Editor’s Note: Nighttime crappie fishing is one of the most-addictive forms of fishing I know. Crappie fishing at night in the summer is cool, relaxing, rewarding and an ideal way to spend quality time with friends and family away from the rest of the world. Also, crappie fishing at night doesn’t interfere with any of my daytime activities. I can fish in the afternoons after work, fish all night Friday and Saturday and still have Sunday after church to recover.
During the summer months, crappie are looking for cool, highly-oxygenated water near structure. When the water temperature heats-up, the fish often will be found on the edges of river channels or deep creek channels. Often the very-best place to locate crappie schooled-up during the summer months is on the point formed where a creek channel runs into a river channel, particularly if this spot has stumps and logs on it.
Crappie swim down these river and creek channels much like motorists travel interstate highways. These areas are where the most baitfish will be found, and the crappie will follow the bait. When you concentrate the baitfish with a light, crappie traveling along these channels will come in to feed once they spot the light and the large numbers of bait fish there. Bridges and railroad trestles that cross creeks, rivers and lakes usually effectively concentrate nighttime crappie. The pilings that stand along the edges or in the middles of underwater creek or river channels offer structure for the crappie to hold on as well as provide a place for bait fish to hold.
Also, generally some current is present around pilings. The crappie can hold on the down-current side of the pilings in the slack water and then move out into the current to feed. The pilings offer vertical structure too, which allows the crappie to position themselves close to cover in the segment of water with the most-comfortable temperature as well as the most-dissolved oxygen. Sometimes the areas under bridges may resemble a small village at night where boats may be lined-up under the bridges with crappie fishermen.
How the Crappie Position Themselves at Night:
Generally, when crappie fishing at night, my friends and I will catch crappie from 2 feet off the bottom to 2 inches under the surface. Often the crappie will be holding right on the edge of a break near the bottom. As the bait fish concentrate under the light closer to the surface, the crappie will move-up in the water. Often you can see them swim into the light and take the bait just under the surface. So, I’ll drop my line all the way to the bottom and then count each turn of the reel off the bottom, until I get a bite.
The crappie usually will hold at one spot for some time. For instance, if I start catching crappie five turns off the bottom, then after I catch a fish next, I’ll immediately bait again, drop my line to the bottom and reel five turns off the bottom. When the crappie stop biting at that depth, I’ll drop my bait all the way to the bottom and begin to slowly reel-up, counting the turns I’m taking on my reel as I bring my bait up toward the surface. The longer I fish at night, usually the higher- up in the water the crappie will be.
Several different schools of crappie may move under the lights at various times of the night. Often you may fish for 3-4 hours without ever getting a bite and then start catching crappie as fast as you can get baits in the water for 45 minutes to an hour. Another hour to 1-1/2 hours may pass without your getting a bite. Then as quickly as the catching has stopped, it may begin again and often last for only 5-15 minutes or 3-4 hours.
To learn more about crappie fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Catch Crappie All Year: Fishing a Single Pole, Using No Boat and Farming Crappie” in print, Kindle and Audible versions at http://amzn.to/1DBpnNh. You may have to copy and paste this link into your browser. (When you click on the books, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read and hear 10% of the book for free). On the right side of the page and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible book.
Tomorrow: How to Fish Underwater Highways for Nighttime Crappie