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Crappie Panfish

Pioneering the Trail For Early Spring Crappies

by In-Fisherman   |  July 10th, 2011 0

Roger Bullock, Greenbrier, Arkansas, is about the most traveled angler I know, save for fishing-show hosts and tournament pros who travel and fish for a living. In his career, he’s caught 242 fish species from marine and fresh waters, the largest a 740-pound white sturgeon over 11 feet long. But he’s at least as proud of having caught both black and white crappie over 3 pounds, and spends a large portion of his time pursuing these fascinating panfish.

Depending on where you fish, the period from February into April covers the transition from winter location patterns to the Prespawn for early spring crappies. In February, even late January, dedicated crappie anglers begin their annual quest for a hot bite and for giant fish. Roger Bullock looks to several key locations in this coldwater period of the pre-Prespawn.

Marinas and Boat Docks — According to Bullock, there’s a marked similarity between crappie behavior in summer and winter — they crave the cover of boat docks and the overhead shading provided by big marinas in those divergent seasons. “Docks with brushpiles under them may attract more fish at times, but almost any marina or dock complex holds crappie during the late-winter period,” Bullock notes. “In large, deep reservoirs, marinas located near creek channels typically produce better, while in shallower lakes, they all are worth checking. Also, lighted docks typically hold more fish, both night and day.

“More so than bass, crappie use ambush tactics to feed, and shadows give them a predatory advantage in sneaking up on baitfish. I can’t tell you how many crappie trips have been saved by visiting marinas when offshore fish proved elusive. I’ve seen it happen from Lake Shasta in California to Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida, and at many lakes in between. And though we’re getting ahead of the story, when severe cold fronts drive crappies out of the shallows as they get ready to spawn, they often head to nearby marinas and suspend under floating docks.”

Plankton and shad are attracted to lighted areas at night, and crappies inevitably follow. The fish become accustomed to feeding in that area and remain for extended periods. The late winter marina bite may last until water warms into the 50F range, summoning fish to shallower locales.

But in many highland and hill-land impoundments of the central U.S. and mid-South, this pattern can last several months. In some areas, marina operators take advantage of the crappie’s habits and set up winter fishing stations at marinas, complete with hanging brushpiles, bait for sale, convenient lighting, fish cleaning stations, and even heated rails.

Creek Channels and Bluff Banks — During this period, you can also find crappies bunched up along creek channels, holding from 15 to 50 feet down, depending on reservoir type, structure, and position of shad schools. In clearer waters, schooling typically is deeper during the day, as well. Bullock also looks to bluffs as a key early prespawn location.

Continued — click on page link below.

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