How Long the Crappie Spawn LastsBirmingham, Alabama – Editor’s Note: Ronnie Capps of Tiptonville, Tennessee, and his partner have won six World-Champion crappie tournaments and have earned over $1.4 million catching crappie. “But I think we’ve spent all that money entering and traveling to crappie tournaments,” Capps says with a smile. Ronnie Capps, an expert on when the crappie spawn starts, where to find the fish during the spawn and how to catch crappie when a cold front hits, dispels crappie myths many of us embrace as fact.
Ronnie Capps, when he speaks, crappie anglers listen
When the water temperature hits 59 degrees, then you need to start looking for the white crappie to begin their spawn. If an area has rising water and a temperature of 59 to 60 degrees, that’s when the crappie will move into the more-shallow water to spawn. The black crappie probably will have spawned-out early, since they usually spawn before the white crappie do.
Most people believe the crappie spawn only lasts for about 2 weeks. But I’ve found that the crappie spawn can last into the summer because it doesn’t happen all at once. There’s definitely a peak of the spawn. However, some crappie lag behind and don’t spawn until the summer. I’ve seen male crappie go on their nests in March and still be on their nests in June. I think the females move in and out of an area to lay their eggs. When the males are guarding the nests, they want to kill or run off the baits you’re fishing with rather than try to eat them. But a female crappie loaded-up with eggs eats everything in sight. Now after she spawns, she’s slow to recover. There’s usually a 2-week period of time or longer when the female doesn’t eat much. I know at Kentucky Lake, by mid-June, I can catch some female crappie pretty deep – in 18 to 20 feet of water – and they’ll be filled-out and recovered from the spawn. I’ll usually catch them on the same structure I’ve caught them earlier in the year before the spawn starts. But some of the crappie still will be spawning even then and in other sections of the U.S.
Most people believe that when a cold front hits a lake during spawning season, the crappie will move out of shallow water and back into deeper water. But, if you get 1 or 2 days of cold weather, the crappie won’t abandon their nests. Although the crappie will be harder to catch and may shut their mouths a little bit, they don’t have any other choice than to remain on their nests. I’ve fished through cold fronts during tournaments and guided people to crappie, just like I’ve fished on sunny days. I will get fewer bites on days when a cold front comes through than when the weather stays steady.
A cold front generally brings wind and rain. With the wind come waves, which means you’ll be bouncing up and down. Then you can’t hold your pole steady and still. Under these conditions, you’ll probably think the crappie aren’t biting. However, what’s really going on is you just aren’t able to present the jig or the minnow as slowly as you can when you’re not bouncing up and down on the waves.
For instance, if I’m spider rigging or trolling with my B’n’M Buck’s Graphite Jig Pole, (www.bnmpoles.com), my poles are sitting on a rack, and I’m battling waves, instead of my baits moving slowly on an even plane, they may be jumping as much as 6 to 12 inches every time the boat goes over a wave. If I’m hand poling with my B’n’M Capps and Coleman All Purpose and Wading Rod, then every time the boat moves, my hand moves the pole, which causes the bait to move. I also like B’n’M Buck’s Best Ultralight Pole.
When crappie are reluctant to bite, they don’t want to see baits jumping every which way, but prefer baits to sit still, so they can come close and suck them into their mouths. I don’t believe that when a cold front occurs that the temperature affects the crappie as much as the wave action does. That wave action doesn’t directly affect the crappie; it impacts the fisherman’s ability to control the bait. But, no matter the weather, the crappie spawn still will be happening, often until mid-June.