By Mark Fike
If you mention crappie fishing, I immediately think spring and big slabs. However, I have found over the last five years that pond fishing for crappie in the summer can be fantastic if you know where or how to find the fish.
Fishing a pond is probably the easiest place to fish because the variables are somewhat limited. The fish are in a contained location that keeps them from going but so far. The trick is to determine where the most comfortable place is for the fish during the heat.
The answer is near the thermocline. In ponds, that is not hard to find. A thermometer lowered over the side will tell you. If the pond is big and you have a fish finder, you can sometimes see the break or you can see the schools of fish which is even better.
My experience has been that crappie in ponds during the summer tend to be schooled up and they tend to stay in the same area where they find comfort and oxygen. An early morning or evening feed may break them up some, but overall they are together.
There are several ways to find the fish. As mentioned above, use a fish finder to locate schools. Take a slow, quiet ride around the pond and watch the finder.
Or you can take that same ride trolling a small spinnerbait, spinner, tiny crankbait or even a minnow. Some anglers spider rig by putting out various rods at various depths to find the fish. This will work if your pond and boat are large enough.
Once the fish are found, the action should be steady as you begin picking off fish. Crappie generally are willing to eat in the summer but sometimes you have to put the bait right in front of them. They are often suspended at a particular depth too.
So, if you are not getting bites, you need to change depths or baits. The probability is the depth needs changed as they don’t tend to be terribly picky once found.
Minnows are the standby bait and are likely the best bait to use. You can hook your bait in the nose or lips or you can hook it through the back. I do both but tend to have more hook ups when through the lips. The minnow gets inhaled head first so the hook is right there.
Crappie that hit in the summer usually have a softer bite and sometimes it is so subtle that if you are not paying attention you might not feel or see it. A slip float or float set up at the correct depth is a very good idea. However, freelining a minnow or putting a tiny split shot on the line will work well too. Be gentle reeling them back in. They rip loose very easily in the summer.
Once you get your fish in the boat, don’t throw away the dead minnows. The fish will hit those dead minnows nearly as well as the live ones.
This month, I have gone fishing for crappie three times and I have never purchased more than 18 minnows. I have taken more than 24 fish each time I went fishing. The last time, my wife and I took over 40 fish home on 18 minnows. It took less than two hours of fooling around.
When we ran out of minnows, my wife started dipping her red bream hook in the water in the spot we were fishing. She continued to catch a few crappie that way too. Go figure. When you find the fish and they are hungry, even a bare red hook will do the job!