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Texas Crappie Fishing
A state full of slabs is a fair description of the Lone Star State once crappie-catchin' time arrives ... [+] Full Article
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Texas Sportsman
Statewide Slabs
If you want to fill your stringer with crappie this month, check out this selection of great crappie-catching lakes across our state.

By Mike Innis

It's getting to be that time of the year: The redbud trees are just starting to come out, the weather is beginning to moderate, and the temperatures of lake waters all over Texas are slowly creeping upward.

With all those factors coming into play, the Texas angler's thoughts will be turning to fishing for the black and white crappie that found in almost every impoundment within our borders. The new year looks to be a fantastic one for this fine game fish.

So let's take a careful look at the fish themselves, rigs to catch them on, and tips and techniques that can help you fill your stringers. And then let's tour some of the lakes with the best reputations in the entire state for producing solid catches of crappie.

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There are two subspecies of the common crappie: the black crappie, which gets its name from its slightly darkish coloration, and the white crappie. The black crappie, usually white or gray with dark gray or black spots covering most of its sides, has seven or eight dorsal spines on the top of its back. The white crappie often has distinct vertical bars of gray extending down its sides; it has five or six dorsal spines. Both of the sub-species have nearly the same feeding patterns and spawning time, and both make excellent table fare.

Crappie, not very particular about what they devour, eat most types of insects, worms, small crayfish and minnows - a variety of forage that makes choosing baits for crappie fairly simple. Just about every angler has a favorite bait that he swears will outfish any other, and that's not a bad thing, because having confidence in your bait is almost as important as selecting a favorite one through years of experience on the water. Fish your favorite; if the fish are hitting it, keep right on using it until they quit. But when the fish seem to lose interest, it's time to dig through your tackle box.

Most baits will catch fish, provided they're presented to the fish in the right way at the right time. Although minnows and worms are often very effective for catching crappie, you should consider the cost and the hassle associated with replacing them and keeping them fresh on your rig. From time to time a natural bait is all the fish will hit, but artificial lures will generally work year 'round. The three types of artificials most commonly used around the lakes in Texas are as follows.

Photo by Keith Sutton

Marabou Jigs
These are the small jigs that have small, furry bodies and puffy, feathery tails. They come in many sizes and a rainbow of colors, are very durable, and are fairly inexpensive (watch for sales at the big chain stores, where you can get them for 25 cents for a four-pack). They can even be made at home with some yarn and pipe cleaners.

Whether you buy them or roll your own, coating them with clear fingernail polish will extend their lives. Adding a dash of glitter material to them before the fingernail polish dries will give them some extra flash. Those seeking picky crappie will find these jigs to be perfect for finesse fishing, vertical-jigging over structure, or suspending under a bobber. They are available in 1/8-, 1/16-, or 1/32-ounce weights. Check with local anglers to see what the fish's favorite color happens to be at the lake you're fishing.

Curlytail Grubs
These soft-plastic baits with curly tails on the back can produce a lot of action when jigged or retrieved steadily; they come in many sizes, but the favorite seems to be a 1 1/2-inch to 2 1/2-inch grub. Rig them with a 1/8- to 1/64-ounce jighead, depending on conditions and your personal preference.

Allowance made for the type of cover you're working for crappie, spinners can be deadly effective. They are very versatile and easy to cast, and many are fairly weedless. The spinner has great appeal to a large cross-section of fish. When you toss one out with crappie on your mind, don't be surprised if a bass, catfish, or pugnacious little bluegill grabs it and runs. While the smaller spinners seem to produce best (a 1/16-ounce Beetle Spin really attracts them), you should remember to have a range of options to offer the crappie to ensure your success. Make sure you have both the gold-bladed and the silver-bladed spinners in your arsenal.

Crappie are fairly active year 'round, but fall and spring see the hottest fishing. Crappie spawn when the water temperature reaches somewhere in the 52- to 60-degree range, and just prior to the beginning of the spawn (when the water gets 48 to 51 degrees), they move into shallower water and feed aggressively. Accordingly, warming spring water temperatures cause their feeding activity to increase dramatically.

Most crappie move into shoreline cover, such as fallen trees, and shallow coves during that time. The females will lay their eggs and move to slightly deeper water while the males stay in the shallows and guard the nest. If you catch several smaller fish in shallow water, move to the nearest dropoff, and you may find the larger females.

Crappie love structure, so key on areas with prominent cover. Rockpiles, shallow coves, stumps, points, fallen trees, and submerged brush are all classic crappie hideouts. Many anglers sink old bushes, tires, and even wooden palettes to create habitat for big fish.

Vertical-jigging is a logical method for fishing submerged cover. A 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig dropped into brush and twitched will bring up many fish if conditions are right. Try swimming a small spinner through stumpfields or along fallen trees to locate the slabs. When you identify the depth at which most of the fish are holding, try suspending a jig or minnow there under a small bobber.

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