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How to catch a really big crappie

  • gimruis
    Participant
    Plymouth, MN
    Posts: 7959
    #2111410

    I’ve posed this question for a couple years now with varied degrees of response, but I’ll go ahead and try again.

    I’m on an annual spring quest to catch a really big crappie (15+ inches, open water from a boat). I routinely catch 11-12.5 inchers every spring but really nothing bigger.

    How can I accomplish this? If I’m regularly catching 12 inchers, should I stay put and just hope that a freak is mixed in by accident, or should I move?

    Obviously the first aspect of this is that I need to be on a body of water that has them. I am. I know this because I see them every spring.

    I’ll take any suggestions, thanks. I do not intend to keep them.

    John Rasmussen
    Participant
    Blaine
    Posts: 2491
    #2111418

    The lake your talking about I can’t find them either. I have not put a lot of time into it. The only lake I have caught close to that size are further up north. I also have yet to cross that 15 inch mark.

    Ripjiggen
    Participant
    Posts: 5871
    #2111422

    Timing. Find them when they are on there beds, but if you think there are a bunch of 15 plus crappies in a lake the size of Tonka I think you would be surprised. That is a lot of water to cover.

    fishthumper
    Participant
    Sartell, MN.
    Posts: 6974
    #2111430

    15″+ crappies are rare in Minnesota. If you know of a lake that has them in it that’s over half the battle. If you can see them in the spring, I assume that its while they are on a bed spawning. That is where I’d target one. Your first step would be to get any smaller males around the bed out of the way. As long as a big female has males around to guard the bed she is not probably going to do so herself. Once the males are out of the way, back off as far as possible but still able to see the female well. After things settle down I’d fish the bed with a Light short tied dropshot rig. Something that you can cast past the bed and then drag into the bed and shake till the female bites. I’d fish something white colored so I could see when the female inhales the bait. Don’t be afraid to fish a rather large bait on the dropshot. you want the female to feel like something is there eating the eggs. Often a crawfish style bait works really well. Often times the female will only inhale the bait for a brief time prior to spitting it back out. Good luck. Hope you get that big crappie you have been after for awhile.

    JasonP
    Participant
    Twin Cities
    Posts: 1360
    #2111433

    Tip #1 – don’t overlook rivers and the floodplain lakes associated with them. Check out this DNR report from the MN river floodplain lakes. They sampled a number of huge crappies.

    Matt Moen
    Participant
    South Minneapolis
    Posts: 3621
    #2111491

    I find there are very few metro lakes where you will find a toad mixed in with smaller fish. Seems like many of the lakes have fish that are stunted. If you know the lake you are on has big ones that’s step 1.

    My plan this year is to target specific fish in specific structure on a handful of bodies of water. You may get one during the spawn but it’s hard to weed through smaller fish. If I were you, I’d be looking pre or post spawn on specific structure on the lake you are fishing…isolated stumps, brush, weed patches, dock pilings, or reeds. I’d be using big fatheads or plastics under a float.

    I just posted about using the long rod for them….that’s my plan. Use the long rod and livescope and hunt for big ones. I have 3 or 4 bodies of water I know hold them locally that I plan to target.

    gimruis
    Participant
    Plymouth, MN
    Posts: 7959
    #2111494

    If I were you, I’d be looking pre or post spawn on specific structure on the lake you are fishing…isolated stumps, brush, weed patches, dock pilings, or reeds. I’d be using big fatheads or plastics under a float.

    So do you think that they hang out in deeper water on more traditional “walleye” structure or do they come into the shallows with the other panfish?

    Obviously I can try to target a specific bedded crappie like I was bass fishing, but that’s not really what I want to do.

    stevenoak
    Participant
    Posts: 1360
    #2111498

    All lakes have different potential. Some lakes give up a freak now and then, some never will, and some are known for big fish esp. farther south. Big baits/minnows help esp. later in the year. My 18 1/2″ came on a bass lure.

    Matt Moen
    Participant
    South Minneapolis
    Posts: 3621
    #2111508

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>Matt Moen wrote:</div>
    If I were you, I’d be looking pre or post spawn on specific structure on the lake you are fishing…isolated stumps, brush, weed patches, dock pilings, or reeds. I’d be using big fatheads or plastics under a float.

    So do you think that they hang out in deeper water on more traditional “walleye” structure or do they come into the shallows with the other panfish?

    Obviously I can try to target a specific bedded <em class=”ido-tag-em”>crappie like I was bass fishing, but that’s not really what I want to do.

