Crappie are one of the best eating fish there is, and they’re a heck of a lot of fun to catch too. If you find the right hole, you can catch a hundred crappie in one outing. If you go at the right time at least….
Crappie follow seasonal patterns which makes them easier to catch and more likely to group up at certain times of the year. So while you can catch them at any time, there are certain months that they naturally follow patterns that make them easy to catch. The month that you should really focus on catching crappie is March, as it corresponds with the pattern of crappie moving shallow looking to spawn.
What crappie are doing in March
If you’re new to crappie fishing, they generally transition between deeper holes in the winter and summer months to shallower spots in the spring and fall. They move from their deep holes in winter to the shallows because they want to spawn. Spawning is just the term for fish reproduction. Like most freshwater fish, crappie make beds in very shallow hard bottomed areas where the females will lay eggs. Then, males will fertilize the eggs with sperm and stand guard over them for the weeks it takes them to hatch. After this, crappie will then go back deeper as the summer months begin.
But this process is not at all quick. In early to mid February crappie will often begin their move from deep to shallow water. Around March is when crappie are actually in shallower water near the areas where they will make beds and spawn. In early April, they will be spawning and watching over their beds. By late April, they are finished spawning and move back out from the shallowest water and recuperate from the process. By late May to June, they are back in deep water where they will spend the majority of summer.
So now that you know what crappie are doing throughout that time, why is March specifically the best month to catch crappie?
Crappie are Hungry All Day in March
Spawning is a very exhausting period for all fish. Females will need time to recuperate after laying hundreds of eggs and won’t aggressively feed. Males will spend weeks standing guard over their eggs – not leaving to chase a meal. So both male and female crappie will not be feeding much during the spawn itself.
But before the spawn begins – they are feeding heavily knowing what is in store. Like a bear that eats well before hibernation, crappie will be eating everything in site all day long to prepare for the spawn ahead. This makes it an ideal time to catch crappie as they are already naturally feeding heavily.
This is not true for crappie during any other time of the year. More so than any other fish, crappie are low light feeders. This means when the sun is up, they are much less likely to bite. So if you’re fishing for crappie in June past sunrise or before sunset, you’ll catch only a few fish. In March though? You can still be catching cast after cast at noon. This is what makes March such a great month for crappie fishing.
Crappie are in shallow water and accessible
But March isn’t great for crappie fishing just because the crappie are so willing to eat. It’s also when they are in the ideal location to be able to fish for them.
During other times of the year, crappie can be in up to 50 feet of water over big brush piles that you will never be able to see without great electronics and a keen eye. Even then, it will take hours of surveying a lake to find brush piles holding crappie.
In March however, they get in much shallower water where brush piles or other crappie holding cover is much more visible. You won’t even need electronics to find them often times. You can just scan the banks and look for crappie holding structures like brush piles, tree stumps, or dock pilings.
If you are a bank fisherman, this makes it even more important to go fishing in March rather than other months. While there may be a few brush piles or pilings you can reach from shore that are in deeep water that will hold crappie all year long – these are very few. Fishing in June or July for crappie requires a boat if you want to catch a complete stringer. In March though, you can actually catch your limit from the bank even in big lakes.
Fishing this shallower water is also much easier than trying to fish a deep water brush pile that you can never see. Lets say you do know that there is a brush pile in 50 feet of water and it has crappie on it in the middle of your lake. How will you know exactly where to cast so your bait goes directly over the brush pile each time? It’s not so simple without a lot of practice and good electronics work.
But if crappie are sitting on wood cover that is in say, 6 feet of water close to a bank, it’s much easier to directly target them with every cast. You may be able to see the cover they are sitting on which makes it extremely easy. Even if you can’t, you will much more easily be able to cast to and feel the cover. And being closer to the shore gives you opportunities to make mental images of where the cover is once you do find it. If you’re in the middle of a lake, it’s hard to remember the exact spot you casted. If you are 10 foot from the bank, it’s a lot easier to remember and more accurately cast to again and again.
Crappie are still very grouped up in March
Finally, the reason that March is better than any other month is that crappie are shallow but still grouped up in large schools. What makes crappie different than any other type of freshwater species is that they school in groups of hundreds. So when you catch one crappie, you’re bound to catch several if you keep fishing the same area.
However, as the crappie start actually spawning they will spread out over larger areas to make beds, fertilize eggs, and watch over them until they hatch. Then, as they return to the deeper water in the summer they will begin grouping again. But they’ll be out in that deep water where they become much harder to catch.
So March, before they actually begin spawning, is a great time to catch crappie that are moving into the shallow water but are still grouped in large schools. If you find a nice brush pile, close to the bank or a spawning flat, you may be able to pull your whole limit of crappie out and never move an inch. There can be that many in one hole.
For all of the reasons stated, March is absolutely the best month to go crappie fishing. They are bulking up for the spawn so will eat all day long. They’re in shallower water than normal which makes them easier to target, especially if you are a bank fisherman. And they’re still grouped up so that if you find the right hole you can catch them all day long. While there are other months you can crappie fish, you should absolutely set March aside for a few days of crappie fishing. You’ll be surprised just how many you can catch!