Crappie fishing under docks is an excellent opportunity to capture these often overlooked fish. Crappies prefer shade and sheltered areas beneath docks.
Many dock owners throw bait or food scraps into the water to attract minnows, sunfish, and shad. These tasty morsels can be an important source of nutrition for crappies and other forage fish.
Do Crappie Hang Out Under Docks?
Crappie are one of the most sought-after freshwater fish species and are notoriously difficult to catch. If you’re hoping for some impressive trophies this fall, try fishing beneath docks.
Many lake guides agree that docks are ideal for jigging for crappie due to their cover and shade. As a result, crappies tend to congregate under docks rather than anywhere else on the lake.
When fishing under docks for crappie, there are a few different tactics you can employ. Most involve patience and moving your boat around to find an area that may produce bites.
Another option is using the dock-shooting technique, which involves using a flat shad soft jig and skipping it across the bottom of the dock to present it underneath. This method works great for anglers with long dipping poles who struggle to access under docks, making this an effective method for catching crappie.
Some fishermen prefer using a smaller, lightweight jig when fishing under docks. This allows them to float and sink without making too much noise while still being heavy enough that it can easily slip under the dock when it falls in the water.
On a windy day, the jig may push shad into the surface near brush and dock foam. To effectively catch crappie, you need an appropriate size jig. I suggest using a 1/16-ounce jig that’s large enough to float and be visible under the dock but small enough to easily slip under.
No matter the type of jig you select, give it a slight wiggle on the fall as this could trigger an aggressive bite. This is especially important when fishing under a dock where dozens of hungry fish may be waiting to eat any slipped-on bait that slips onto the bottom.
Crappie Dock Shooting
In the wintertime, many lake shorelines are lined with man-made docks. These floating and fixed piers offer shade, cover, forage, and access to deeper waters coveted by crappie. While some docks provide excellent fishing throughout the year, others may only produce a few fish.
For anglers aiming to target crappie under docks, a few tips will help maximize their success. It is essential to know where they live so you can identify productive spots and eliminate unproductive docks.
Next, locate a dock that looks promising. These are usually situated in deep water near an anchorage or point.
Once you’ve identified a promising dock, the next step is to decide where you’d like your bait placed under it. This decision determines how long your catch will remain submerged beneath the dock and its shadows.
To achieve this, select a light jig that won’t sink or fall quickly and stay under the dock for an extended period. Clint recommends using a 1/32-oz Betsy Bug jig, but other small, lighter-weighted options may work just as well.
It’s essential to use a rod that can reach under the dock when casting. This will enable you to cast farther and provide more wiggle room when presenting your lure.
Another tip that will help you catch more fish while shooting docks is changing your line color from black to clear monofilament. This makes it much easier for you to discern when a strike occurs on your line.
Finally, remember that sound travels better underwater. Therefore, keep your noise level down when shooting docks to prevent waking the fish or making them panic, potentially leading to an unwanted strike.
Finding Crappie Under Docks
Crappie usually hangs out close to docks in the shallows during spring and early summer. They will move deeper into the water during fall and winter, often inhabiting deep weed edges along bottom structures extending out into the lake – an excellent fishing spot.
Crappie fishing opportunities in the summertime often involve brush piles, flooded timber, and cribs due to their cover. To fish these spots, start in the shade and work a jig/plastic combo under or along the bottom of the structure for good coverage.
Another option is to fish with a vertical jigging technique around the dock. This can effectively target crappie since docks and bridges naturally produce current by forcing water around their structures.
For this technique, set up your rig with a soft plastic body such as a tube, ribbon tail, and weighted jig. Alternatively, you could use a bait holder or stick float to suspend the bait in front of the piling.
When fishing under docks during the summertime, jig and plastic combo is often successful, as crappie often hang close to the structure. Conversely, crappie may prefer biting on live bait rather than jigs in wintertime.
As winter draws near, many lakes will begin to experience a drop in temperature which can trigger crappies’ “fall behavior”. They will then migrate into channels and spawning bays to prepare for winterization.
He calls this technique “shooting a jig under the dock.” To do this, hold your jig between your thumb and forefinger, open up the bail on your reel, pull back on the rod, and release the jig, so it shoots beneath the dock. Doing this causes it to skip slightly which may attract crappies to bite.
Crappie Dock Bait
Crappie are often in search of shelter when temperatures drop, and boat docks and bridge pilings provide just that – protection from both the elements and other anglers.
Crappie often hang out near shallow, weedy shorelines. However, they also frequent deeper waters around docks due to bulrush and pencil-reeds covering these areas – ideal hiding places for crappie to move around without being noticed.
When fishing from docks, the best bait may be a small minnow or jig. Utilizing the lightest weight jig possible will allow it to sink deep for extended periods. Clear monofilament line reduces visibility while allowing you to see where the jig is twitching, making it easier to target crappie.
Clint, who works a crappie-friendly lake in Wisconsin, suggests using a 1/64th-ounce jig with 2-pound test line for dock fishing. He’s had success with that size jig and rod combination. To get back under the dock safely, Clint recommends using either a wide spool spinning reel or at least 5 feet of rod.
Another effective technique is to throw small baits into cover and then jerk them erratically. When crappie are close to cover, a hard-charging retrieve can encourage them to follow the bait back towards your boat.
The Bobby Garland Dock Shooter is the ideal bait for this technique. Its compact, aerodynamic design allows it to skip along surfaces others can’t reach, giving you access to areas others cannot reach. Team it up with Dock Shoot’R Pull Tabs, and you’re set for an exciting day on the dock!
Crappie typically move to creek mouths and main lake points as water temperatures warm. These structures provide shelter from the sun, making them more eager to strike bait. Once temperatures fall into the low 50’s, crappie return to deeper waters, where they remain through winter.