Fall is a Crappie Feeding Frenzy!
As the days get shorter and the nights are cool, it signals the time that black crappies once again start to school. October is crappie time in Wisconsin. Other than the spring spawn, this is the best time of year to catch a bunch of tasty crappies. As water temperatures cool and the aquatic vegetation starts to die back, bait fish will have no place to hide so they start schooling in large balls. The crappies will follow.
Crappies will position themselves in the water column differently depending on the size and depth of the lake. For deep lakes, I find the fish will suspend over open water with soft bottom with some structure. For lakes in the norther parts of the state, they move to heavy wood or other visible structure. As a rule, the deeper the body of water the greater the tendency to suspend over open water. The other crucial factor in location is the bait fish, find the bait fish and you will find the crappies.
It is essential that you have a good graph and a trolling motor with spot lock. I start searching the main lake basin by the main lake points where there is structure. I start fishing when I find a school on the graph. Keep in mind that crappies love vertical structure coming off the bottom. The depth of water does not matter if there is bait and a little structure, the crappies will suspend above it. When fishing the crappies vertically you want to fish the upper fish in the water column first, not to spook the crappie below.
When schooled, crappies are easy to catch, as they are feeding so you just need to present the bait at the proper depth. I prefer to use slip bobber rigs on a 1/32 oz lead jig tipped with a small twister tail or minnow. I find the best colors are purple or chartreuse. For slip bobbers I usually fish with a minnow. Set the bobber in the zone of the actively feeding fish. I always try to fish vertically beneath the boat. Therefore, a trolling motor with spot lock is essential. When fishing a jig with plastic, make sure the jigging motion is subtle, a slow up and down motion does the trick. Jigging too fast will cause you to lose contact with the bait and light bites will be difficult to detect. Use a slow retrieve with numerous pauses, most of the time the crappies will strike on the pause. Try experimenting with the retrieve to find what works, as a rule, slow is always best. Crappies are known for striking upward, so if you see your line go slack a crappie has probably swum up from below to eat the jig.
I prefer a medium light seven-foot rod with a spinning reel spooled with four-pound test for slip-bobber fishing. A longer pole will aid in the hook set. For fishing plastics, a six-foot light action spinning rod spooled with four-pound test will do the trick. The shorter rod will be easier to control
Fall is an awesome time to catch some of the biggest crappies of the year. Give fall crappie fishing a try, you will not be disappointed. With crappies in big schools remember to take a few and release the rest to preserve the resource.
Captain Dave Duwe fishes the lakes of Walworth County in Southern Wisconsin and can be reached at 262-728-8063