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Cover some water for mid-summer crappies

For most anglers, crappies are a spring thing. In the spring, crappies are often shallow, first to eat, then to spawn. They are relatively easy to catch then, so that is when most of us fish for them.

By this time of the summer, most people have abandoned crappies in favor of easier-to-find species, like bass and bluegills. But if you, like me, happen to really enjoy both catching and eating the silver-sided, white-fleshed crappie, here are some ways you and your family can get in on some mid-summer crappie action.

Crappies, like walleye, are low-light feeders. The first hour of the day and the last are often the best for mid-summer crappies. On most good crappie lakes in our state, these two periods of the day will find fish cruising along in the top foot or two of water over and amongst cabbage beds. Here they feed on any insects that happen to be hatching, and on minnows. On a calm evening you will often see the swirls they make on the surface as they pick off their prey.

You can catch them by either casting or trolling. For casting, I like a 10- to 14-foot ultra-light spinning rod teamed up with a medium-sized spinning reel. I spool it with light line, no heavier than four-pound monofilament, because the combination of the light line and long rod allows me to cast light jigs a good distance.

Why is that important? Because crappies near the surface spook very easily. The further you can cast, the more fish you will catch. You can use a small bobber, but you will catch more fish without it. Just throw the lightest jig you can a far as you can and reel it back to the boat at a steady pace, reeling just fast enough to keep the jig in that top foot or two of water, but not so fast that the jig sputters along the surface.

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Most of the time I fish a 1/32 ounce maribou jig with a white tail and pink head. Yellow and chartreuse are also good colors. When it gets close to dark, I switch to a black jig. I suspect that the dark jig presents a better silhouette against the late evening sky, making it easier for the crappie to see the target.

Sometimes I tip the jig with a crappie minnow, but most of the time you will catch plenty of crappies without bothering with the meat.

There are times when the fish respond best to a small Road Runner, Beatle Spin or your favorite jig with the addition of an overhead spinner. If fishing with a partner, one of us will cast a plain jig and the other a jig with an overhead spinner until we find the pattern that’s working that day.

When doing this type of fishing, it is very important that you do not make a lot of noise in the boat. Crappies are extremely sensitive to noise and vibration, and if you drop a rod, bang the net against the side or drag a tackle box across the bottom of the boat, they’ll disappear in a flash.

Another good way to catch crappies under the same conditions is to use your electric motor to troll a small spinner tipped with a minnow across the tops of the cabbage weeds. Don’t add any weight — you want the spinner to ride just under the surface. Crappies will come up for a bait, but rarely will they go down.

The best cabbage beds to fish are those nearest deep water. Crappies will spend all day suspended over the deep water and invade the cabbage beds to feed morning and evening.

In southern Minnesota, where cabbage beds are less common, a good method for catching crappies all summer long is to simply let the boat drift across the lake while dragging small white jigs or yellow jigs, tipped with crappie minnows. Most lakes in southern Minnesota are bowl- shaped and relatively shallow. Crappies will suspend over open water all day long, often holding 10 to 12 feet down over the deepest portions of the lake.

The kids and I have caught oodles of crappies over the years using this simple technique in the Faribault, Waterville and Mankato areas on lakes such as Shields, Mazaska, Clear, Cedar, Roberds, Madison, French. Francis, Washington, Jefferson, Tetonka and Sakatah. Every once in awhile you pick up a bonus walleye, northern or bass.

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One trick I use when fishing maribou or hair jigs tipped with a minnow is to trim the hair off at the bend of the hook. This exposes more of the minnow and encourages crappies to get the whole works in their large mouths, instead of hitting short.

Crappies don’t come fast and easy in the summer, but give these tips a try and you should have great fun with crappies all summer long.

Gary Clancy has been a full-time freelance outdoor writer for 25 years. He writes for many national publications, is a long-standing columnist for the Outdoor News and has written eight books. To order autographed copies of his books, go to www.garyclancy.com.

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