Chase for crappie spawn finds new waters

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Thanks to an unusually mild winter and early spring, fishermen looking for crappie may have to leave familiar haunts and reach deeper than ever before this year.
Crappie fishermen typically watch the last days of winter pass and wait for the shallow waters of their lake of choice to gradually warm, bringing about the crappie spawn and kicking off the annual frenzy that seizes the most dedicated crappie addict and casual spawn fisherman alike. Though this spring’s spawn is under way, it’s typically happening much deeper this time around than many can remember witnessing before.
An area holding the perfect balance of nature’s variables is where the fish will congregate to lay, fertilize and guard their eggs and, if that’s in 6 feet of water instead of 2, so be it, say pros like Kenny Pickering of Pontotoc.
“I don’t have any scientific data, but it just makes sense they’ll spawn in waters of the appropriate temperature and oxygen level,” said Pickering, a dedicated crappie fisherman. He and his friends spend countless days chasing crappie, primarily in the spring and fall, and what he’s seen this spring has been unusual to say the least.
“The water temperature is the main thing in locating crappie,” Pickering said. “Typically as spring begins the water warms up slowly, and when it reaches temperatures in the range of 58 to 62 degrees the spawn will begin. Prior to that the fish will begin staging along structure like submerged ditch banks and creek beds in areas just off the spawning grounds.
“This year since it never really got cold over the winter and we’ve already had some fairly hot weather already, water got so warm so quickly it’s too hot for the crappie in a lot of the places that have seen spawning fish every year since many of us started fishing.”
Extremely cold water makes the fish sluggish. Extremely warm water won’t hold enough oxygen. Crappie seeking the perfect balance will take it where they find it, which is where Pickering and his friends have found them so far this year.
“It’s been an abnormal year,” he said. “It took us a while to figure out why we weren’t catching them in water as shallow as we have in the past. Just like the crappie, we’re creatures of habit, but being able to adapt makes all the difference.”