By Bob and Ginny Riege
In the summer, crappies often disperse to many locations; most use the weedline at one time or another. Some use pockets in deep cabbage beds all summer, while those in open water are blown onto weedlines where wind driven plankton blooms pile following consecutive days of winds from the same direction. Other schools use shallow and mid-depth weed flats all summer, moving to the weedlines and beyond during bright days or inclement weather. Crappie are in shallow water and feeding on tiny bugs that are hatching out. Most of these shallow bays have some lily pads, or grass that gives the fish cover. These shallow bays are a haven for the crappie. They allow them to "be off the beaten path" so to speak, from the rest of the summertime fishing. The "livin' is easy," for all that live in these shallow bays and they are probably the most overlooked fish during the summer months. Fishing panfish is the very best kind of fishing, to start a young child on the way to a lifetime of this healthy sport. There is usually plenty of action without long waiting periods between bites.
Begin looking for crappies in areas adjacent to their spawning grounds. The first drop-off near a large flat with rushes could be very productive. As the water warms, the crappies will become more willing to feed. They will also move shallower. The shallower they get, the easier they will be to catch.
Start a little off the weedline early and late in the day, when crappies might be moving in or out. In this situation, most of the crappies are close to the weedline. Once you discover this, move closer to the weedline and cast parallel to the edge, keeping the jig in the most productive zone throughout the retrieve.
Some crappies may penetrate and move into pockets on weedy flats, but most collect on the outside edges within about 20 feet of the edge. On cloudy, windy days, crappies may use the edge or roam over the weed tops all day. Crappies tend to move in earlier in the afternoon on the western side of a lake where weedlines are deep or where sharp breaks form substantial walls that block the sun. On the eastern side, such areas can induce crappies to linger longer during morning hours. It's one example where a sharp break bordering a weedbed offers a clue to locating at certain times of the day. Weeds are abundant in most good panfish lakes. Bluegills and pumkinseeds feed on insects and other aquatic critters in weeds, and crappies roam deep weededges. Areas with deep weeds and docks that extend past shallow flats hold lots of crappie. All species feed in weeds during early morning and move under docks when the sun rises in the sky.
In shallow bays, the weedline is far from shoreline docks. Fish seem reluctant to cross broad flats. This makes for perfect fishing for the entire family, because you allow the sun to get the fish moving. I probably won't go panfishing until about 10:30 in the morning and stay out until 2:00 p.m. Kids, mom, everyone enjoys being out on a sunny day.
A word of caution, take along plenty of sunscreen, because this is also the time for the worst sunburn.
Anyone who has ever fished for summertime crappies knows that just about any small lure will take fish. However, some lures are better that others. In almost any situation, tiny, micro-sized jigs will out produce all other lures. Lures such as the Northland Bro's Bloodworm, or Slug Bug jigs are ideal for this kind of presentation. These miniscule lures can be tossed individually or in tandem with a Lite-Bite Slip Bobbers.
Crappies and other panfish aren't overly particular about color preference. Generally, lighter colors seem to produce better than dark ones, but carry both and change often if you are unsuccessful with one. Hot weather and warm nights have finally come to the north country. It has been a number of years since we have really had summer here in the upper Midwest, but this year it has arrived. Some of the best fishing comes when you spend time with your family. So this summer take your kids and your spouse and get out of the house and enjoy yourself with a good crappie bite.