Almost anywhere you find brush, stumps, logs, or any type of bottom break, you can catch crappie, even when you’re fishing from docks and piers.
The crappie spawn is on from now through the end of May in many areas of the country. Most anglers will fish from a boat to catch these delicious panfish. However, if you don’t have a boat, here are several suggestions on how to take crappie with no boat.
Although many fishermen who fish crappie tournaments have emphasized spider rigging (slow trolling with often as many as 12 to 14 poles out at one time) to catch crappie, many crappie anglers, including myself, still enjoy single-pole fishing for crappie with jigs and minnows.
Wade to crappie
In the spring when crappie move to the bank, I’ll occasionally wear shorts and tennis shoes (depending on how cold the water is) or put on waders and head into the shallow water of lakes and rivers, using a jig pole and a crappie jig. I’ll swim the jig around the brush to catch crappie and tie a stringer to my waist for the fish I catch. Wade fishing for crappie, especially in shallow water, creeks, sloughs, and bays off the main river or creek channel can be very productive. Using this tactic means you don’t have to have a boat. I often catch as many crappie as (and sometimes more than) the folks in boats when I’m wading.
Wade fishing in shallow water is a great way to find and catch spawning crappie at this time of the year.
I’ll cut limbs from sycamore trees during the wintertime and stick them in the mud in the bottoms of rivers and lakes. When the water comes up during the spring, those limbs will be in two to four feet of water. I’ll fish with a bobber during the spring spawn by putting a Fle-Fly Go Go crappie jig about two feet under the bobber, casting it out, and letting it fall beside the sycamore branches.
You can walk the bank with an ultralight rod and use a bobber and a Go Go minnow with a 1/16-ounce weedless head tied about a foot or two under the bobber, then cast and retrieve around stumps and logs that you visibly can see from the bank.
Rent a boat slip and/or fish from docks
One place you always can find crappie throughout most of the year is at floating boat docks. Most people who rent slips in a boat dock will put brush at the back ends or the front ends of it. Ask the marina owner if you can fish in one of those vacant slips. Consider also the possibility of leasing one of those slips, just as if you have a boat to put in it. Sink brush or stake beds in the boat slip that crappie will come to, and you can fish at anytime of the day or night. This tactic works best on deep-water floating docks.
You may want to get two or three families that don’t have boats to divide the cost of renting the boat slip for the year to give everyone a place where they can fish and catch crappie. Most boat slips are covered and lighted and will give you dry spots to fish in inclement weather and at night.
Learn about bank and pier fishing for crappie
Many states have fishing piers at lakes or rivers, and state-owned lakes open to anglers. Check with the fishery section of your state department of conservation. Also use a state road map to look for places where bridges cross creeks, branches, and backwater areas. Often you can go right down the side of the bridge and fish. Crappie usually hold next to bridge and pier pilings, which are very productive places to catch crappie from the bank.
Images courtesy John Phillips, article by John Phillips and Jeff Williams