Fishing for Crappie

Crappie (and that is really what they are called) are found in many lakes and reservoirs in the Mid Atlantic States. A member of the sunfish family, they can grow to 15 inches or longer and feed mostly on other small fish. Bodies of water that have large shad populations usually yield the largest and heaviest fish.

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Black Crappie

Pomoxis nigromaculatus

White Crappie

Pomoxis annularis

Crappie with swiss army knife to show scale

Crappie with swiss army knife to show scale.

They are fond of schooling and often suspend middepth where visibility is better rather than staying near the bottom. For that reason it is often to necessary to adjust the depth that you are fishing at until you start getting hits. Once you catch one you will likely catch others until the school moves away.

Crappie tend to look up when searching for food so it is best to have the bait or lure above them so that they can see it.

Lures and Baits for Crappie

Over the years, I have caught hundreds of crappie with a variety of artificial lures such as inline spinners, jigs, spoons and even small crankbaits. By far my best success has been using an ultralight rod with a 1/16 ounce leadhead jig with a 2 inch rubber twirltail grub. I always carry some of these in my fishing vest in black, white, yellow and chartruse with silver fleck.

In terms of natural baits, live minnows that are one to three inches long fished using a slipfloat rig has yielded that best results for me. Earthworms, nightcrawlers and crickets also have worked well.

Another common name for crappie is papermouth due to their small delicate mouths. Use caution when setting the hook as it is very easy to rip the hook out jerking the line suddenly.

When using artificial lures such as maribou or twirl tail jigs, it is generally best to use a slow continuous retrieve rather than the stop and go retrieve commonly used when fishing for freshwater bass. That being said it is sometimes useful to pause your retrieve momentarily from time to time to see if that will trigger a strike.


Although there are two separate species of crappie, they are virtually identical. They can be differentiated by counting the spines on the dorsal fins. Often they are found in the same body of water. From fishing standpoint there is really no difference between the two species.