King Crappie

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Published on: Apr. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 21, 2010

Missouri anglers love to fish for crappie. One reason crappies are so popular is their eagerness to bite. They are fun to catch and great to eat.

Because crappies tend to congregate, anglers might catch a stringerful in one spot. However, crappies can be just as finicky one day as they were eager another day. By knowing a little about their habits, you can increase your chances of catching them.


Good crappie fishing is often found during the spring spawning season. Late April through early May usually is best, but the peak typically will be a little earlier in southern reservoirs. Spawning begins when the water temperature at the nest warms to the mid-50s, and usually peaks in the low to mid-60s. Some spawning will continue until the water warms to the low 70s.

You can tell that crappies are spawning when you catch the dark-colored males near the bank. Males spend more time near the bank because they prepare the nest and guard the eggs and fry. Males appear near the bank for about 10 days while females are only there for a day or two to deposit their eggs.

Most spawning occurs in coves or near their mouths, but you might find crappie along any bank with a gravel or sandy bottom. Crappies will spawn at 6-inch to over 20-foot depths, depending upon the water clarity. The clearer the water, the deeper they spawn.

Determine the spawning depth by lowering a white jig or similar object into the water and measure the depth when it disappears. Crappies will usually spawn at that depth and up to three to four feet deeper. You can locate crappies by fishing the appropriate depth along likely banks. Once you catch a spawning crappie, more will usually be in the area.

Spawning crappies can be caught with jigs (1/32 to 1/8 ounce), minnows, or small crank baits or spinners. Jigs are preferred by most anglers. Fish brushpiles and standing timber where crappies concentrate. During spring, you might find crappies grouped off the bank around brushy structure and suspended at about the same depth as other spawning fish. Sometimes these are mainly females waiting to spawn.

Summer and Fall

Crappies are typically hard to catch in summer and early fall, but fishing improves during October and November. Throughout this period, crappies are in deeper water (from 15 to 30 feet) at the mouths of coves or along steeper banks and bluffs.

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