Crappies are actually a member of the sunfish family and are classified into two categories. The black crappie is usually darker, has seven or eight dorsal spines and is normally found in larger, deeper impoundments.
The white crappie, which is obviously lighter in color, has six dorsal spines. They also sport vertical bars on their sides. These fish prefer quiet backwaters. Both species can grow to upwards of 3 or even 4 pounds, but fish in the three-quarters of a pound to 1 pound are more typical.
Crappies are a schooling fish and if you catch one, chances are there are more close by. They can be caught by still fishing with a bobber, casting, trolling or drifting. There is no doubt spring is the best time to catch these tasty fish as they are involved in their spawning runs.
Crappies love cover. So locate stumps, brush or artificial attractors at the appropriate depth and you will find plenty of action. The neat thing about chasing crappies is expensive gear or bottomless tackle boxes are not necessary. A 6- to 7-foot long light action spinning rod pretty much takes care of the equipment side. They can be taken on many types of live bait and artificial lures, a plain minnow or small artificial jig reigns supreme and accounts for the majority of all crappie taken. Crappies can be real finicky when it comes to color selection, so don’t be afraid to switch lures until you connect on the right combination.
At dawn you’re likely to find them close to the surface or in water four feet deep or less but as the sun hits the surface they will often times drop 5 to 10 feet deep.
Another advantage to this particular springtime fishing opportunity is that you can be reasonably assured of some great early season action. And what better way to spend a beautiful spring day especially after our recent long, cold winter!
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.