Species Spotlight: Chasing the Colossal Crappie

The fascination with Black Crappies is a growing trend that has been firmly planted throughout North America. This panfish gem is the focused subject of numerous tournaments, television shows, web sites and countless “how to” articles, all purposely developed for this rising star and for the immense surge of dedicated anglers that target them. But why all the fuss for the Black Crappie?

As anglers, and over time, I think we all generally become partial to a certain species. Many of us become this way because we are influenced or intrigued by the eating quality, the fight, the challenge, the potential size or the ease of access of a particular fish. All leading factors that appeal to our interests and feed our passion for that irresistible prize below the surface. When it comes to the Black Crappie, all attributes of an irresistible angling prize are offered in abundance!

Originally introduced to Manitoba, the Crappie has flourished in a number of fisheries throughout the Eastern Region and in the Pembina Valley Region to the south. Increasing in popularity, these fisheries have exposed this unique panfish into a highly desired opportunity that offers so much to so many.

The undersized aspect of a Crappie is quickly overlooked once you have been afforded the chance to hook into a slab sized sample. The “slabs” or “pie plates” are the chosen targets of the Crappie world which represent specimens that often grow wider than they are long, with many exceeding the 15 inch mark and colossal fish surpassing 16 inches. Getting into a school of slabs that offers fish, after fish, after fish, is an epic occurrence that any angler would only dream about.

Hooking up on a giant Crappie is an experience that you will never forget, they hit hard, they pull hard and the visual encounter that they give, once landed, is absolutely exhilarating. Holding up that first monster slab is a moment that can bring tears of joy or abrupt laughter. It’s an instant where you stand in disbelief and wonder how a fish so small in stature instantly becomes larger than life.

When, Where and How?

Black Crappies offer excellent open water opportunities during the months of May, June and September and hard water opportunities focusing on the months of December, January and March. Master Angler size fish are consistent throughout the targeted open and hard water months. The minimum requirement is 12 inches with many reaching 15 inches plus. The Manitoba record is 17 inches.

Top producing locations are Caddy, North Cross, South Cross, Sailing and Brereton Lake to the east and Lake Minnewasta and Mary Jane Reservoir to the south.

Crappies move with the seasons. In May and early June during the spawn, target them in shallow bays where they will be congregated in large numbers. Post spawn periods of mid to late June and the fall months will show Crappies on deep water structure and immediate drop offs adjacent to spawning bays. Look for weed edges, sunken trees and rock piles that are holding fish. Winter months hold Crappies throughout various water columns, take the time to locate the big schools and stay on top of them.

Crappies love finesse presentations, use 1/16 to ¼ oz jigs tipped with grub tails, vertical jigging or with a cast a retrieve method over structure. Small swim or crank baits also work well, especially when schools are scattered and the need to cover water is required during the open water seasons. A good rod and reel set up is a 5 ½ to 6 ½ foot ultra-light spinning rod with a reel spooled with 4 pound test fluorocarbon to maximize your presentation and increase your ability to feel the light takes that Crappies usually offer. The same goes for the hard water season, use ultra-light rods with reels spooled with 4 pound test. Use 1/16 to ¼ oz jigs tipped with grub tails and small rattle spoons.