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Crappie Panfish

Transition Crappies

by In-Fisherman   |  July 12th, 2012 0

“Get ready!” Gregg Meyer shouted, scanning the graph screen. “They’re stacked at 13 to 16 feet.” At a trolling speed of 2 miles an hour, our lures were due to pass through the school in seconds.

On cue, the pole in the starboard holder bent over, and then the one on the port side. Having pulled in twin pound-size slabs, we turned the boat in a wide sweep and idled again over the fish. Another double-header. Two more passes netted three more fish, and we began thinking about how many we wanted to keep for dinner.

It was May, and we were fishing a southern Colorado irrigation impoundment, one of Meyer’s favorite waters for crappies as well as catfish and wipers. The savvy angler had predicted the pattern before we got to the lake, though I expressed some doubt. “As soon as the spawn is done,” he’d said, “these crappies move off the banks and suspend in open water, but close to a steep wall that restricts their movements.

“For crappies, the Postspawn Period has a bad reputation, similar to the report for bass and walleyes, and other species as well. For crappies, the major challenge for anglers is finding the fish after the spawn.

“Crappies rather swiftly switch from shallow cover to nowhere land, and all the popular spots suddenly fall flat. A lot of folks give up on crappies and await the fall Coolwater Period. That’s a mistake, because the fish actually can be more concentrated than in spring.”

Meyer’s point was well taken, for the school we marked looked to contain at least two dozen crappies in an area not three times larger than his boat. In Colorado, the steep wall barrier to movement was the dam itself. Crappies aggressively bit our trolled Tiny Traps — miniature Rat-L-Traps measuring just 1 1/2 inches in length.

In this type of impoundment, formed by flooding parched rolling flatlands, the fish have little cover to gather near. That scenario differs from what we find in natural lakes, or in many other impoundments where I’ve fished for crappies after the spawn. There, vegetation and wood cover provide shelter, though the postspawn transitional location shifts remain similar.

FOLLOWING THE TRANSITION

To figure out where something is going, it helps to know where it has been. Following that logic means defining briefly the areas crappies seek during spring, prior to spreading out into the main lake or reservoir after the spawn. The springtime shift of crappies from deep to shallow water varies among the diverse waters they inhabit — clear natural lakes, murky oxbows, and reservoirs of every category.

We’ll save an in-depth examination of the prespawn particulars for an In-Fisherman feature next spring, which will focus on finding the biggest crappies in a body of water. For the present discussion, an overview of favored spring habitats serves to orient us into the postspawn transition.

Crappies often make a gradual transition from deep wintering areas to their eventual spawning grounds, staging on mid-depth flats (8 to 15 feet in most cases) that offer substantial weedgrowth or wood cover such as manmade brushpiles or stumps and timber. They seek coves, which offer protection from prevailing winds, and also are associated with large flats with cover. This combination gives crappies all they need in spring, first to feed and gradually adjust to warming waters, and then to build nests, spawn, and guard fry.

Continued – click on page link below.

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