When I first began to get hardcore about crappie fishing I was like most other crappie fishermen: Fish for crappie April-June then put the rods up and wait for next years spawn. It took me a very long time to figure out that crappie can be caught year-round. And why should they not? If it's cold outside do you stop eating? No! You may change your eating habits a bit, but you still have to eat donít you? Crappies are no different in that respect, they have to eat to live that's just a simple fact of life. Just like you they may change eating habits, or their preferred location due to heat or cold but they have to do what they have to do to survive. So with that let's take a look at a crappies seasonal movements that are repeated by every crappie in every body of water.
SPRING: The favorite time of year for most crappie fishermen. When the water temp reaches about 55* crappies slowly begin to make their move to the wood covered flats where they will spawn. Depending on how deep the lake is you're fishing the crappie will make these early moves anytime from late March to late April. The crappie will often times hold on points or drop-offs near the spawning grounds until the water reaches 58*, at which point they will storm the banks to spawn. During spawn most of the crappie will spawn on hard bottom-wood covered flats in 6 to 8 foot water. One of the best ways to catch these fish is with a small 1/32oz jig 6-18" under a small float. Cast this combo around brushpiles and slowly twitch it back to you.
SUMMER: Most crappie anglers in Washington put up the crappie rods at this time of year to pursue other fish because they are only catching small fish if anything. The reason for this is because most of you continue to fish the spawning areas and this is not the place to catch slab crappie once the spawn has ended. After the spawn most of the small crappie will still be hanging around the shallows eating mostly bugs and a few small baitfish but the vast majority of the larger crappie will have moved back out to the deeper points, humps, rock reefs, and drop-offs they used before the spawn. These are the areas you need to target if you want to put crappie in the deep fryer in the summer. Fish these areas with a tightlined 1/16-1/32oz tube jig or use the same jig under a slipfloat. This is also the best time to troll crankbaits over points and in front of creek mouths. One more tip focus most of your energy into fishing at night during the summer months. Nighttime is often the best time to catch the largest crappies in the lake during the summer months or any time of the year.
FALL: Of all the seasons to catch crappie fall is hands down the best. When it comes to size and numbers fall is the best season to fish for crappie. When the water begins to cool in Washington lakes in late September the crappie school up in huge numbers and begin to fatten up for the winter. It's not uncommon to catch 50 fish in a night and not have one under 9". At this time of year I am a huge believer in fishing at night under bridges, over rockpiles and along the deep edges of rock reefs with scattered wood. For some reason the crappie really key-in on rock structures at this time of year. The easy way to find fall crappie is to look for any rocky structure that holds baitfish. The best structures will be in at least 15' of water and have access to a feeding flat. For example if you are out fall fishing a hump in 20 feet near a wooded flat and you begin to catch perch you should know that at some point of the day or night this hump will hold crappie. The perch are not there just looking around they are there feeding on something and the crappie will most likely stop by at dusk to feed also. I'll usually just cast and retrieve a 1/32oz tube and keep it within 2 feet of the bottom for the larger crappie in the schools.
WINTER: After the fall bite slows down crappie in Washington tend to move out into open water. This is often the hardest time to catch crappie but the fish are there, they just have to be found. The crappie will be in very tight schools if you find them and most of the time they will be on deep main lake points or suspended over the deepest section of smaller lakes with little or no structure feeding on plankton. On large reservoirs you can find the winter slabs on sunken islands or structures in front of main creek mouths and spillways. The crappies are very lite biters at this time of year so use lite rods and 2-4lb test line. Find areas that look good and drift over them at several depths from the bottom to 10' from the surface with a tightlined 1/16oz tube. When you hit paydirt throw out a marker and continue to drift over the area to fill that stringer!
Key points to catching crappie