    I don’t think the big ones hang out with the schoolies. On a lot of local lakes, the smaller fish will be in the weeds pre and post spawn. I’ve seen it enough times where the big fish are on structure. Probably near where the smaller fish are but not schooled up. I’ve seen it happen enough to believe getting away from the schools will yield a larger fish. That’s what I plan to focus on this year more.

    tim hurley
    Participant
    Posts: 4290
    #2111518

    Last 15 I caught in the metro was a snowy November day, and it was the only crappie I caught that day. Look at wood structure on rivers and backwaters, be ready for snags, if you are not getting fish or snags you are too far from the wood.

    iowa_josh
    Participant
    Posts: 343
    #2111572

    I think they change forage. I’ve picked up a bigger one when the white bass were busting shad. The last couple on very slow days for regular crappies.

    Ripjiggen
    Participant
    Posts: 5871
    #2111574

    All lakes have different potential. Some lakes give up a freak now and then, some never will, and some are known for big fish esp. farther south. Big baits/minnows help esp. later in the year. My 18 1/2″ came on a <strong class=”ido-tag-strong”>bass lure.

    Pics please would love to see it. Not questioning would honestly really love to see it.

    Ripjiggen
    Participant
    Posts: 5871
    #2111575

    I think they change forage. I’ve picked up a bigger one when the white <em class=”ido-tag-em”>bass were busting shad. The last couple on very slow days for regular crappies.

    Bigger crappies definitely eat bigger prey.

    FishBlood&RiverMud
    Participant
    Prescott
    Posts: 6255
    #2111670

    If I want to catch a big fish, I go to where big fish are abundant.

    If you want to catch a big fish where not abundant… coffee

    Not sure where you catch big crappie in mn. Lotw probably. Mississippi definitely.
    Likelier out of state.

    My two mn biggest
    15″ from lake Washington near mankato and 15.5″ from French.

    stevenoak
    Participant
    Posts: 1360
    #2111719

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>stevenoak wrote:</div>
    All lakes have different potential. Some lakes give up a freak now and then, some never will, and some are known for big fish esp. farther south. Big baits/minnows help esp. later in the year. My 18 1/2″ came on a <strong class=”ido-tag-strong”>bass lure.

    Pics please would love to see it. Not questioning would honestly really love to see it.

    It was from Table Rock Lake back in the 80’s. Pre cellphone camera days. Did have a pic at one time. But locals ate them without much thought. 18” inch crappie est. weight is 3.67#, almost a pound and a half off state record. Pre-spawn, multiple 3#+ fish in a stringer were not uncommon. Needed to break 4#s to get any attention.
    Now the electronics, fishing pressure, and structure loss {trees} makes it hard to hit the 3# mark. On the other hand. Missouris Muskie stocking for years a 10+ fish was a head turner. Not sure if it was hot water most of the year, lack of weeds or otherwise.

    ganderpike
    Participant
    Alexandria
    Posts: 513
    #2111727

    We caught some very healthy crappies this winter, and one thing I noticed was that the largest fish came from the 1st or 2nd drops on the school.

    Without regurgitating the same points, Id say time on the water beats timing the bite. Chase them when they are schooled up, and fish waters with lots of forage. Pressure is a non factor in my opinion. ND offers some great opportunities for 14”+ fish, in my biased opinion the best in the Midwest.

    Or start knockin on doors in the north metro to access some private lakes whistling

    stevenoak
    Participant
    Posts: 1360
    #2111835

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>stevenoak wrote:</div>
    All lakes have different potential. Some lakes give up a freak now and then, some never will, and some are known for big fish esp. farther south. Big baits/minnows help esp. later in the year. My 18 1/2″ came on a <strong class=”ido-tag-strong”>bass lure.

    Pics please would love to see it. Not questioning would honestly really love to see it.

    I broke the golden rule. Posting a fish measurement without a picture to back it up. After searching my archives, I found it. Keep in mind the picture is 35 years old. My arm is 17 1/2 ” finger tip to the bend in my elbow, his head was over an inch up my bicep. Thats the best proof I’ve got. Again, in the 80s a 18 1/2” crappie in the Ozarks was as exciting as an #8 walleye in the Mississippi now.

    buckybadger
    Participant
    Upper Midwest
    Posts: 4175
    #2111840

    I’ve personally witnessed a 17.25″ crappie out of Pool 5 of the Mississippi (this was probably 6 or 7 years ago). That particular fish was caught while perch fishing on a fathead minnow in late April. We were catching tons of 11-12″ post-spawn perch on crappie minnows and had plenty that we wanted to keep. We then upsized to some of the larger fatheads that were mixed into the bucket and had one bobber take off. We assumed it was a bass until it was right at the boat and I started screaming. The fish came out of wood in about 6′ of water, behind an island just off the river channel.

