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Crappies are a panfish species that can be found in rivers, lakes and ponds in almost every state. They can be caught during every season, with rod and reel or through the ice, and the best bait for crappies are small minnows. Crappies are good eating and fun to catch, providing loads of fast action for anglers all over the United States.
Keep your minnows small. The size of the minnow is important, and the ideal crappie minnow is less than 2 inches long. Bait shops carry various sized minnows, so be sure to ask for those that are within this size. Crappies will take even larger minnows and shiners, but your best result will be with those that are between 1 and 1 1/2 inches in length.
Hook the minnow in the back when using a rod and reel. Avoid hooking the minnow through the spine, or it will not swim naturally and will soon die. The hook should enter the minnow just below the back fin.
Use a small hook. Crappies can be caught using a No. 4 hook, a 6, and even an 8. Crappies have delicate mouths that tear easily; hence one of their nicknames--papermouths. Be careful when setting the hook to keep from tearing the mouth and costing you a fish.
When fishing for crappies from a boat or canoe, attach a small split shot on the line. This will keep the minnow down and stop it from swimming up toward the surface. Crappies congregate in schools at different depths depending on the season, and you can catch one after another under the right conditions. They are shallow for spawning in the spring and seek shade from docks and other structures in the summer. Crappies like their minnows to be moving. Trolling from a boat can be effective, as can a slow cast and retrieve.
When ice fishing, move tip-ups around until locating schools of crappies. A minnow should be set about a foot off the bottom in the winter. Once you start to catch crappies in a location, bring your other tip-ups into the area to blanket that spot. Jigging for crappies with an ice rod can be quite successful. Some ice fisherman catch crappies with minnows by hooking them through the lips on a very tiny jig head and twitching them up and down through the ice.
Employ a bobber when fishing for crappies with minnows from shore. Set the bobber a couple feet above the hook and put a small split shot a few inches from the hook to keep the minnow down. Watch the bobber closely for any movement. Crappies are especially susceptible to this tactic in the springtime.
John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.