Crappie fishing puts anglers out in the cold


January 20, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

There are only a few fishing opportunities when winter really arrives. West Virginia has already started trout stockings and the exceptional weather last week had some of the popular streams lined with anglers.

Another wintertime favorite is crappie fishing and the folks that are really into this area look for a few days of mild weather to get after those big, wintertime crappies.

Crappie fishing may be one of the least-known of the local fishing opportunities. The real crappie experts that I have known over the years tend to be pretty quiet about the fish they are catching. They are totally quiet when it comes to talking about their favorite places. Great crappie hole locations are a well guarded secret.

Crappies are serious predators and are taken using small minnows or small jigs. For many years, the small marabou jigs were the standard lure for crappie fishermen, but most anglers now use plastics. Crappies have a small mouth and the jigs' 1/16-ounce range are a good starting point.


Many expert anglers use live minnows most of the time and bait shops often offer the very small shiners for just this purpose. In fact, they are often referred to as crappie minnows.

As is the case for most fishing, crappie fishing is more about finding the fish. This is particularly important in crappie fishing, because in lakes or rivers, crappies will move to very specific spots depending on the season. When you learn the seasonal movements for a particular body of water you can usually have good fishing in all seasons.

After the crappies are located, they are usually not hard to catch and there are a number of presentations that work well. My favorite is the slip bobber presentation, which works equally well for bait or jigs. The slip bobber rig utilizes a bobber stop that allows you to adjust the depth of your lure by sliding the bobber stop to the desired depth.

I really think that the reason the slip bobbers works well with tiny crappie jigs is that fishing a small jig below the bobber allows the bobber to impart action to the lure. As the waves and current jiggle the bobber, the movements are imparted to the jig making it a very appealing presentation.

The late winter and very early spring crappie fishing is usually the best shot at the biggest fish of the year. It's easier to find numbers of fish during the spawning season in March and April, but the average size is smaller. After spawning, the fish seem to scatter for a few weeks and are hard to locate and catch.

If you like fresh fish, crappies are considered a great table fish. They are also one fish species that does not need much catch-and-return protection. Crappies reproduce fast, and this can result in stunted fish. A steady angler harvest is generally good for the overall population.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He may be contacted by e-mail at

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