Where to Find Crappie in the Fall
Crappie are fish species known to prefer comfortable environments, which is especially true during autumn as temperatures begin to decrease in the lake.
To find consistent crappie action this autumn, it is wise to focus on areas that remain comfortably warm – this may include lake tributaries or larger creek channels with shallow waters which cool off faster, drawing baitfish into these shallower environments more readily.
During the Fall Transition
Crappie tend to migrate from deeper water channels towards shallower flats and shoreline areas as daylight hours become shorter and water temperatures become cooler during this transition period of fall, providing one of the best opportunities to capture spawn-ready female trophies.
Crappie typically congregate at creek channels that connect to the main lake during fall transition as they migrate toward shallower waters in preparation for spawning. They may also be found near bay mouths and inlets where coves provide protection from colder fall weather conditions.
Utilizing both depth finder and contour maps will assist in pinpointing key spots where crappie migrate in the fall. Look out for points, humps, ledges, creek channel intersections, small pockets of water along the shoreline or any area where one lake meets another major tributary – these will all be prime spots where crappie congregate to feed.
Crappie tend to congregate around main creek channels that feed directly into lakes. Larger feeder creeks or sloughs off main lakes also tend to hold significant populations during this time of year.
Crappie will likely gather in shallow waters that have been affected by recent rainstorms, such as flooded areas or near sandbars and riprap, until water temperatures warm enough for them to begin their spawn. To increase chances of strikes during this period of time, long rods equipped with curlytail grubs under bobbers will produce the greatest success.
Once the spawn has ended, post-spawn crappie tend to remain near spawning sites until water temperatures warm sufficiently to trigger their winter migration. They can often be found around brush piles as well as permanent and floating docks; tight-lining minnows or jigging tube baits around sunken brush is effective in murky waters while tight lining or slow dragging with jig and minnow is often effective when fishing clear lakes waters.
Spider trolling can also help fishermen locate post-spawn fish more quickly. This method requires little skill – simply set your lure about an inch off the bottom and let it drift to your target, hopping over cover in its path.
Creek Channels Coming Into the Main Lake
Crappie can often be found in creek channels that feed into a main lake during fall months, as temperatures cool off and as water temperatures change they will move off the weed beds to form schools around humps or rock piles in 8-12 feet of water. Once their food sources have died off they move deeper water where there may be minnows, crawfish or other crustaceans as food sources for these fish species.
Crappie are beginning to feed up for winter and it is wise to utilize larger baits such as large jigs tipped with minnow or craw baits as this increases your odds of catching fish. Multiple poles and spider rigging increases chances of success – many guides and tournament fishermen in Tennessee Valley enjoy targeting crappie during fall fishing trips.
An important factor that can determine whether or not a fall fishing trip for crappie will be successful is weather. A cold front may induce the crappie to return into shallower waters for short spells of excellent fishing before they reposition themselves further offshore.
Another consideration is the condition of the lake itself. A good way to determine this is by viewing your local map and looking at an area drawn out for Summer Pool, then clicking on the year tab at the bottom left border of said map; this will display previous years and allow you to observe how the shoreline has evolved over time.
Take Cave Run Lake in south central Kentucky as an example: its shoreline has changed over time, making it a productive lake to fish both open water and ice fishing in fall. A good crappie guide or tournament fisherman would know exactly how to evaluate this lake and devise an effective strategy; these skills distinguish great anglers from their competition.
River Channel Feeding Into the Lake
River channels feeding into lakes in the fall can be excellent places for crappie fishing. As water temperatures cool and cooling air triggers an increase in zooplankton levels, young of the year minnows begin gathering in warmer waters where crappie feed heavily on them. Shallow weed beds in 8 to 12 feet of water also tend to come alive during this season.
Crappie will transition into deep waters during fall when hunting shad, setting up ambush points along creek channels and secondary points with brush piles suspended above or buried in the mud and cover on the bottom. Crappie also set ambush points at dock ends where boaters passing by can drop minnows for them to capture.
Crappie fisherman will often see crappie anywhere from 2-15 feet deep during this transition period. When day length begins to decrease, however, crappie will start preparing for winter spawn by moving from transition areas onto flats where brush and weeds provide shelter before moving closer to shoreline shallows for simultaneous breeding and feeding activities.
Fishing for crappie in the fall requires a variety of skills and techniques. To be successful at it, one should keep an open mind and be willing to adjust locations or baits if the bites don’t pan out; hot bites may only last a short time so be ready for quick adjustments as needed if necessary. A versatile angler will fare best during this transition period and the season.
Crappie fish move away from main lake channels during fall to coves and bays to remain warmer as temperatures decrease, giving them time to regroup for winter before returning back into main channel areas. Crappie can stay in these coves and bay mouths for as much as seven days at a time before heading back out again.
Find baitfish by fishing near weedy banks and brush piles near bay mouths in deep water above the thermocline where baitfish congregate. Jig and tube baits with minnows or grubs should work well, although you should be prepared to switch locations if fishing slows or doesn’t turn on. Also be cautious not to overfish an area in fall. If it becomes cold or rainy or activity simply drops off suddenly in one location, abandon it in favor of another part of the lake.
As temperatures begin to decrease, crappie will move from their creek channel migration routes into shoreline shallows on flats or brush and weed beds on flats for winter feeding and breeding purposes. They will still spawn in deeper water as part of their breeding cycles but also migrate up into shallower waters to feed on zooplankton as a food source.
Locate these areas efficiently using a depth finder, taking note of key points, secondary points, humps, ledges, sharp creek channel bends and intersections as indicators.
Fall is the ideal time of year to look out for windblown spots on a lake, where microorganisms created by windflow are stirred up into bait fish food sources that attract crappie into the area and draw them in for feed. Now would be an excellent opportunity to use either spinnerbaits or crankbaits!
Once spawning is over and most females have moved into their wintering spots, they will start suspending 18-30 feet beneath deep river channel structure. Target these areas, particularly primary or secondary points with drops into deeper water. Tight-line your Kentucky rig or jig/wax worm in wood cover along these structures to ward off frontal passages.