I grew up catching crappie at Clark's Hill, but we only fished for them two times of the year. We caught a freezer full every spring when they moved into the shoreline bushes to spawn. We would ease down the bank and drop a minnow suspended under a cork by every bush in the water. Although there were lines of boats on every bank, we all caught our share. We used so many minnows we found a place to buy them by the pound and kept them in a 35 gallon plastic trash can with an aerator in it.
I found out I could use a small jig and catch even more than I could catch on minnows. The jig was faster - I did not have to put another minnow on the hook after taking a crappie off! It was ready to go again immediately. And I found a fly rod spooled with monofilament line worked better than a cane pole for me, since I could vary the amount of line I used to fish bushes at different distances.
In the summer we tied a boat up under the local bridge or to the branches of a tree sticking above the surface in deep water, hung a lantern over the side and fished at night for crappie. Sometimes a school would move through and you could catch a bunch of them. I have great memories of sitting under a bridge half asleep, the lantern hissing as it burned, watching for movement at my rod tip.
I discovered fishing for them during the winter by accident. When I saw a guy catching them and figured out what he was doing, it opened up a whole new world of crappie fishing for me. By using a depthfinder to locate trees totally under the water, I could hold my boat over them and catch some grown crappie. The best catch I had using this method was with my mother. We kept 68 crappie that weighed 78 pounds, a good average weight. And we had 12 that weighed over two pounds each on my scales. Those are big crappie! I found this worked best in the winter, but could catch them all year.
Trolling is also an excellent way to catch them year round. Tie jigs on several rods and use your boat speed to control the depth they run. That is how most crappie tournaments are won, by crappie pros trolling jigs through their most productive. areas.
Jim Pope also found a special crappie hole. That is another good thing about them - they school up and you can catch a bunch when you locate the right place!
Crappie are widespread in the US and you can catch them in almost every state. There are white and black crappie subspecies but both taste good. They are very similar in looks and there is really no need to identify them unless you are just curious.
No matter how you catch them, get out on your favorite lake and land some crappie. Northern fishermen are missing out on some fun, and some good eating, when they ignore the crappie in their lakes and concentrate on walleye or pike. At a fish fry at a Mid Tennessee Classic I brought crappie filets and a fisherman from Michigan brought walleye filets. Everyone there agreed the crappie filets were better.
Give crappie a try!