Today: Monday 5 June 2023
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    Crappie Kingdom 05 Aug 2018

    Crappie Kingdom




    We’ve always heard of the “Dog Days of Summer” meaning they are hot, lazy, non-productive days of the summer.  Maybe that’s the case for some folks on the lake but for me it is a hot, busy, productive time of the year.  Crappies are very predictable during this time of the year and are aggressive.  Some folks think the fish go deep and are more finicky about biting.  Depending on how deep people consider deep is a question.  My definition of deep is below the thermocline.  Anything above the thermocline is shallow in my book.  It will vary in lakes and in locations on the same lake but is all important when it comes to finding and catching crappie.  The bite can be very light or very aggressive depending on the mood of the fish.  Maybe some would call the bite finicky but I call it a challenge.  Yagotta pay attention for the most subtle bite.  Early morning sunrises are part of the “Dog Days” splendor.  You need to be on the water early to beat the heat.  That early morning can produce some of the most beautiful scenery one can imagine.  This is a bonus to the fish to be caught.

    The thermocline plays a most important role when looking for summer crappie.  It can run anywhere from 15-20 feet deep.  The Thermocline is where the lake temperature changes from the warm water on top to the cooler water on the bottom.  Generally speaking, the warmer water that is closer to the surface will contain more oxygen and attract the bait fish.  Crappie are more likely to be along or above the thermocline.  Other species of fish can stand to stay deeper for longer periods of time.  Bottom feeders will feed below the thermocline but in shallower water.  Crappies are not bottom feeders thus they are where the most food is located. 

    Structure is another essential to finding crappie.  The bait fish tend to congregate around, in, and above some type of cover.  The crappie will follow the food.  The structure does not necessarily have to be in shallow water but is more productive if the top of the structure extends up and above the thermocline.  In other words, the submerged structure may be located in 25’ of water but the top of it extends up to within 10’ of the surface.  The bait fish will feed on the micro-organisms that are located in the warmer water.  Their feeding habits will attract the crappies and they will feed below and up into the schools of bait fish.  An important point here is that I said “below”.  The crappie’s eyes are located on the top portion of their head, therefore they see upward.  When fishing for them, you need to keep the bait above the fish or at eyelevel.  The fish may be deep in the cover or suspended in the top or above the cover.

    The bite can vary.  When I first get on a bed, I will pitch across the structure and allow the bait to fall until it is slightly above the brush.  I will swim the bait slowly across the top by holding the tip of the rod high which allows me to feel the brush better as well as allows me to see the slightest bite.  In addition, I watch the line for twitching or movement that is not normal.  Many times that is all the bite you will get.  I also watch for the line to stop prematurely.  If it stops before it gets to the right depth, chances are a fish has picked it up during the fall.  This happens frequently and among novice fishermen goes undetected.These fish are suspended fish.  After I have “pitch and drifted” over the top of the structure, I will move closer to the cover and vertical jig the structure.  Use the electronics to find the depth where the fish are located.   Count down the jig to that depth.  I “guestimate” the 16th oz. jig fall a little less than 1’ per second. If I want the jig to settle in about 15’, I count to 17 or 18 and then start my retrieve.  The retrieve is “very” slow and deliberate.  The number one mistake a fisherman can do is fish too fast.  I continually tell people to slow down and barely move the bait. If you’ve ever watched schools of minnows swim in unison, you will notice it is a slow methodical movement.  The idea of bait presentation is to imitate the bait fish.  Keep that in mind the next time you go Crappie fishing.  When vertical jigging, learn to tell the difference between a bite and brush.  If the jig is about to get hung up on brush, the tip of the rod will start to bend down without a bump.  Release the pressure off the line and jig it off the limb.  As soon as it comes off the limb, be ready for a solid bump or bite.  This happens frequently.  The bite itself will be a slight bump or “whisper” on the line.  Pay attention and focus on the rod tip and line to detect the bite.  These fish are primarily located down in the brush or in the deepest part of the structure.

    Summer time redefines “Dog Days” to me.  You just can’t beat the heat for a hot crappie bite.  Get up early, get on the water, enjoy the scenery, and catch a load of fish.  Good luck and good fishing.

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