When Do Crappie Spawn? – and How You Can Make the Most of It!

The spawning season is the best time to catch crappie, as most anglers are aware.

Warmer temperatures will break the winter’s torpor and fish will be hungry.

This is true for all species, but it’s also true for crappie. The trick is to know when you should expect pre-spawn gluttony as well as seasonal variations in location and behavior.

You can catch crappie all year long if you understand when crappie spawn.

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Seasonal Changes are Critical

Crappie responds to cold water by diving deeper and slowing down. Crappie, like all fish, are cold-blooded and their metabolisms slow to a snail’s speed by winter. This allows them to conserve energy until spring.

What’s better than direct sun and a sandy shore? This is a winning combination!

They will still eat cold water but this does not mean they aren’t able to drink it.

As the days get longer and the sun gets warmer, the water temperatures rise and so do the energy levels for crappie. After a long period of anorexia caused by cold, their activity will increase and they will start to feed again.

They are driven by instinct and are preparing for the spawn. All of them will need lots of energy.

Pay attention to the water temperature

Veteran slab hunters will tell ya that crappie activity is most common in areas with the highest sun exposure, such as concrete pilings or large rocks.

This is how crappie pros, Kent Driscoll from Tennessee, use it to their advantage. He says that crappie is beginning their spring migration. They move from deep water up to the creeks and close to the spawning areas in preparation for the spawn. “A lot of crappies will move to the north end, and more specifically, the northwest ends of most lakes since these areas heat up first.

crappie on stringer

This is a great spring stringer!

This is logical: even a small temperature difference can have a big impact on crappie energy and appetite. These warm spots are the best places to fish for hot crappie.

As the water temperature rises further, to the high 50s or low 60s, the slabs are triggered to initiate the spawn. The spawn peak is in the high 60s. By the mid-50s, the crappie will be staging shallow.

This is not one-size-fits-all advice. Watch your local water supply like a hawk and be ready to go if it crosses the 50-degree mark.

It could be late January or early February in southern Louisiana, but it could also mean April in Minnesota.

Spawning Behavior

Male crappie begins to search for the best places to build a nest when the water is at a warm 60 to 65 degrees. They like sand, gravel, silt or sand bottoms, and thin water, often only a few feet deep.

Crappie will look for vertical structures, such as stumps, old pilings, and trees. They’ll even look for reeds to orient their nests among these features.

The females, on the other hand, will stay close to these areas until the spawning begins. The males will then herd them into their nests to perform their seasonal reproductive dance.

What does this mean for you?

Actionable knowledge is a big part of what makes a tournament champion different from the average angler. While techniques and lure selection are important, knowledge is the key to success in tournaments. However, for monster slabs of fish, it’s 90% about knowing where and when to look.

crappie caught during the spawn

Pay attention to the water temperature in your area. Begin to reach warm spots in your local lake as soon as the temperature starts to rise into the 50s. It’s best to start on the northwestern side. However, any heat sinks and areas where a small creek flows into the main body are good places to look. I wouldn’t miss a single one.

As temperatures rise, you should identify potential spawning areas and begin to work those. Do not just look at the nest site; consider surrounding structures and covers that could hold large females while they wait for their turn.

Once the water reaches the high 60s, the spawning is underway. You’ll be able to make the most out of this opportunity if you have an intimate understanding of crappie behavior.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.