows and grasshoppers are far superior and more dependable crappie baits.

Bluegills also take the worm 9 times out of 10 when it comes to beating crappies for the worm.

Top Lures to Use for Crappie

small crappie held by the mouth

Lures that resemble natural crappie food are the best lures for catching crappies. I’m referring to grasshoppers, bluegills, yellow perch, shiners, minnows, shad, suckers, tadpoles, crayfish, and shrimp. Crappie love these baits. Spinners and spoons are excellent choices for crappie fishing.

For crayfish patterns, black and gray for minnows, suckers, and shad patterns, and yellows, blues, and greens for yellow perch and bluegill patterns , use dark reds and browns.

Summertime crappie fishing can be quite exciting. Shallow diving crankbaits and jointed plugs are popular choices for this time of year. Crappie jigs and tube baits are, in my opinion, the finest crappie lures available. These things are absolutely amazing; they catch an incredible number of good crappies.

There are lots of lures to pick from, but as long as they are tiny and mimic baitfish, crayfish, or grasshoppers, you should be fine. Big crappie will also munch on small frogs, so tiny frog baits can be very productive.

Best Time to Catch Them

The optimum time to capture crappie is in the early morning, late afternoon, and at night on well-lighted evenings with full moons.

Sunrise and sunset are ideal crappie feeding times since they have excellent limited sight and color perception, giving them a strategic edge over other prey animals they pursue such as minnows, tadpoles, and crayfish.

The cooler water that appears during the morning and late afternoon periods encourages more active feeding from crappie.

Crappie fishing at night is hit-or-miss. Crappie fishing on a full moon night may be fantastic. The same is true in well-lit marinas, as well as if you utilize artificial lights to entice fish. Crappie will have a harder time seeing food on dark nights and are unlikely to search.

The winter is the most dangerous season for crappies, which are active during the day but become lethargic at night when it’s cold out.

Final Thoughts on What Do Crappie Fish Naturally Eat

Crappie are delicious, but they are also very difficult to catch. They eat what is readily available and what they can find. Understanding their feeding behaviors throughout the season is critical to having a successful catch.

If you’ve never caught crappie before, give it a shot while keeping our tips and recommendations in mind!