    The only other time I recall getting multiple “big” crappies that were both over 14″ was fishing a smaller lake during the spawn. The males were up on beds and black as can be. We caught and released those nearly every cast. Then on a whim of luck, we decided to slide out deeper from the 8′ we were sitting in and casting up shallow to an old meandering river bed just 50 yards out and topping out at 13′ deep. There we nabbed two tanks over 14″ relatively quickly and never had another bite deep.

    Ripjiggen
    Participant
    Posts: 5871
    #2111849

    No judgment from me Steve I was just more curious to see it if you had a good pic.

    stevenoak
    Participant
    Posts: 1360
    #2111858

    Just realized pic didn’t go.

    Attachments:
    1. 20220329_1525347443-scaled.jpg

    to_setter
    Participant
    Stone Lake, WI
    Posts: 569
    #2111868

    I know this is cheating and shameful grin , but when I lived in CA for a few years I found some very large crappies. The locals are all keyed in on big bass or Kokanee in many of the reserviors and the Crappies seem to only get any attention on a few key lakes like Clear in Northern CA. I fished mainly lakes in the central valley or foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s and while I didn’t often target crappies I would often catch them while trolling trout/Kokanee rigs off downriggers over very deep water. If someone wanted to catch a really large crappie as a bucket list type thing and had the means, central CA just might be your best bet. My biggest had a demolished tail missing the back part and it still measured 17.5 inches. I’m fairly certain it would have been over 18 inches with an intact tail. Around these parts my best was 16.25 from Red during the crappie haydays………

    Attachments:
    1. CA-crappie-scaled.jpg

    Deuces
    Participant
    Posts: 3683
    #2111879

    Just realized pic didn’t go.

    Looking at my own arm now I’m trying to visualize the size of that thing. Just amazing. toast

    Matt Moen
    Participant
    South Minneapolis
    Posts: 3621
    #2111913

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>stevenoak wrote:</div>
    Just realized pic didn’t go.

    Looking at my own arm now I’m trying to visualize the size of that thing. Just amazing. toast

    Don’t you have tiny arms?

    brandmoney
    Participant
    Posts: 160
    #2111930

    Honestly, your best bet is fishing river backwaters, or lakes with healthy populations of white crappies, which tend to grow bigger.

    gimruis
    Participant
    Plymouth, MN
    Posts: 7959
    #2111932

    How about fishing at night time for them? I know people catch them at night during the winter, but how about in the spring time?

    MX1825
    Participant
    Posts: 1134
    #2111989

    Best place from what I’ve read is in the state of Mississippi right now. The lakes Grenada, Enid, and Sardis. Mostly white crappies I think. Would love to go there sometime.

    eyeguy507
    Participant
    SE MN
    Posts: 3224
    #2111998

    How about fishing at night time for them? I know people catch them at night during the winter, but how about in the spring time?

    i am going back to cannon this spring to see if that lake can produce once again. yes i will name the lake because no one here will really go there anyway and if they do, you still have to be in the right area. so my experience is you need to find a lake that has the recipe for growing big crappies first and foremost. in the spring the big males will be on beds deep in the weeds. i try to find pockets to cast a float and minnow or worm into. you can try all those fancy plastics but in the end, those big fish will get triggered into biting real $hit.

    Deuces
    Participant
    Posts: 3683
    #2112001

    Hands Matt, just tiny hands.

    Real reason I drink the claws, can’t handle the girth of a real 12oz, also probably something to do with the GFs never sticking around…. bawling
    lol

    eyeguy507
    Participant
    SE MN
    Posts: 3224
    #2112003

    Just realized pic didn’t go.

    that is a giant white from the looks of it. i have a soft spot in my heart for crappies and missed the Red lake bonanza and still kick myself for that to this day.

    Bearcat89
    Participant
    North branch, mn
    Posts: 10529
    #2112023

    There are plenty of lakes with big crappies. But you have to put your self on them. 12s are pretty common on most lakes I target, but getting above 14 is not. Do your research, read dnr surveys. My 2 biggest were ice fishing but my biggest summer time crappie was on the st Croix while looking for walleye. Alot of my bigger ones also come in on jerk baits while bass fishing.

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