When the weather gets hot, crappie fishing gets tough ... unless you know the secrets for summer success.
It was a typical "dog days" afternoon--fiery and humid with only an occasional breeze to bring relief. For several hours, bluegill fishing on the old river-run lake had been outstanding. But now, as the chuck-wills-widows started their evening roundelay, the bream fishing tapered off.
Plop. The bobber twisted and settled. No takers. Move to the next spot. Plop, twist, settle. Wait. Still nothing. We maneuvered our crickets in, over, under, through and around every piece of visible cover, but no amount of wheedling could rouse another strike.
I decided a last-ditch effort for bass was in order. A barn swallow skimmed the water^s surface as I tied the boat to a tall mid-lake snag. I^d seen two men sink a big cedar tree there just a couple of months earlier.
A bait-casting rod was put into play, and for the next 30 minutes, I plied the brushpile with a variety of lures. Nothing. Switching to an ultralight spinning combo, I tied on a tiny chartreuse tube jig, tipped it with a lively minnow and cast out near the sunken tree. Maybe the big guys wouldn^t bite, but perhaps I could entice a couple of little ones.
The next half hour was unforgettable. Not for the glorious rose-and-amber sunset that capped the day. Not even for the river otter I saw playing across the lake. On the first cast, I hooked a pound-and-a-half crappie, and there were 20 thrashing in the ice chest within 30 minutes. None was a real "barn door," but several rated at least a "Wow!"
This fishing trip, and others like it, have convinced me to pursue crappie during summer. Granted, catching these feisty panfish isn^t as easy in summer as during the spring spawn when crappie are concentrated in the shallows. But for the angler who knows where, when and how, the rewards of summer crappie fishing are many.
The first rule of summer crappie fishing is keying in on deeper water areas outside the normal realm of shallow-water anglers. Despite the fact they^re often moving, that^s where most crappie hang out on a regular basis.
Concentrate your search in the 10- to 25-foot range. The clearer the water, the deeper you should look. Crappie are usually near woody cover along the edges of inundated stream channels, points and turns on weed edges, rock piles rising into well-oxygenated water, man-made fish attractors and other structure-oriented cover.
In waters with plentiful cover, the trick is finding the small percentage of it that holds fish. You may have to work hard to locate a concentration of crappie. Where cover is in short supply, a single sunken treetop may harbor dozens of slabs, but again, you must find that spot first.
Some deep-water crappie can be found using hit-and-miss tactics like drift-fishing and trolling. But if you want to increase your hooking time and decrease your looking time, buy a good sonar fish-finder unit. Electronic hardware is essential to find deep-water crappie consistently. Deep water, even water no deeper than the length of your boat, can hide a lot.
For example, it^s one thing to know that a river channel zigzags through a long narrow cove. It^s quite another to find a bend, ledge or some other nuance on the channel that will attract a school of crappie. Without sonar, you might never find such an area. But with a serious look at a bottom contour map and a quick check of prominent bottom changes with sonar, you could be catching slabs in minutes.