Tips For Crappie Fishing In Winter


Crappie fishing in winter can be challenging. When the water gets cold and the days get short, many anglers assume that crappie fishing is over for the year. However, savvy anglers know that these are the perfect conditions for sneaky smallmouths. Crappie generally moves to deeper water during the heat of summer. By autumn, they retreat to their preferred shallow water habitat to overwinter in relative darkness with less risk of being discovered by hungry piscivorous predators. However, as any crappie fisherman knows, not all fish act predictably. While some populations of crappie spend the entire year in one general area, others are more transient or even migratory. Some might only remain shallow for a few weeks before heading back out into deeper water. Others may stay close to shore throughout the winter months and even migrate from smaller feeder streams up into larger rivers and lakes that tend to freeze sooner but are less likely to completely ice over. Regardless of where your local crappie population goes when it gets cold outside, there are some great ways to find them and catch them in winter.

Equipment for Crappie Fishing in Winter

The first step in any successful crappie fishing expedition is selecting the right tackle. If you've been fishing the same way all year, you may need to change your approach to catching crappie in winter. A few tweaks to your gear and technique can help you catch more fish, even when the water's colder, there's less daylight and fewer anglers are on the water. Shallow water generally means less light. To make up for this, you'll want a brighter, more powerful light than you might use in the summer. A small, battery-powered light is a great option for illuminating the water for added stealth. Crappie tends to be less selective in the colder months. They may even eat shiners and minnows that fall off the hook. To make it easier to fish with a large bait, try a larger hook size and a smaller swivel. You may also want a longer rod to help you reach feeder creeks that are farther away.

Find a sheltered spot with deeper water

In many lakes and rivers, the shallow water is frozen solid by the time winter arrives. If you're targeting shallow-water crappie, your best bet may be to try a protected, sheltered spot where the water flows more slowly or is slightly warmer due to solar heating. Look for areas where small tributaries enter the main body of water. You may also want to check out deeper docks, piers, and bridge pilings that are out of the direct flow of water. In larger lakes, look for sheltered areas with deep water nearby, such as large bays or coves protected from the wind where there is more current and a greater range of water temperatures.

Use jigging motions in the shallows

Crappie often sits at the very bottom of the water column, even in less than a foot of water. Jigging or vertical fishing is a great way to reach these crappies. Crappie is less likely to notice a slowly moving jig in the water than a slowly moving baitfish. If you want to remain especially stealthy, you can use a jig with only a bit of weight, a small split shot, or a jig with a tiny piece of bead chain. Crappie tends to hold on to the bottom during the winter, so you may even want to try a blind jigging technique by slowly dragging your jig through the water without any bait attached.

Use small, light hooks and soft plastic bait

Crappie often swallows the hook when you hook them in the mouth. If you use a heavy, sharp hook, it may tear the fish's mouth and cause injury or infection. If you don't want to lose any fish, you may want to use a smaller-than-normal hook. Crappie often has soft mouths and are less likely to injure your hook if you use a soft bait, such as a soft plastic minnow or a jig with a soft bait attached. For added softness, you can coat your hook with a tiny bit of beeswax.

Be prepared to deal with ice and snow

Ice fishing may be your only option if your water is completely frozen over. If you are angling from a frozen lake, be careful that the ice is strong enough to support your weight. You can check the ice thickness with a depth finder or by hammering a rod or shovel blade into the ice and measuring how far down it goes. If you are using a depth finder, be sure to calibrate it for ice before you go out on the lake. Ice thickness varies throughout a lake, so you want to know where the ice is thickest. If you are fishing from a river, you can usually wade up to your knees without falling through, but always be careful. Snow is a great insulator and can help keep your feet warm while you fish. However, be careful you don't walk on the ice with a foot covered in snow, or you may increase the risk that the ice will break and you will fall through.


Crappie can be a finicky species, especially during the winter months when things are less predictable. However, there are plenty of ways to fish for them successfully. You just need to find the right spot, use the right equipment and employ the right techniques. With a bit of winter crappie fishing know-how, you can enjoy catching these tasty fish all year long. Now that you know where and how to catch crappie during the winter months, all that's left is to get out there and do it! Crappie fishing in winter can be challenging, but it's also a great way to add variety to your fishing experience when other species are less active.

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