It is finally starting to happen at Roosevelt Lake – the springtime crappie bite is blooming. With the late winter storms and a month of heavy runoff, the lake just seemed to shut down and make all the fish have lockjaw. Many of the recent bass tournaments on Roosevelt Lake had meager weights with few 5-fish limits. The crappie bite was non-existent for the late winter trollers on the Tonto arm or in the mouth of the Salt River. Fishing is always good, but catching was very poor.
All that is starting to change with the lake beginning to stabilize and water temperatures rising to the low 60s. Reports of fish being caught in the shallows gives a hint that crappies are moving to the bank for the annual spawn. This can be the time of year where most anglers can have some success with this elusive fish. The crappie spends much of its time in deeper water and without prior knowledge or the ability to read a highly sensitive graph they are seldom caught by the average weekend fisherman at other times of the year.
Fishing the shoreline in 8-feet of water and less is a good starting point, while always trying to locate visible brush and submerged logs that may hold a few fish. The tendency is for the crappie to congregate in schools, so when a fish is caught there is a good chance others are in the immediate area. Shallow points, with gravel or sand bottoms and some brush can be a real gold mine.
The most common bait is a live minnow with a pencil bobber attached 2-4 feet above the bait. Depending on the clarity of the water, light line is best with 6-pound test being the overall favorite of most anglers. A common mistake made by many anglers is to use much too heavy a line, which is bigger in diameter and easier to see by a fish. Light line will increase the number of fish in the livewell, especially when the water clears. The bite is usually very light, so it is important to keep an eye on the small float for any unusual motions which would give a hint that a crappie is near the bait.
Another popular technique is to flip a small jig or grub close to the shoreline or brush piles then slowly retrieve. They are not an aggressive fish like a bass, so a slow return can give an angler the best results and allows the fish to catch up to the bait. A slow retrieve in shallow water dictates that a very light jig head is needed to keep the bait from hitting the bottom. The perfect weight for springtime shallow water fishing is the 1/32-ounce, which keeps the jig in the strike zone for a longer period of time during the retrieve.
A Kalin’s triple threat grub in a variety of colors will catch springtime crappies and some of the most productive color combinations are John Deere, black blue chartreuse, and acid rain. Another favorite and effective bait is a 2-inch Berkley power grub in a pumpkin chartreuse color scheme. If the crappies are biting and then appear to shut off, then it is necessary to change the color pattern and start flipping to any shade or cover that might be in the area.
My recommendation is to have a variety of colors and be willing to change as the sunlight increases which may drive the fish to a shady spot. Don’t forget the old standby, which is a live minnow that will always catch fish.
If there is going to be a significant crappie bite it will be in the next month, so take a friend and head to Roosevelt Lake and enjoy God’s creation.