Many experienced anglers feel that water temperature is one of the most critical factors when considering crappie fishing patterns. Crappie fish will behave differently and will spend time in different areas depending on what the ambient temperature is. For an inexperienced angler, this can seem like unpredictable or irrational behavior. However, once you have learned what to look for, you’ll have the ability to locate crappie any time you want to.
There are lots of websites that give many great crappie fishing tips, but there probably aren’t any that are more important than keeping an eye on the water temps…
If you want to be able to locate the fish quickly, you will need some way to measure the temperature of
the water. An ordinary pool thermometer will work just fine. Another of the important crappie fishing tips is to use a depth finder that will also read the temperature of the water’s surface. Once you know what the surface temperature is you can easily figure out what the temperature is below the surface. Normally it is just a few degrees cooler. Keep in mind that bays that are protected and shallow creeks can be cooler or warmer than large bodies of water that have more motion.
Crappie will usually move from their deep water hideouts when the temperature begins to reach around 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. They will begin to congregate around the entrances to creek channels at this temperature and start migrating toward bays and creeks that are shallower. Crappie fishing patterns for this behavior would include the use of a hair jig or curl tail grub in isolated pockets, stumps, and brush. Trolling jigs and minnows is also a good idea.
When the water warmth starts to warm up a bit more, to around 55-60 degrees, the male crappie will start to search for shallow water spawning beds. Female crappie will be nearby in deeper waters. Crappie feeding grows more aggressive as spawning time gets closer. Use a minnow under a cork close to the spawning beds to catch males, and cast using a slow retrieve to catch females. Crappie will spawn in shallow areas once the surface temperature climbs to approximately 62-65 degrees. Female crappie can be found moving in and around any bushy areas of cover during this time.
Keep in mind that bad weather and cold fronts can slow things down a bit. Depending on the weather, the spawning season may not progress as you expect. Once the temperatures reach 70-75 degrees, the female crappie with venture from their nests and return to the deeper structures that they occupied before spawning and the male crappie will stay behind to protect the nests. Again, a slow cast and retrieve is ideal in this situation. As the water further warms, the males will rejoin the females, and the migration cycle will continue in reverse as they travel back to the deep and cool areas for the summer.
When the fall temperatures cool the water, the crappies begin to move back out through the creek channels for heavy feeding before the winter months. They will likely be seen halfway up the tributaries, close to locations they favored before spawning. When the water temperatures drop into the mid-forties, they will move to deeper water for the winter.