December 22, 2020 3 min read

 Source: Steve Oehlenschlager/Shutterstock.com

Every experienced freshwater angler knows spring and winter months are prime crappie seasons, but fall fishing can be rewarding for the persistent fisherman. In many Northeast parts, this transitional season provides some of the best crappie fishing opportunities as the schools start moving once the water begins to cool. 

However, there are several challenges to fall crappie fishing, including plummeting swim depths and weedy vegetation. Here are five things to keep in mind when fishing for crappie in the fall to boost your chances of success.  

1.  Location and Temperature

As the temperature drops, so do the fish. Crappie prefer to stay in dense vegetation where there is shade and plenty to eat. When the underbrush thins out along the banks and shallows during the colder months, they go deeper so they don’t lose their food supply and preferred living conditions.  

When transitioning from summer to autumn, crappie may be schooled in one area in the morning hours and move to another area in the afternoon and evening hours. They prefer cool, oxygen-rich water and will move often to remain comfortable and well-fed. Before casting your line, measure the water temperature frequently, and move with the school until you find the telltale signs of feeding fish.   

2.  Bait and Tackle

Coming off a sluggish summer, the fall crappie bite is relatively aggressive. Be prepared with the optimal baits and a well-stocked tackle box for fall crappie fishing. Go for larger baits than you would typically choose for spring and summer. Crappie have fed throughout the seasons and are bigger. Use plastics and hard baits to attract and catch the most aggressive ones.  

However, if you don’t find success with the larger baits, try micro lures, jigs or shiner minnows. Crappie are a social fish species and remain in schools. If you find aggressive ones, chances are the more timid fish are still around waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

3.  Rod Weight and Length

Fall Crappie Fishing

Leave the heavier rods at home and grab the ultra-light or light fishing rods. Let the fish be the aggressive ones, not you. Crappies are also known as papermouths. If you pull too hard on your line, you’re likely to maim the fish rather than reel it in. 

Ice rods and light cane poles work great in the fall when using micro baits. If you’re unsure about the rod length, go with what feels most comfortable.  

4.  Rigging and Jigging

There are many ways to fish for crappie and many rig setups. Drop-shot rigs and spider rigs get the best results, though the latter requires plenty of water area, room and multiple poles of varying sizes. 

Spider rigging is optimal when crappies are on the move. When spider rigging, make sure you know the local regulations and pole restrictions. It may be called spider rigging, but that doesn’t mean you can use eight poles in all locations. Use different length rods to prevent tangling and keep some long-handled nets handy for your haul.  

Drop-shot works best when you have located a dense school of fish, usually in heavy feeding areas. This setup is more compact and drops vertically instead of spreading out horizontally. It works best when you have found a school of crappies who have set up camp where the temperature’s just right and there is a healthy food supply.  

5.  Gear Up

Fishing line in water

Fish aren’t the only ones who should be comfortable and content. Ensure you have the proper fishing gear appropriate for the weather and how long you plan to stay on the water. It’s at least 10 to 20 degrees colder and windier on the water year-round, but you’ll notice that drop in temperature most during the autumn and late autumn months.

For maximum comfort, layers are the best choice. Add an extra pair of gloves to your pack. You should always have two thin pairs so you can switch them when they get wet. When it’s cooler, take two thin pairs and a heavier pair for warmth.  

If room permits, having a complete change of clothing is advisable in case you find yourself overboard. You don’t want to stand around in wet clothes when it’s chilly and windy. Make sure your duffel is waterproof or stays dry at all times.

We lose heat the quickest from our heads, so keep your face and neck shielded from the sun, wind and cool temperatures with a lightweight fishing gaiter and hat. If it’s particularly sunny, make sure you have some polarized sunglasses or other eye protection.

Gear Up with Men’s Outerwear from Huk

Reap the Rewards

While others fish in the spring and winter, you can bring in a great catch in the fall with the right gear and know-how.