Winter Crappie Fishing Basics: 4 Fundamentals for Beginners

While certain fish species can be harder to catch when water temperatures drop, winter crappie fishing turns on and creates fantastic opportunities for beginning anglers who want to target panfish on ultralight tackle. Learn where to find them, when to go, what to tackle to use, and which techniques will get them biting.

 

Where to Find Winter Crappie

When crappie fishing in winter, focus on areas near brush piles, standing timber, or boat docks where they are likely to congregate in dense schools. How deep to fish for crappie in the winter depends on which part of the country you’re located in. In the Midwest, for example, you’ll generally find crappie in 20 to 40 feet of water this time of year, but they are likely to move up into shallower waters after a series of warm days. If you plan to go winter crappie fishing in Texas, focus on 25 to 35 feet in places like Lake Fork or Lake O’ the Pines.

In Florida, crappie move up into shallow water areas during the winter. Focus on areas that have submerged vegetation in 3 to 8 feet of water. Winter crappie fishing from the bank can be exceptional during the winter at places like Ann Olesky Park on Lake Trafford in Southwest Florida.

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Best Time to Fish for Crappie in Winter

On overcast days during the winter crappie are often active throughout the day. You might hear a lot about crappie fishing at night during the summer since the evening hours bring the coolest water temperatures, but there’s no need to limit yourself to night fishing or low-light periods (dawn and dusk) if you’re fishing on a cloudy winter day.

 

Winter Crappie Tackle to Use

The best all-around winter crappie fishing rod is a 6.5-foot to 7-foot ultralight rod rated for 2 to 6-pound test line (lure weights of 1/32 oz. to 1/4 oz.) with fast action to detect subtle bites. Pair the rod with a 1000 series spinning reel or buy a crappie rod and reel combo that comes pre-spooled with line and is ready to fish. Stock your tackle box with tube jigs, marabou jigs, small spinnerbaits, and jigging spoons since they are some of the best lures to use to use when crappie fishing in winter. Live minnows also produce excellent action, so consider stopping at your local bait shop if you’re planning a family fishing trip.

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Winter Crappie Fishing Techniques

Now you know where to go to catch crappie, the time of day to fish, and the best tackle to use, let’s cover the best winter crappie techniques. In cold water, crappie won’t chase down a fast-moving lure like they will during the summer, so slow down your retrieve. If you’re fishing structure such as brush piles or docks, decide where to drop down and let your bait fall to the bottom. Once it’s on the bottom, lift the tip of your rod slightly and hold it steady to detect any subtle bites. If you aren’t getting any bites, try other zones in the water column.


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 shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.