BlogFebruary 2017

8 Tips For Crappie Fishing In Winter

8 Tips For Crappie Fishing In Winter

By Debbie Hanson

Feb 14, 2017

If you stay flexible, crappie fishing in winter can be rewarding. Learn about the type of gear, baits and techniques to use when targeting cold weather crappie.

If you want to test your fish finding skills and like to experiment with artificial lures, try crappie fishing in winter. Crappie are known for being freshwater nomads that move around lakes or rivers just as much during the winter as they do any other season of the year. However, that doesn't mean that crappie are difficult to catch. You can have plenty of panfish fun during the winter months, just remember these crappie fishing tips.

1. Use the right gear. Bring along a light or ultra-light spinning combo. In most situations, a 5 to 7-foot medium to slow action rod will work well for cold weather crappie fishing.

2. Switch to lighter line. When crappie fishing in winter, try using lighter line to help entice fussy crappies into biting. You may need drop the weight of your line down from six or eight-pound test to three or four-pound test. 

3. Go crappie fishing at dusk. One way to catch more winter crappie is to fish at dusk or during the evening hours. Changing light conditions will often trigger feeding activity. If you are fishing for winter crappie through the ice at night, be sure to put ice fishing safety measures into practice, and take a fishing buddy along on your trip.

4. Put your fish finder to good use. During the winter months, crappies tend to school up in deeper water. Use your sonar or fish finder to locate the baitfish and crappie schools so that you know where you need to drop your baits in order to get them into the "strike zone." Success at cold weather crappie fishing depends on the ability to find and stay on the fish.

5. Entice winter crappies into feeding tipping your jigs with a live minnow. Try using 1/16 to 1/8-ounce marabou or curly-tail jigs in white, yellow, pink and chartreuse. Tip your jigs with a live minnow or waxworm and your presentation will be even more irresistible to cold weather crappies.

6. Slow down your presentation. Using a slow, methodical presentation is important when crappie fishing in winter. Crappie won't aggressively pursue baits or lures in cold water because they are trying to conserve energy. You'll also need to pay extra close attention to your line because the bite can be very light during the winter. 

7. Be willing to experiment and switch up your lures or baits. Vertical jigs often tend to be more effective during changing light conditions or at night while horizontal jigs are often best used during the day. However, this certainly isn't a hard and fast rule, so if the crappie aren't responding to what you are offering, be willing to experiment!

8. Lightly set the hook. The key word here is lightly. Crappie are often referred to as "papermouths" because they have delicate lips that can tear quite easily. When you do get a bite, be careful not to tear the hook out of the fish's mouth.

Now that you know more about how to catch winter crappie, buy your freshwater fishing license and find a spot near you to catch them.
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.