Dave Fetterolf's Fishing Adventures
Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Email: maubee@comcast.net


Seminar at Delaware River Fisherman Association
Dicks Sporting Goods - Franklin Mills Mall
April 30th, 2009 - 7PM
"Spring Largemouth Spawn"

"Those Other Bass"
Featured in the April, 2009 issue of North Eastern Angler - an Electronic Magazine

Springtime has finally arrived.  Surface water temperatures are on their upward trend toward 60 degrees.  Avid soft water crappie anglers awaken!  Crappie will soon commence their annual spawning activity.

Both black crappies (most common on northern waters) and white crappies (mostly in the Midwest and south) spawn simultaneously.  The quickest way to determine the difference between white and black crappies is to count dorsal spines. Black crappies have 7 to 8 spines while white crappies have 5 to 6 spines. White crappies also appear to have gray stripes.

There are three main areas on a lake or river on which to place the main focus when searching for spawning crappie:

1.  Shallow bays or coves
2.  Outside weed edges on main lake shorelines
3.  Shallow humps or rock piles within the main body of water

Here’s an important note, crappies can and have spawned in water as cool as 55 degrees and as warm as 70 degrees.  Tendencies vary on each individual lake or river.  Water levels, size of the body of water, and cold frontal passages are all determining factors.  Crappies have migrated in to the shallows one day and evacuate the next due to a severe drop in water temperature resulting from a cold front. The period of time before returning to the shallows can vary from a day to a week or two. On rare occasions, with continuous extreme weather changes, female crappies will actually hold their eggs and not release them for spawn.

The initial areas to target are shallow bays, coves, or large shallow flats as they warm to 60 degrees first.  Look for water depths of less than five feet.  Find the emerging vegetation or structure. The first wave of spawning crappies will head for lily pads or reeds in the above mentioned areas.  If vegetation or structure is not present, try fishing the northern bank as it usually warms slightly faster in this region than other banks facing the other directions.

Male crappies build the nests by scouring all vegetation and debris from an area about 1 foot in diameter in the sandy or rocky bottom.  Females then arrive and lay their eggs in the nest. There is often a misconception that females guard the nest.  Female crappies typically do not remain for longer than about one day, for after their work is complete, they head for deeper water.  This is whey the window to catch a female crappie while actually spawning is so limited.  Males are responsible for guarding the bed containing the eggs. Male crappies will remain with the eggs and fry for about 10 days.  Fishing for crappies during the spawn is very similar to sight fishing for largemouth bass.  Once fish are located,  keep your distance and try a finesse approach.  A sure method is to float a hair jig under a bobbers.  For added attraction, try tipping with a live minnow.  New soft plastics on the market also work very well tipping off a jig head. This technique works well on fish locked in and stationary on a nest.  While crappies are on the beds, they may spook easily if a boat drifts too close.  Mark the location, then relocate the boat for several minutes.  Males usually return quickly to tend to their fatherly duties.  

Other areas sure to hold spawning crappies are outside weed edges on the main lake shorelines.  These areas usually heat up about one to two weeks after the shallow bite.  Again, try to find northern shorelines.  Shorelines with reeds can be very productive.  The most productive depth can vary widely from two to fifteen feet or even deeper.  Unlike the shallow water spawning period, sight fishing cannot occur.  Remember what occurred to the naked eye during the shallow water spawn and try to replicate it under deeper water conditions. This is where electronics come in handy.  A good method for locating fish is to utilize faster presentations under these conditions.  Lures like Road Runners, small crank baits, small jerk baits and jig/minnow combinations are good for starters.  Pay close attention to your lure while retrieving.  Aggressive crappies chase after jerk baits and faster moving baits vehemently and although they may not offer at the lure, it exposes their location.  Once aggressive fish are located, a slower presentation might just fill the boat. 

Although it takes more time for shallow humps and rock piles in the main lake body to reach the 60 degree mark, they are hot spots for crappies during the spring spawning period.  This pattern is effective two to three weeks after the initial shallow spawn pattern.  Use a sonar unit, a detailed map, or prior experience to locate these areas.  Look for humps that are at least fifty percent the height of the water column.  For example, when a boat is positioned in 20 feet of water, locate a hump that extends upward at least 10 feet from the lake floor.  Again, utilize a faster presentation to locate active fish.  Once fish are located, the depth of your lure is often more important than the lure choice itself. Fish lures at different depths, especially in deeper water situations, until the desired depth is realized.  A one to two foot alteration in depth can make all the difference in fishing versus catching.

When targeting crappies during the spawn, shallow bays, coves, and flats, outside weed edges along the main lake shorelines, and shallow humps and rock piles in the main lake will all produce, but timing is critical.  A good rule of thumb is to start as shallow as possible and work toward deeper water.  The spring spawning period is outstanding for action, and whe location is dialed in, some real slab crappies make for good spring fun.

The Outdoor Adventurer March 2008 Vol 3 Issue 12 001

Outdoor Adventures

Dave Fetterolf's Fishing Adventures
Marsh Creek State Park
Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Email: maubee@comcast.net

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