Exploring God’s Great Outdoors – All About Crappie Fishing in the Gem State 

Z-Exploring God's Great Outdoors-Tom Claycomb III (1)

By Tom Claycomb III 

I say it repeatedly but springtime in Idaho is a sportsman’s paradise. We have awesome bear, whistle pig, mushroom, okay turkey hunting and unbelievable crappie fishing, which is what we’re going to cover today. Twenty-five years ago it seemed like crappie fishing petered out about the end of May, but the last 6-8 years I’ve done well up until I knock off for the fall bowhunting season; since I’ve been really killing them the last week, I’m going to do one last crappie fishing article for the year. 

If you wonder why I rave so much about crappie fishing, it’s because you’ve never eaten them. Walleye are the best-tasting fresh water fish, with crappie and perch splitting second and third places. They’re a light, flaky fish and are tasty cooked multiple ways, which I will have to cover in a later article but for right now, let’s cover fishing for them. 

The experts will tell us that when the water temps hit 45-50 that crappie move out of their winter holes; at 55 they stage outside of their spawning areas, and at 60-65 they move in and start spawning.   

I’ve fished for crappie in numerous states. In Nebraska they spawn in the brush piles, in Texas in the willows; but here in Idaho they spawn close to the rocky banks, like 12-24 inches away. Then I do well if I put on a tube jig and clip-on a pencil bobber 18-inches above the jig. I cast it by the bank. You wouldn’t think that would work just setting there, but it does. I don’t know why but I catch twice as many crappie with a pencil bobber as I do with a red/white round bobber. 

Colors: Red/white or yellow was the color of choice in the spring. Now? It seems to change every year, so carry multiple colors. Years ago some guy 50 yards down the bank was killing them on black/white tube jigs which I’d never used. So have everyone start off with different colors until you determine what they’re hitting. 

You can catch plenty off the bank but a boat definitely helps. I like to be out 20 feet from the bank and cast in or be up within 10 feet and cast parallel to the bank, about two feet off the bank.  I’ll slowly lift my rod tip and then slowly drop it while reeling up the slack. They don’t slam it like a bass so if you feel any resistance set the hook. But when I say set the hook, I don’t mean ripping off his lips like you do a largemouth. 

To set the hook on a crappie, just semi-gently lift your rod tip and start reeling at a moderate speed. If you get too rough you’ll rip their lips off. They’re called paper mouths for a reason! Normally I recommend using a net or else 60% will rip off, especially the big ones. But with that said, this year they’re swallowing the hook more and I’ve lost very few while boating. Use your own judgment. 

After the spawn, which should be over by the time you read this article, they should have moved out to 20 feet of water. When that happens I’ll let my jig to the bottom. Then I fish semi slowly, lifting the tip and then slowly reeling in the slack while dropping the tip. 

A lot of times I’ll get hits near the surface. Did they follow my jig up or were they up high feeding? I say they’re up there feeding. Two days ago I was tying on a jig and had a rod hanging off the side of the boat. The jig was maybe 12 inches deep. A crappie hit! 

Gear: Spinning rods are the rods of choice. I used to use lightweight crappie rigs but now I use medium weight rods and for two reasons. 

  1. I don’t want to take 3-4 minutes fighting. I want to reel him in and get back out after another one.
  2. During the course of the day you’ll likely catch 1-2 catfish which might take 5-8 minutes to reel in if you’re using a little lightweight crappie rig. That’s wasted time.

I’d recommend 6-lb. test line. As a general rule, the lighter the line the more fish you’ll catch. This holds true on all species. I use 1/8 oz. jigs. Sure, a bigger jig will cast further, but they sink too fast and not naturally. If it is really windy you can clip on a small split shot. 

This won’t sound like a big deal, but if you’re catching over 200 fish per trip, your fingers will get eaten up by their sharp fins. While unhooking them, they bow up their backs and their fins are out. I’ve found that gloves really protect my hands. This is fresh on my mind since I didn’t wear them two days ago and my fingers are all cut up. 

Christian Tip #4: I’d strongly encourage you to memorize Scriptures. Everyone thinks they can’t memorize, but let me ask you a few questions. What’s your name? Phone number? Address? See, you can memorize! Trust me, you can memorize verses, chapters, whole passages like Matthew 5, 6, 7 or whole books. If you need help let me know; I’ll be glad to do a memorizing seminar for you. Fasting/praying/memorizing takes you to a whole other level in your Christian walk. 


For more information about anything in this column, including equipment or gear, contact Tom at [email protected]. 


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