Night Fishing for Crappie
Good lord I love night fishing. When the summer sets in, it doesn’t matter how early you wake up. Fishing is hot and sweaty. Thankfully, we can still catch fish at night. Casting a few lines in front of the moon gives much needed relief from the scorching heat of the day.
Crappie are known for having incredible eyesight, but they do like the cooler water found at night. If you are careful about how you go after crappie, you might hit your limit before dawn. In this article, we will cover how to properly and responsibly catch crappie at night.
Choose the Lake
Picking a lake is one of the first steps you should make before fishing crappie at night. Lakes ideal for night fishing should be deep and clear with at least 500 acres of water. You want there to be debris and brush underwater so the crappie can hide. Structures like dams and docks can work for this as well.
The absolute worst spot for crappie is where the water is hot and shallow. This water is lacking oxygen, and fish there can go dormant. In deeper water you will have a better supply of oxygen. Stick with this advice along with anything you can get from local bait shops or anglers.
Scout Your Spot
You must scout out your fishing spot during the day to figure out where the fish will be at night. In addition, you should have a couple backup spots in case your primary location does not work out. Crappie like to group in spots were the bottom of the lake drops off. You can find these spots with a bottom-contour map of the lake or with certain fish finding equipment. Be sure to look for debris under the water that could hide fish. These spots should be marked for that night by GPS or otherwise.
Select Your Night Fishing Gear
If you want to fish for crappie at night, you will need lights on your boat. Be sure these lights are working before nightfall. Also be sure you have a spotlight, headlamp, or flashlight to signal other boats and see what you are doing. You also should have a lifejacket and your engine should have a kill switch.
You should always set out your gear the day before your fishing trip. Be sure to eliminate any gear that is not needed. You need your pack to be as light as possible. Make sure batteries are charged or replaced so your lights will work. Ensure there is an anchor on board, and that is has plenty of rope. You should also have bug spray as mosquitoes can get bad at night.
Stick to Structures and Focus on Depth
Structures are where you will find crappie, but they are not all the same. Structures at the mouth of a creek that feeds into a lake are ideal. These are perfect spots for crappie to hide looking for food. Bridges can work well. They hang out around the pillars and move along bridges when travelling at night. They move in a way similar to how we would walk along a wall in the dark. They feel their way to their next spot. Also, lighted docks and marinas can work well as they bring in the bugs.
It can be tough to figure out the right depth for crappie, but the clarity of the water helps. In clear water you can start out between 20 and 30 feet below the surface. If it is a bit cloudy, you can try 10 to 20 feet. If it is muddy, five to ten feet is best. Light travels a shorter distance in cloudy water, so keep that in mind.
Night Fishing Light - Light your Boat
You have lots of options for light in your boat. However, light means more than just seeing what you are doing. The light attracts the insects and minnows that attract crappie. Lights above the surface will bring in the bugs, but that does take some time. Try putting lights on only one side of the boat so they don’t swarm you. These lights not only bring in bait for fish, but they allow you to work with your hands.
When night fishing for crappie, it is also advised that you have a light in the water. You can use floating lights that shine straight down, or you can use a submersible that shine in all directions. You do not necessarily want your baited line right in the light. Sometimes fish will hit at bait that is on the edges of the light’s area.
Your hooks for crappie fishing at night should be small and thin. If you get snagged on brush, you want to be able to pull the hook straight. You do not want a scenario in which you fight with underwater brush for several minutes. Your fishing gear should have fluorescent markings so you can see them at night. This includes bobbers, tackle box trays, pliers, and rod tips. Barbless Hooks for Fishing work especially well for this. They also help keep catch and release fish healthy, so please consider them for your gear.
Crappie anglers like jigs and minnows. These are not necessarily your limit on lures for night crappie. If mayflies are moving on the surface, lures that imitate a mayfly may work. If minnows are being eaten near your light, then switch to minnows or a similar lure. Spoons and spinners can be a good alternative. They pick up the light from a submersible quite well. The light makes them look like an injured baitfish.
Tips for Night Fishing for Crappie
Start with #1 sized hooks and ¼ ounce sinkers or ¼ ounce jigheads. This is normal for crappie, so you should start there and then make adjustments.
- If you use plankton style fishing line, it will actually bring in baitfish that bring in crappie.
- When there is no time to pick up minnows, you can use anchovies whole or in pieces.
- Get your bait size right. If it is too big you won’t catch anything. If it is too small you will only catch small fish.
- The key to night fishing is controlling the light. With a full moon, that is tougher. Try to let your lights control the night.
Night fishing for crappie can be tons of fun. It lets you cool off from the heat of the day and can give you a bountiful meal. However, you should be prepared to make some changes to your strategy. If you take the time to change your tactics and accommodate the cool of the night, you can come home with lots of fish. Just think about how light affects the fish, and you will likely see a full stringer at dawn.
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