Late fall and early winter crappie can provide fish for winter meals
Todd Huckabee displays a fall crappie caught while on a Minnesota fishing trip.
There are three good times to crappie fish. First is during the spring spawn, second is late fall and early winter when waters cool just before really cold weather, and the third is anytime you get a chance to fish.
Lat fall crappie (“slab”) fishing is time for putting crappie in the freezer for winter meals. They taste mighty delicious with fried potatoes and slaw when the wind and snow are swirling around the door sill.
Most anglers prefer spring crappie fishing when the fish will hit almost anything around the time of their spawn. During this time the fish don’t travel much. They are relatively easy to find and catch.
However, fall has its advantages . There usually are fewer people fishing, thus less competition. And, the weather can be beautiful. Spending a day on the water on a crisp, fall day is hard to beat. They usually are some sunny warmer days in December.
It’s true that crappie are likely to move more and be more scattered during the fall. As the water temperature begins to cool, the fish will begin to move from deeper water into the shallow to feed before winter. They are looking for food, especially minnows, and you are likely to find the crappie where you find minnows. Many anglers look for the minnows to find the fish.
Even though crappie may be scattered, they still will move close to the shoreline and shallow water. They can be found around structure such as rocks, weeds, ledges and channels. Then as winter arrives, the fish will start gathering together and form schools once more.
Two other productive fall techniques include drifting and spider rigging trolling. Both ways include multiple hooks. One caution is to make sure the number of hooks you want to use is legal where you are fishing.
Whatever method is used, patience and persistence is important. It may take time to locate the slabs, but when you do, they can be caught.
Much like early spring, late fall usually has lots of cold front and they can completely change crappie behavior. The fish change may require fisherman change as well. It probably will require a slow presentation of the lure or bait. The fish may be hungry, but still will not hit a fast moving bait.
In the spring if you catch a couple of crappie, you likely will find more in the same area. You probably can fish one general location and have a good outing. In the fall, the fish move and the fisherman needs to do the same. If you aren't catching fish, you need to be on the move.
Since crappie are on the move in the fall, one of the best methods of fishing for them is casting small lures,using techniques much like bass fishing. Not only is it one of the most productive methods in the fall, it also is fun.
As long as I’m catching fish, I’ll stay in the same general area, but once the action slows it is time to move on. If you think the only way to fish for crappie is to sit in one place, you’ll probably think fall fishing isn’t much fun or productive. Trolling is another way to cover a lot of water as well as find fish.
If you are casting, small lures in the range of one-sixteenth ounce work well .Road Runners, jigs, curly tail grubs, and small crankbaits all work well at times. It’s always a good idea to ask local anglers what lure and color seems to be working best.
A guide friend says his motto is dangle the bait if the fish are deep, cast if they are shallow.
When fish aren’t interested in your bait, don’t be afraid to change. What works one time, may not work the next.
A plate of fried crappie is a good way to end the day, but may taste even better when taken from the freezer this winter.