by Darl Black
It’s June, and the start of my favorite period to catch crappies on natural lakes in northeastern and Great Lakes states. During spring in Pennsylvania, I focus my crappie fishing on man-made reservoirs where early season catches are very predictable. By mid-June, however, I switch to natural lakes where the early summer bite is more reliable on the deep weedlines.
Black crappies are usually the dominant crappie species in natural lakes, although it is possible to find both species in many northern waters. The crappie spawn typically concludes in early June and fish begin setting up for summer. On natural lakes that means black crappies are relating to deeper vegetation – the primary cover for prey and predators on nature’s glacier-formed waterways.
The submersed weed species will vary from region to region. Northern weedbeds are usually some combination of milfoil, coontail, cabbage (a wide leaf pondweed) and deep eel grass. Some lakes will have all these species, while other lakes may have only a couple weed species. The precise species isn’t as important as how deep the weed growth extends.
On most natural lakes there will be a fairly defined inside weedline, leaving a wide band of sand or sandy/silt mixture between the weeds and the shore. It is along the inside weedline where crappies establish bedding areas, just inside the fringe weeds. However, it is the deeper outside weedline which serves as the pivot point for crappies during summer.
By mid-June, feeding crappies are positioned along the deep weedline edge, just outside the weeds a few feet, or in the margin of open water above the thick submersed weedbed. When fish become inactive following the passage of a summer cold front, crappies may sulk buried right in the stalks of weeds, or suspend mid-depth over slightly deeper water.
Natural lakes tend to have clearer water than most impoundments; therefore weed growth can be expected to extend to 10 or 12 feet; on some very clear lakes, weeds may grow to 15 or 16 feet – even a little deeper occasionally.
In areas were flats break off fairly quickly to deeper water, submersed weeds form a defined weed edge. However, where flats taper ever so gently into a basin of deep water, thick weedbeds tends to give way to sporadic clumps of weeds until a depth is reached where sunlight limits their growth.
To target crappies around deep weeds, hands-on casting is preferred over multiple-pole rigging. Crappies are generally located among the fringe strands of vegetation; trying to keep multiple lines and baits from fouling with this soft cover would be frustrating and time-consuming. Whereas casting a single lure with a rod allows an angler to snap the lure free of entanglements with weed, and if necessary, to quickly clear weed strands from the lure before the next cast. Furthermore, casting accuracy is often needed to hit small visible voids, indentations or turns in a weedline – key spots to hold crappies.
I am a firm believer that the proper rod will go a long way to success when casting deep weedlines for crappies. Many panfish and gamefish species patrol the deep weed edge in the early summer. Bass and pike often suck up smaller lures intended for crappies, therefore it’s a good idea to have a line and rod that will help you battle these incidental catches.
Now you know where to find them so the rest is up to you. June is a great time to get out and enjoy the fishing. For more on gearing up for spinning and making the right presentations, visit www.CrappieNow.com and take a look at the June issue.