As any angler would admit, slab hunting isn’t a child’s play. A lot goes into planning the perfect sac-a-lait fishing trip, and one particular question keeps most anglers up at night and that is what is the best time to catch crappie. Most anglers agree that it’s best to wait until 90 minutes before dawn or 90 minutes after dusk. Both time frames are ideal for catching this very hard-to-get species of fish.
The best time to fish for crappie is during the spring season when crappie are spawning. While crappie spawn they are located in shallower waters and easier to locate. Crappie typically can be found in groups so where you catch one you are likely to catch many. Crappie typically feed in low lights which makes night a great time to fish for them. During dawn and dusk crappie can be accesible to shoreline anglers making it one of the best times to catch crappie.
With that said, there are different approaches to help you capitalize on the best time to fish for crappie and we’ll be sharing them here along with tips on some of the best crappie fishing times with crappie reels. Keep reading for more!
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Best Time to Fish for Crappie
Here are some of the best suggestions according to experienced anglers:
Early in the Morning
They say the early bird gets the worm but really it’s the early fish that gets the worm. Crappie are no exception as they are morning fish. They like to come out in the early morning so if you rise with the sun, then you’re more likely to catch a few. Although you might begin your fishing adventure before the sun comes up, you can successfully catch crappie until about two hours before sunset.
Crappie will usually be more active throughout this time period. However, you’ll want to note that crappie have good depth perception and they can usually see colors from a mile away. That’s why they’re so hard to catch.
Starting your fishing journey early and staying on beyond the morning also means that you’ll be able to see how the fish behave throughout the day. This will allow you to see how they behave when the light is not as bright and the water is still cool in the morning and compare it to when there is full light.
Crappie are skittish fish which makes them tricky to catch. You definitely have the upper hand by fishing the best times to catch crappie during cool and slightly dark early hours of the morning. The darker waters allow the fish to put their fears aside and venture out.
By the time the clock reaches 10 AM, crappie will have started migrating away from the shore as the water starts warming up and the sun gets brighter. When crappie move to deeper waters you’ll want to take your boat out when fishing for crappie, otherwise, you won’t stand a chance.
Late in the Afternoon
Crappie fish have also been known to come out in groups around late afternoon to early evening. That’s not to say that you should arrive exactly at dusk or dawn. Rather, aim to start fishing at least 2 hours prior or after sunset. Crappie love to hide in the shadows and often anglers can use lights to help attract crappie to the area around the lights.
That’s because crappie can see pretty well when the light is reduced in their environment. That’s why they’ll probably have the upper hand if you fish for them in low light conditions. This is the time during which they hunt as well, so you can imagine how quick and agile they are during this time. Locating baitfish will give you a great idea of where to set up your poles.
It’s also important to note that crappie fish are more active in the late afternoon because water is often cooler during that time of the day. Conversely, during the day crappie fish tend to duck for cover and are less active because the water is not as comfortable for them.
Around dusk and sunset there is a lot of action around the water. This is the time when crappie are most likely to populate the shoreline. They are usually found in shallow waters of around 10 to 15 feet in cover. Plus, the more insects become active on the surface of the water, the more likely crappie fish are to start a feeding frenzy.
A lot of anglers prefer to go crappie fishing at night. That’s because even though crappie start feeding in the late afternoon, they will likely continue feeding well into the evening in the optimal water conditions. Also, because crappie fish have sensitive eyes, they feel more comfortable hunting for prey at night.
With that said, crappie need a little bit of light to hunt successfully at night which is why they’re usually more active on full moon nights or on any night that has moonlight. They will usually be hunting for insects and minnows close to the surface of the water.
You can also use artificial lighting to lure crappie to the surface of the water, and this includes equipment like lanterns, headlamps, and even lower chem sticks. All of these are relatively effective at attracting crappie fish when there’s now moonlight. Crappie like to lurk in the shadows just outside the light where they can see best but not feel exposed.
When is Crappie Season?
Here are the best times to fish for crappie:
Crappie spawn around late spring/early summer around March and July. They can even start spawning in February if weather conditions permit. During spawning season, crappie are more likely to actively feed.
Crappie are usually more visible in the shallower waters (up to 5 ft deep) during this time of year. During early spawning season, the male fish’s goal is usually to get into the shallows in order to dig out their nest in time for the season.
Thereafter, the females can be seen entering the water to lay their eggs on the nests that the males have created close to their food source. Female crappie fish typically lay between 5,000 and 60,000 eggs per season.
Once fertilized, the eggs are then guarded by the male crappie fish until they move onto the next stage.
During the summer, crappie are typically found on the deeper end of the water because they’re no longer nesting.
During the summer, it’s best to fish for crappie around twilight or at night because that’s usually when crappie travel to the surface of the water to feed.
However, as the summer intensifies, the crappie will seek out cooler waters and travel deeper into the water only to come up to the shallow end at twilight and sunset.
You’ll have to practice patience when fishing for crappie in the summer as crappie can be unpredictable in their swimming to the surface during this time. This can leave anglers waiting for bites for extended periods of time.
Fishing for crappie in the fall is challenging as well due to the varying water temperatures. That’s why experienced anglers recommend you rely on the quality of your bait to get crappie to bite in the fall.
Note that during fall, crappie are getting ready for winter so they’ll be too busy looking for minnows to worry about you coming along.
For best results, keep your fall fishing adventures for the evening time if you want to catch crappie because this is usually the time when they feed.
If you’ve ever wondered when crappie season is, most would answer winter. Winter is arguably the best time to catch crappie because they tend to swim in larger groups, thus increasing your chances of catching more fish.
Due to colder water temperatures, crappie are more brazen and will often be found around the brush, trees, and even boat docks looking for food.
Remember that a lot of the fish will hide in the warmer southern exposure areas to keep comfortable and if you plan on ice fishing for crappie then you should bring your A game. This means packing all of your sonar equipment to help improve your chances. When ice fishing, crappie can be found off the bottom of the lake.
At this point, you should know when is the best time to catch crappie, including the time of day and the season. Next, make sure you bring enough quality bait to all of your fishing trips and you’re sure to win!
Are crappie biting now? Well, that depends on where you are, what time of day it is and what time of year it is.