There is not much I enjoy more than fishing at night for crappies and specs during the summer months. Even getting up at the crack of dawn to throw a top-water out for bass can be miserably hot where I live.
While you can fish during the day fishing for Crappies like Richard Gene does it can take its toll.
However, tossing out a few lines in the cool moonlight provides needed relief from the daytime heat. Crappie tend to like the cooler water at night. They also have incredible eyesight, so fishing at night can give you an added advantage versus fishing in full sunlight. If you are smart about your strategy, you might just reach your limit before heading home by midnight!
In this article, we will cover tips for catching more crappie than your buddies during those nighttime hours.
Choosing a lake is one of the first steps in planning a good night crappie fishing trip. Ideal lakes should be deep and clear with an area of at least 500 acres. There should be plenty of brush and debris under the water for crappie to hide. In addition, there should be plenty of structures and changes in depth along the shoreline.
The worst water for crappie fishing in the summer is in shallow, warm water. This water quickly gets deprived of oxygen, and the fish can sometimes scatter or go completely dormant. This makes for some pretty rough fishing. Stick to deeper, colder water for a good oxygen supply. Use this guideline along with advice from local fisherman, bait shops, ranger stations, and online forums to determine the best lake for your trip.
It is vital that you do some scouting during daylight hours to determine where you will fish when darkness falls. In addition, you do not want just one spot to fish but also a few backup spots to move to if needed. At night, you will find crappie grouping in areas where the bottom of the lake drops suddenly. These ledges along the bottom can be found along creek and river channels, points, and ridges. Use a bottom-contour map of the lake to find these spots.
Once you have found these locations on the map, it is time to hit the water. Move your boat to these areas and use a sonar device to determine the exact coordinates of the break-lines. Use a fish-finder to identify brush, treetops, stumps, and rocks that crappie will use to hide. Then drop buoys in these spots that will be easy to spot later that night.
In-boat lighting is very important when fishing for crappie at night. You want to double check running lights to ensure they are working. In addition, you want to have a flashlight or spotlight to signal other boats and see what you are doing. I like to use both a headlamp and a flashlight, so I can keep my hands free if needed. You will also need a life jacket and a kill switch for your engine.
Getting your gear all organized is a good step the day before your trip. Set everything out and get rid of any gear that you will not need. Make sure any batteries for your lights are replaced or recharged. If using lanterns, be sure you have plenty of fuel. Pull out your anchors and be sure there is enough rope to reach the depths at which you will be fishing. Also, mosquitoes can be especially bad at night so get out the bug spray.
As stated above, underwater structures are great for crappie to hide out in the depths. However, not all structures are created equal. You must be selective when you choose the cover you will fish. One of the best spots to look for structures is at the mouth of a creek spilling into the lake. Start at the mouth and troll back and forth looking for any structures along the channel drop.
Another type of structure that is ideal for summer crappie is a bridge. As long as the water is deep, you will find pockets of fish at various depths. You can use sonar to determine the best depth, or you can just test different depths to find the hotspot. Also, when crappie move from deep water to shallow water at night they often like to follow structures. These are typically bluffs and points. It is somewhat like closing your eyes and feeling along a wall to find your way. Fishing along these bluffs and points will often score you some crappie at night. Finally, lighted docks and marinas attract insects and baitfish. This makes lighted areas a prime spot at night.
At first you may not know the ideal depth to fish for night crappie. To get started, use the clarity of the water to determine how deep to set your bait. In clear water you should start between 20 and 30 feet deep. If the water is a bit murky, 10 to 20 feet is better. If it is flat out muddy, 5 to 10 feet is best. Remember that the murkier the water, the shallower the light will stay. Use a few different depths to figure out where your hot spot might be.
You can choose to use Coleman style lanterns above water, or you can use an underwater fishing lights. The best night crappie fishermen use underwater fishing lights. Coleman type lanterns will attract bugs to you and not great bait! Instead you want to use submersibles LED fishing lights. These are your best option because they sink beneath the surface and direct light into the water in all directions. LostDuckOutdoors makes a green LED light that runs at 4000 Lumens. It is six sided for maximum light refraction, and safe to use down to 33 feet in depth. This is the perfect scenario to attract baitfish and crappie. Blacklights can make fluorescent monofilament glow in the dark, so it is easier to tell when you have a bite. They typically run off of 12-volts system and because they are LED they will last all night long.
When picking LED fishing lights you will find a variety of choices and price does really make a difference here. You want your light to be there for you whenever you are ready to fish. This means getting a light the is strong, durable and powerful. Make sure your light is completely sealed and tested to ensure they will not leak. You also want to make sure you are dealing with a company you can get a hold of in case you have any issues. Remember your fishing time is valuable and there is nothing worse that thinking you saved a couple of dollars but have no working light.
The LDO 10 is the profession grade fishing light that you need to fill you dreams with fish!!!
When you are selecting hooks for crappie fishing at night, you want to avoid rigid, large hooks. The best options are going to be small, and thin enough to be pulled straight if snagged on brush. Crappie are finicky and will leave the area if you spend any time trying to pull your hook free. Fine-wire Aberdeens are ideal to keep your minnow moving and pull loose if you snag.
Fluorescent markings are important for crappie fishing at night. Bobbers and tackle box trays should be sprayed to give you a visible target or background. Pliers and rod tips should be painted to help you see your work and also the work a fish is lightly doing on your bait. These splashes of color will literally let you see in the dark. A blacklight can enhance this even more.
You will find that most anglers catch the majority of their crappie with jigs and minnows. However, do not limit yourself to these types of bait. If you see mayflies being eaten along the surface near your light, switch to that. If you see shad attracted by your submersible being eaten, get out a net and catch some bait. If you clip the tail, they will have more of a crippled movement that crappie love.
Jigging spoons and spinners are a good option to consider instead of jigs. They will effectively pick up the light from your submersible LED and attract some action. This is especially true if you let them gently flutter through a school of baitfish alongside your boat. The light mimics what a crappie would see from an injured baitfish.
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In addition to these standard strategies, here are a few extra tips for more success:
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As you can see, night fishing for crappie can be a great deal of fun. It can also be a huge challenge. If you take the time to do your planning and prepare the correct gear such as a Lost Duck submersible LED light, you can actually bring in three or four times the number of fish you would catch during the day. You also get to do all of this under the cool moonlight with a soft breeze blowing across the water. Nothing could be better.
Get out and
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