Spring came early in many areas this year, and that enabled us to get that first fishing trip of the year in early. For many of us, the first fishing trip of the open water season is for crappies. In some areas, fishing season for walleyes and bass and other species aren't yet open, but we can chase crappies and other panfish. If you want to get after some crappies right now, following are some ideas that could lead to success.

Crappies can be very accessible early in the fishing season. They can be caught from boats, but they can also be caught from docks or the shoreline. Crappies can be easy to catch this time of year, they're abundant in many areas across North America, and they're great on a plate.

Early Season Crappies

Crappies can provide lots of fun early in the year. Dad Travis Peterson and son Jace caught this slab in early May.​

Just like any other time of the year, you've gotta' find the fish. Crappies will be around some form of cover most of the time. The cover could be in the form of reeds or a downed tree or a dock.

Early in the year, you want to find the warmest water. Find warm water with cover that's near deep water and you'll probably have crappies within casting range. Crappies like to have access to deep water. If the weather turns cold, they like to be able to move quickly to the deeper water. They'll also move there after they spawn.

Once we find'em, we need to show'em a bait. Several presentations will work, but probably the most popular and effective, when done properly, is to suspend a jig or a basic splitshot/hook under a slip-bobber. Slip-bobbers allow an angler to cast easily and present a bait right in the crappie's face.

Start with a sixteenth ounce Fire-fly or Gypsi jig: Go smaller if the crappies don't eat it. Color is one of the things you'll need to experiment with, as sometimes the crappies can be selective. Some very successful crappie catchers like a black jig because many of the bugs being hatched early in the year are black. These anglers like to "match the hatch".

However, I've seen many instances when a pink or chartreuse or orange jig is very productive early in the year, and there aren't very many pink or chartreuse or orange bugs in the water. Keep trying different colors until the fish show you what they want.

Small minnows will work well on the jig, but so will a plastic tail. Something like an Impulse Mini Smelt or Tapeworm have put lots of crappies in the boat in the past couple of years.

A key consideration is where you set the bobber stop. It is very important to suspend your bait a bit above the fish. If you think the fish are four feet below the surface, set your bobber so it is about three and a half feet below the surface. You don't want the bait below the fish. Fish of any specie are more likely to go up for a bait than down.

If the bite is really slow, tie on a hook with a couple of split shot. Put a minnow on the hook. Even the most finicky crappie will usually hit this set-up.

Crappie action can be very good right now. Keep a couple and put the rest back. Just like any species of fish, crappie numbers can be fished down quickly. In particular, overharvest will reduce the average size of these great fish. Put a few back and we'll be able to enjoy this early season action for a long time.

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