By Josh Boyd
As mild spring weather dwindles, the influx of stifling heat signals the arrival of yet another sweat-inducing summer. As the sun’s rays simmer off of the surface of the nation’s waterways, many anglers’ thoughts begin to turn to sunburns, heavy lake traffic, and stubbornly slow fishing.
However, for many crappie anglers the changing of the season signifies a shifting of strategy and technique that proves that as fish change patterns, a resourceful and decisive fisherman does as well.
As crappie abandon their shallow springtime beds and begin to transition to favored summer staging areas, they often congregate in the vicinity of underwater structure along drop offs, points, and creek channels. As they suspend at varying depths, crappie tend to take advantage of the cooler night time periods to actively feed.
When crappie shift their feeding patterns to compensate for the ever-rising temperatures and change in season, many avid crappie fishermen begin to take a third shift approach, implementing nighttime fishing tactics to fill their stringers with summertime slabs.
When preparing for a nighttime crappie fishing excursion, an angler is best served to have advance knowledge of which areas are holding noteworthy crappie numbers on the body of water that they intend to fish.
As probable locations for evening fishing efforts are located, they can then be marked either by buoy or as waypoints on a GPS for simplified location upon your return. This is of added benefit because of the difficulties that can be had when trying to discern a specific location under the cover of darkness.
By hitting the lake a few hours before darkness falls, multiple locations can be canvassed by use of a fish finder. Using this strategy, an angler is able to deduce such pertinent information as the locations of underwater structure, the contour of creek channels, drop off locations, and the location and depth of schooling crappie.
Additional areas of interest to consider while in search of after-hours crappie hot spots are bridge pilings and boat docks, especially when they are lighted.
One of the pillars of most anglers’ nighttime crappie fishing strategies is the use of supplemental lighting for concentrating and attracting feeding crappie. Crappie are drawn to the proximity of the provided light source to seize upon the opportunity to gorge upon the baitfish that are drawn to the light themselves. Once a light source is positioned as desired, an angler can finish preparing any last-minute rigging of tackle as they await the arrival of swarms of baitfish.
Numerous lighting options exist for nighttime crappie outings. In the past, lanterns or Styrofoam encased 12-volt headlights have been commonplace among crappie enthusiasts.
In recent years however, these options have largely fallen by the wayside in favor of submersible LED lights that predominantly come in shades of green because of the color’s excellent water penetrating characteristics.
Perhaps one of the most tedious aspects of crappie fishing in general is determining the depth at which to fish on any given day. Crappie fishing of an evening is no exception to this rule and because of this inherent fact an angler is wise to fish multiple poles at varying depths to prospect for crappie in as efficient of a manner as possible. This method of determining correct fishing depth combined with predetermined data from the use of a fish finder can be a deadly combination to spend more time on the bite and less time scratching your head.
When determining what to tie on to the end of your line to entice savvy crappie, you are best served to be multi-faceted in your approach. Crappie, like any other fish, are prone to turning their nose up at one offering only to readily bite on your next selection.
Minnows and jigs are time-tested crappie standbys and by offering both options simultaneously, an angler reduces their chances of being stumped by a school of picky eating slabs.
This year as the dog days of summer descend upon us and the mercury skyrockets, dodge the congestion of dense summer boat traffic, blistering heat waves, and dreadfully slow fish activity. Instead work the backshift crappie under the cover of darkness.
A little bit of preparation and know-how can quickly have you boating your share of summertime slabs as the sun drops below the horizon and the cool of the night sets in.