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  • Small Water Summertime Crappie - by Joe

    I know it's winter now, but here's an article to make you think about the warm weather that'll eventually be coming. Submitted by Joe (joejv4) our New York State Moderator, it'll be the last article published for 2011. Happy New Year.

    Small Water Summertime Crappie

    I started seriously fishing for crappie about 7 years ago - right after I tried some for dinner for the first time.

    I started researching the tasty little critters in hope of learning how to pattern them and bump up my success rate in catching them. I looked all over the internet for articles on crappie fishing. I stumbled on and learned a ton as far as baits and gear and different presentations, but pretty much every article I’ve found about patterning crappie, deals with large lakes, typically man-made reservoirs with lots of submerged structure and deep creek channels and other features that come along with man-made lakes.
    Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, this kind of lake is not common where I live. We have some large natural lakes (the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario) and a whole lot of small natural lakes (big ponds). With limited spare time, I do most of my fishing as close to home as possible. This means hitting the small natural lakes within 15 minutes of the house. One of which is the home of the NY State record for black crappie (3lb, 12 oz)
    First, let me give a brief description of these small lakes…
    These lakes are all between 250 and 350 acres with max depths in the 10'- 15' range. For the most part, they are shallow around the edges, gradually working from 1 to 3 feet deep as you work your way from the shore line, then they have a bowl shape, dropping relatively quickly from 3 feet to six feet and gradually going to their max depth of 10-15 feet in the middle.

    Each has some different features, and most have areas in the shallows where there are submerged logs, ideal for spring-time crappie. I’ve found all of the spring-time hangouts on my little local lakes – they all have shallow water (1-2’) with lots of wood and nearby deeper (6’) water. For spring crappie, the pattern is essentially the same as for the larger man-made lakes. Pretty much a no-brainer if you know anything about spawning crappie.

    As the post-spawn draws to a close, we start getting into summer weather. Water temps getting into the upper 70's to low 80's with water levels dropping. Where did they go?!

    This is where things are different on the little water, as compared to bigger, deeper lakes. With the depth maxing out at 10-15 feet, there isn’t any “deeper, cooler” water for them to move to. They don’t school up like they do in larger lakes. What they end up doing, is scattering and suspending in any little pocket of water that offers the least discomfort. They aren’t going to find truly comfortable water in these little lakes with temps up, water and oxygen levels down, so they find the least uncomfortable water.

    Well, while trying to find them, I stumbled on my primary tactic for summertime crappie - slow trolling. On a good windy day, getting into a good drift is all you need. On calmer days, a good trolling motor is just the ticket.

    Not to shabby for a summertime black crappy!

    I use 1.5" tubes on 1/8 oz round jigheads. Most of these small natural lakes have bowl shaped basins. Fairly steep sides that start to flatten out anywhere from 6' to 8' down, gradually going to the deep spots in the lake (10' - 15'). Colors for the tube jigs can vary day-to-day and even hour-to-hour. I always start with at least one in chartreuse and one in natural colors, this covers both ends of the spectrum, giving me an idea of what they

    Hmmmm what are they feeding on today? A double on one hook!

    The place I've almost always found crappie during this time of year is right around the place where the bottom contour goes from being steep to gradual. In my little lakes, this is 6' to 8' down, depending on which lake I'm on. I usually have to do a little experimenting to locate them, but when I get the first one on, I look at my fishfinder and remember what depth water I'm in. I also pay attention to any fish that get marked, and that gives me an idea of how much line to let out to get my bait at the right depth so that the crappie can look up a little bit and see it. I usually see them suspending 4-5 feet down.

    Sometimes, you can catch a surprise when summer trolling for crappie (a 35” northern)!!!

    Don't get discouraged when you don't "pound" them. They're scattered this time of year so you have to work for them. Once you've found the depth they're in and how far down they are suspending, work your way around the lake at those target depths, and 9 out of 10 times you'll be successful.

    Tight lines!!!!
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. KCBH's Avatar
      KCBH -
      Been there, done that. I fish a lot of small ponds and I find the best way to catch 'big ones' is by trolling a rapala around. The places I fish have some deep water but most of it is 5 '. The water temps are 45-50 right now and I am still picking up some nice ones. I troll real slow and it works.
    1. bdorman's Avatar
      bdorman -
      Many thanks for the information Slab. It sounds exactly like my home lake, except it's only 100 acres. It was uncanny how much your experience and mine are similar.
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