The Fourth of July means fireworks and grilling for most folks, but for crappie anglers, it’s time to hit the lights.
Scorching summer temperatures have taken root and it doesn’t appear we’re in for cooler weather anytime soon. However, that shouldn’t keep you off the water, especially if you’ve got access to a pier, or better yet, a lighted fish house and some time off to enjoy some great fishing.
Fishing during the heat of the day can be downright exhausting and hazardous to your health, but if you’ve got even a few hours during the holiday or on the weekend, try night fishing.
Even if you don’t have access to structure with lights, there are a variety of glow jigs and other baits that will attract fish of numerous varieties should you find time to head to the nearest fishing hole and tote along a couple of bright halogens for company.
Crappie typically will move into deeper water as the mercury rises during the summer and hang out near the thermocline, an area where the water temperature rapidly begins to fall. Some seasoned crappie veterans have been known to bring their own lights and dangle the lumens above places they intend to fish.
Black and white crappie feed on a variety of forage sources, including small fish, crustaceans and insects. Though biologists tend to think black crappie feed less on small fish than white crappie, they nonetheless will take minnows or other small live bait if it is presented to them. The best artificial crappie lures mirror the look and behavior of small bait fish, their favorite meal.
Crappie fishing should be easy, which is one of its biggest appeals — besides being able to come home with some excellent table fare. Ultra-light spinning tackle is perfect for crappie fishing especially considering even a monster fish might not top 4 pounds. Even if you’re fishing around structure such as boat docks or piers, you can get away with using super light line.
To keep crappie fishing even easier without messing with live bait, you can use a number of jigs and lures that all have proven equally adept at catching fish. Successful crappie baits include curly-tail grubs, spinners such as Roadrunners, Rooster Tails and Beetle Spins, and the ubiquitous crappie tube. All of these lures come in a rainbow of colors, usually in plenty of bright shades, and work equally effective in most situations.
Though a hungry or aggressive crappie will take a larger bait than anglers might think, most anglers don’t go larger than a 1/4-ounce jig or spinner, opting for 1/8-, 1/16- or even 1/32-ounce sizes in many settings. You normally won’t be casting far if you’ve located a school of fish holding to any kind of structure or cover.
When it comes to habitat, crappie frequent a variety of underwater haunts available to anglers in boats and on the bank. Submerged logs and standing timber should be the first place to dip a bait since they can hold fish almost all year. Rocky areas such as riprap or gravel bars also tend to harbor crappie, especially if the fish go shallower.
Texas anglers can reap the rewards from a day spent on the water this time of year in a big way. Anglers are allowed a 25-fish daily bag with a 10-inch minimum. The overall bag limit includes white and black crappie in any combination and is the same for white bass, which also frequent many of the same locales as crappie. If you happen to limit out quickly after finding a good school of crappie, the hearty limit on white bass may be too tempting to pass up, especially if they are acting right.
And you never know — you might just bump into a lunker largemouth bass in the shallows. The state record 18.18-pounder was caught on live bait, too.