It’s never too hot to catch crappie
Crappie fishing is on every freshwater angler’s mind during the spring and then again in the fall. But in the dog days of summer, many just don’t even try to catch them. They either opt for other species or they stay at home. Waiting on the fall bite to pull a jig through the water seems reasonable.
But those anglers are missing out. TC Lloyd of Hartsville, S.C. chases crappie year-round throughout North and South Carolina with Southern Angling Guide Service, and he catches just as many in the heat of summer as he does any other time of year. And that includes right now.
“It’s true that you won’t find them in the same spots they’ll be in the spring and fall. A lot of people think crappie just scatter, eat very little, or just don’t have a predictable pattern in the hot months. But they are just as predictable, and hungry, as they are in the spring and fall,” said Lloyd.
Lloyd said anglers are correct in assuming it’s not worth crappie fishing in the shallows this time of year. The fish move into those waters in the spring, but this time of year, forget the shallows. However, they are still congregated in numbers. But in the summer time, Lloyd said the easiest way to find crappie is by locating sunken brush piles in deeper water. And that means getting away from the banks.
Patience is key, but that doesn’t mean what many anglers think
“When people talk about patience in fishing, that doesn’t mean you should sit in one spot all day even if the fish aren’t biting. What it means to me is taking the time to study the bottom of the lake you’re fishing in with your electronics. Especially these days, depth finders are so advanced that you can count how many fish are in a school. But you have to put in the time and search for those brushpiles, then determine if the fish are on them,” he said.
Lloyd said even when you do find the fish, you still have to get them to bite. And that’s not always as easy as tossing out a minnow and setting the hook.
“You’ve got to be careful about where you position the boat. You want to pay close attention to the sun so that you aren’t casting shadows onto the fish. They don’t like that. It’s best to use long rods like 12 to 16 footers, then keep the boat off the fish in a way that the sun won’t put your shadow on them,” he said. “Even when the fish are deep, those shadows can make them skittish.”
So how does he find the fish in Carolina lakes this time of year?
“It takes a lot of looking. You’ve just got to learn your electronics. Then follow the contours of the lake’s bottom, looking for brush piles and for changes in depth. If you’re in a flat that’s 4-feet deep and it has brush piles in that same depth, you probably won’t find crappie on them this time of year. But if you find a drop off that’s 12-feet deep and it’s got brush on it, that depth change is often enough to give them a break from the heat. And they’ll stack up on the brush piles there,” he said.
“It definitely takes some trial and error, and some time riding around looking. But it’s worth every bit of it. You’re just casting blind otherwise,” he said.
And when he finds them, Lloyd likes to put lively minnows in their vicinity. Crappie usually feed facing up, so marking the fish’s depth on your depth finder is key. If they’re 16 feet deep, suspending your minnow at 15 feet is a good starting point. He said on one day, the crappie might come up three feet to strike a minnow. On other days, they may only move as much as a foot. It’s always good to try multiple rods at different depths to pinpoint their mood. And remember, that mood can change even throughout a single day of fishing.
Click here for a tasty crappie recipe that offers a slight twist to conventional wisdom.