During the heat of summer crappie fishing gets tough! Going out there blind is a recipe for failure. You either get extremely lucky and hit a school or you go home empty-handed.
Unless you know the secrets for summer crappie fishing. These tips should help you fill your summer limits.
Summer Crappie Fishing Tips
There’s no better way to learn how to catch crappie than getting out on the water. Through years of experience I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. The following tips should bring you more good days than bad.
1) Try Bottom Fishing Near The Thermocline
During the summer, crappie tend to school very close to the thermocline. (Check out my post on finding the thermocline) When you know the thermoclines depth look for bottom structure right around that point. They’ll normally stick to structure right at that oxygen-rich point.
You’re going to want to bottom-fish a live minnows using a basic crappie rig. You can make your own rig using a slip sinker, swivel and 3 foot leader line tipped with a crappie hook. Just add a minnow and cast your rig allowing it to settle to the bottom.
2) Look in 10-20 Feet of Water
During the summer crappie like to suspend in 10-20 feet of water. Of course this is going to largely depend on the water temperature and thermocline level. Look for them around any type of submerged cover/structure.
Whenever I see submerged trees I’ll work it with a small crappie spoon(I use the Lunkerhunt Micro Spoons). I just drop it slowly into cover and give a quick jerk every 3 feet or so. Crappie tend to inhale the spoon as it falls and you won’t know they’re on the line until you jerk.
3) Fish in Thick Cover
On those especially hot days everybody wants to find a little shade. Sometimes that’s going to be under docks or laydowns, but I love working around thick lilypads that offer a ton of shade.
I like to fish a straight jig(I really like these) in the thickest cover I can find. On slow days, sometimes I’ll tip the jig with Crappie Nibbles to spice things up. I’ll normally fish the shallows in the early mornings straight off the bottom. You don’t even need to bounce on those especially hot mornings.
4) Minnows Always Attract Crappie
Do anything you can to attract minnows to your boat. Have you ever seen minnows swarm around a light at night?(see my favorite night fishing lights) The same thing can be achieved during the day.
Drop some bread crumbs or dry dog food into shallow water and keep on fishing. In a little while return to that area and you should see a ton of feeding minnows. Minnows are always going to attract predators so your catch rate should improve.
5) Save Crappie Scales
The next time you filet a crappie save some of his scales or you can buy some commercial shad scales. Rinse off the scales and store them in a tiny tupperware container filled with water.
When the fishing gets slow, drop some of those scales down into the water. As crappie feed they blow the scales out of their gills as they eat. So scales floating in the water makes it look like someones having a feeding frenzy.
As the scales fall they’ll flicker through the water catching the eye of feeding crappie. Now it’s time to present a jig tipped minnow nearby and you should get more than a few bites.
6) Troll As Slow as You Can
During the heat of summer we all move a little bit slower and so do most fish. Try to troll through the water as slowly as possible on those warm days.
When trolling for summer crappie I like to position my trolling motor sideways slowly dragging my boat across the water. You’re going to move slow while still maintaining a somewhat straight line. You should be able to efficiently work deep structure without looking unnatural.
7) Keep an Eye Out For Storm Fronts
Throughout most of the summer the weather should remain fairly stable. That is until a storm from front rolls through. All hell breaks loose and fish start feeding like crazy.
When there are afternoon thunderstorms day after day try fishing just before the storm. That’s not an excuse to be crazy and fish a lightning storm or especially windy day. Be smart and know when to get off the water.
If you can be out on the water when the clouds start to turn dark and thicken you’ll have a great day. Just before the storm hits everything moves to the surface and feeds heavily. While it usually only lasts about 30 minutes you’ll catch more fish than you did the rest of the day.
You can also fish after the storm around the thickest cover you can find. Try working around cover or riprap using a jig and digging down into the brush. Work all those little holes and pockets slowly and thoroughly.
8) Dock Fishing Works in The Heat
On those especially hot days you don’t even have to hit open water. I love fishing around docks, piers and anywhere else that offers a little shade during those dog days of summer.
I’ve fished these same docks from a boat without much luck and came back on foot and started killing it. On those bright sunny days fish can see your boat in shallow water and they tend to get bait shy. So try walking the docks in those early morning and striking from above.
Let the wind drift a minnow/jig under a bobber directly below the dock. Or you can vertically fish a small jig in the darkest spot you can find. On most days I’ll either use a Crappie Slider or Bobby Garland Baby Shad. Either option should work well.
9) During The Summer Crappie Need Ice
Just about every fisherman has ruined a days catch by leaving their stringer in hot surface water or a warm stale livewell. Those fish quickly become soggy and taste terrible.
During the heat of summer you’re going to want to put your fish on ice. Just make sure you regularly drain your cooler so your fish aren’t sitting in cold water. If you do it right you should have those firm, crisp , fresh crappie filets that you’ll want to come back for more.
10) Fish Early Mornings or Dusk
You just aren’t going to have a ton of luck fishing during the hottest time of the day. Summer fishing is basically a morning/nighttime activity. I like to head out a few hours earlier than everybody else and use lights/chum to attract minnows.
I’ll head to the shallows early, drop my cheap submersible light in the water and go to town. Once minnows start to show up you’re almost guaranteed to get some bites. You can follow the same approach just before dark.
11) Troll Crankbaits after Crappie Spawn
After the crappie spawn and the waters 75+ degrees, they all seem to congregate at the first dropoff near their spawning beds. Normally in 12-20 feet of water in most lakes.
These fish are going to be suspending so it’s going to be hard to pinpoint exactly where you need to be. This is when I bring out my little crankbaits like the Bandit Series 100 so I can work the water fast.
You’re going to want to troll at 1.5-3 mph in a S-Pattern sweeping over open water. If you notice bites on the hard edge of your turns increase your trolling speed. Just try not to rip your crankbait like you would a bass, simply pick up your rod and start reeling.