Wintertime Crappie

Crappie fishing

Wintertime Crappie
Robin Hunt with a nice wintertime Kentucky Lake crappie.

Wintertime Crappie Fishing

Wintertime crappie fishing can be tough, but crappie caught in the winter months can be the biggest of the year. Most crappie will relocate into deep water in the winter. Some wintertime crappie will be found shallow at times, but most wintertime crappie congregate in deep water around and within thick cover or structure.

Let’s tell it like it is, any honest crappie angler will confess that the winter can be tough at times. However, crappie will bite in the winter and oftentimes will really turn on a few hours during the day. In many ways winter crappie are easier to locate than summertime crappie are. The reason is simple. Crappie relate more to cover and/or structure during the winter than during the summer when they prefer to suspend. Turnover is a situation that occurs during the summer and with it a thermocline is created. Crappie follow the baitfish and the oxygen which is inside the thermocline. This causes the crappie to just swim around searching for schools of baitfish making it difficult to locate the crappie. During the winter this thermocline all but disappears.

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With even levels of oxygen throughout the water column, in the winter, crappie tend to pile up on notable cover and structure. Good electronics can help you locate these spots and unlike wandering schools of crappie during the summer these spots are stationary. Once these spots are located they can produce every year. It should be noted that not all cover or structure is created equal. Areas where crappie congregate in the winter must be located for success.

The Search For Wintertime Crappie

Start your search for crappie by searching creek channels leading to larger river channels or into deeper water. The first place to check is creek channels leading from known spawning flats where you caught crappie in the spring. I believe that crappie will school up near these areas in preparation for the spring spawn. These transition areas will usually hold lots of crappie. A great way to locate these crappie is to spider rig the area until you pick up a few crappie. Pre-spawn crappie will begin schooling up earlier than you might think, especially during a mild winter. Don’t be afraid to search shallow during the winter. I’ve been surprised before.

Bow Mounted Fish Finder

A bow mounted fish finder will help you locate wintertime crappie spots in deeper water. Sitting in the bow of your boat with your spider rig system you can maneuver around cover with ease. Once these spots are located on the screen you can stay over them keeping the fish on your sonar while your minnows and/or jigs work the area. Mark every crappie caught and you can soon see where the spots start to pile up on one your GPS. You can now focus your efforts in these areas to increase your catch rate and head home with a limit before you freeze.

This tactic also works for single pole anglers so don’t think you have to spider-rig to catch crappie this way. Oftentimes, it seems as though a well placed jig with just the right jiggle gets more bites. be patient and mark those areas where you catch fish even if there is no cover. There is something that is attracting those fish to that spot and more times than not they will always stop or school up on that spot for whatever reason. The trick to locating and catching scattered open water crappie is to find these areas and believe in them. They will produce over and over.

Knock on Wood for Winter Crappie

One thing that will shut down the crappie bite in the winter is a cold front. Wintertime cold fronts have the same effect as any other time of year and when the temps fall dramatically wintertime crappie tends to bury themselves in the thickest cover they can find and acquire the proverbial lock jaw. When this happens even live bait lowered into the cover sometimes won’t entice these crappie. There is one thing that will and it has been proven to me several times. The crappie jig.

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The crappie jig can trigger strikes from these reluctant cold front crappies when nothing else will and here’s how. When wintertime crappie buries up in thick cover they’re usually not feeding. They are waiting out a cold front or they just aren’t hungry. One great way to catch a few of these crappie is to lower your jig into the brush and as one old timer once told me “knock on wood.” It was this old timer and a couple others that finally convinced me that this method worked on reluctant crappie in the brush piles.

The trick is to lower the jig into the brush. A good fish finder is essential to staying above the cover for winter crappie fishing. Then ease the jig up until you feel it just touch a limb or log. When you feel the cover lower the jig back down and bring it up quickly so to tap your jighead on the piece of cover creating a ticking sound. This will trigger a reaction strike from the crappie inside the brush pile. I guess they don’t like the noise created by the jig. The color can make a difference as well, so change up to see what the crappie want in the winter.

I have seen this presentation work in as deep as 30 feet of water. To fish these brush piles effectively you need a jig that will get down to the cover quick and with as little drag as possible. The perfect jig for this presentation is the Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub in 1/4 ounce. The marabou tail collapses on the fall, creating little or no drag getting your jig down quick. The marabou pulses in the water as you dead stick the jig after knocking on the brush. This gives your jig just enough action to trigger the reaction you’re looking for. The Lindy Fuz-E-Grub also comes in many different colors to choose from.

This technique is not as easy as it sounds and it took many tries for me to ever get proficient at it. Those old timers gave me a couple pointers on this technique. They told me to use a bigger jighead. Normally you might use a micro jig for wintertime crappie, but for this technique you need a heavier jig to help it drop straight down. The heavier head will also help you feel the brush once inside. The other tip was to dull the hook tip. Crappie are nicknamed paper-mouth for a reason and even a dull hook will penetrate. The dull hook point will help keep you from getting hung up in the brush. The dull hook along with the heavier head makes it easier to work it loose if it does. The heavy head will also emit a louder knock when your “knocking on wood.”

NOTE: Check out the video below to learn about sonar and fishing for wintertime crappie. G3 SPORTSMAN


Know Your Crappie Temps

About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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