A Crappie Time of Year
Well, spring has finally sprung here in lower Michigan. The ice that had covered our lakes during the winter months departed about a month ago and the daffodils are now in full bloom. For the most part, air temperatures had still remained below normal, but at the present time we are experiencing summer-like warmth and sunshine, which has raised the water's surface temp into the mid-fifties.
Annually, I anticipate the seasonal transition that is currently taking place - the crappies are schooled up and moving towards man-made channels and shallow shoreline flats and are easily located and caught. In an effort to learn more about their pre-spawn migration, my son Danny and I have spent a couple days underwater observing how the crappies position along with schools of bluegills and the occasional largemouth bass. In boat channels crappies primarily relate to structure—dock posts, boat lifts, brush piles and wood. However, it's the shoreline flats of the open lake that drew our subsurface interest on this particular day.
Granted, the crappies aren’t everywhere and with that said, when we did encounter groups of crappie we found them suspended over patches of curly-leaf pondweed, which was growing in approximately 5-6 feet of water. The new green growth of the pondweed provided attractive structure to not only the crappie, but schools of smaller bluegill as well. As we observed, it became quite understandable why a vertical presentation works best this time of year.
These schools of panfish were practically motionless at mid-depth as they soaked in the warmth from the sun. It wasn't until the presence of our close approach that the fish became alerted and scattered away. Crappies aren't in a chasing mood when the water temperature is this cool, so a small jig and a simple slip-bobber rig was the deal. To catch them we employed a Strike King Mr. Crappie "Joker" (Color: White/Chartreuse) rigged on a 1/16 oz. Mr. Crappie jighead. Setting the correct depth is critical, but in our case, having the knowledge of our underwater observations of the fish suspended at mid-depth made that decision quite obvious and we set our bobber-stops at 2-½ ft. It's a fact, crappies rarely descend to engulf a lure; they most often bite from below on the up-swing.
Frequently you'll observe how your bobber will go slack on the initial strike from underneath, and then slowly disappear below the surface. A 7 ft. Shimano Crucial spinning rod teamed with a Shimano Sustain spinning reel spooled with 6 or 8 lb. test Seaguar Senshi monofilament line worked well as we casted towards individual patches of pondweed. Crappies are indeed one of life's little pleasures and an undisputable treat in a frying pan.