Don’t Forget those Summer Crappies

Crappies do not have to be the forgotten summer fish if anglers follow a simple procedure for finding them.
Jerry Carlson

Summer is a busy time in the fishing world. There are many choices a person can make when it comes to targeting fish species. Although I do love to chase walleyes and bass in the warm season, I sometimes take a break from these fish and spend a day catching crappies.

Crappies are a somewhat forgotten fish during the summer months. Once the spring shallow bite is over and their spawn is completed, many anglers give up on the crappie. It doesn’t have to be so.

I have a long proven process I use for locating summer crappies that has worked for me for years. It is not complicated and as long as it works, I keep coming back to it.

The first step in locating these summer fish comes in picking the correct lake. Most of my summer crappie waters are lakes that have a healthy population of crappies, are relatively shallow and have a good weedline with a mix of cabbage.

I find cabbage weed to be a key ingredient in locating summer panfish. This weed offers cover, shade and protection for many species of fish with crappies being one of them.

Jerry Carlson
Jerry Carlson

Since not every speck of cabbage or every inch of weeds is going to hold crappies, I use a search process that involves trolling. By tying on small jigs such as Beetle Spins and drop spin jigs that are tipped with Gulp! one inch minnows or crappies minnows, I will work an area until I find a cluster of fish. Many times this depth is about eight to ten feet.

Once fish are located, I will throw a marker to pinpoint their location and then cast to the fish instead of trolling. I like to reel my jig back very slowly so it barely clears the weeds. After I am working the fish, tipping the jig with a little added temptation may not be needed. I let the fish tell me that.

If I am targeting crappies on a lake that has clear water and deeper weeds, I will focus on the weed edge in 12 to 14 feet of water. By adding split shots in front of the jig, depth control is relatively easy.

Don’t be surprised if you find large bluegills attacking your jigs. Big gills are pretty aggressive in the summer. Bass and northern will also find these tiny morsels quite appealing.

One of the reason I love to catch summer panfish has to do with their eating quality. In my book, crappies are one of the best table fare fish around, even in the summer months.

Some anglers claim summer crappies are mushy and not good to eat. I do not find that to be true as long as I take good care of them after they are caught.

By taking along a cooler, I can put the fish on ice as soon as I pull them into the boat. If I am not far from home, I will keep them alive in the livewell until I am done fishing and then clean them immediately when I get home. I always throw the fillets in very cold water to firm them up.

Crappies do not have to be a forgotten summer fish. With a little searching, a person can find lakes and locations that hold these panfish all summer long. Once a crappie hole is discovered, they tend to return to these summer haunts year after year.

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