The timing is just about perfect. It’s early May and the big crappie bite hasn’t happened yet. If the weather forecast holds, this could be the week crappies begin to spawn and anglers finally get to experience that fantastic fishing many only hear about.
“When people think about crappie fishing, they think about the spawn. These fish are vulnerable, easy to catch and the action can be fast,” said Steve Waters, southeast Iowa regional fisheries supervisor for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Crappie fishing is about as simple as it gets and, let’s face it, it’s fun.”
Waters said the recent cool down in temperature can be good for crappie fishing, keeping the fish just off shore in their pre-spawn stage in a little deeper water.
“I like to set up on the first depth break near the shoreline when the crappies are getting charged up to spawn,” he said.
Casting to find fish is key for Waters and he prefers really small baits – a 1/80 or 1/32 ounce jig, with a white, yellow or chartreuse body.
When the spawn is on, look for crappies in shallow water with sticks or brush coming through the surface.
“This time of year, I don’t use minnows, especially when fish are biting. These fish are aggressive and don’t need that extra enticement to bite. I think it can slow you down,” Waters said. “When the spawn is on, I use as small of a bobber that I can get away with without making a big splash. It will help keep my jig in position, say six inches off the bottom. The jig always needs movement so I’ll slowly reel it in.”
Once the spawn is over, crappies will move back to the first depth break, creek channels and drop-offs.
“One popular way to fish crappies post spawn is to drift the center part the lake with two rods with different baits – one with a jig and another with a jig and minnow – at different depths,” Waters said. “One last bit of advice I could give is that crappies don’t like a ton of action. Cut down on the twitching and jigging and just give them a steady, slow retrieve. Save the jigging for bluegills.”