Tyler Brandenburg of Birdman’s Guide Service Holds Up a 3lbs. plus crappie full of eggs!.
Knowing When The Crappie Spawn At Your Lake Can Optimize Your Fish Catches
Back when I was a young kid, we would get The Southern Illinoisan which was a thick newspaper that came in daily.
Fridays were especially important as the outdoors page would be included in the packet. At some point in March the sweetest words ever published were…”The Crappie Spawn Has Begun”!!!
This almost always began with Lake Of Egypt, a small power plant lake south of Marion Illinois.
As a child I knew that winter was behind us and soon grandpa and I would be frequenting the lakes to stock up on a year’s supply of fish!
Some years the crappie began spawning around the last week in March, but cooler springs would set it all the way back until the second week in April.
At the time I didn’t know what dictated the crappie spawn but eventually realized that water temperature was almost solely responsible for this treasured time of the year.
Temperature And The Crappie Spawn
The single most critical variable when predicting the crappie spawn on your local lake is water temperature. Crappie spawn once the shallows warm up to sixty degrees. This doesn’t mean that just because one nice eighty-degree day warmed up a small pocket that the fish will be in there and easy to catch.
You have to think more on average temperature to determine the optimal time to catch crappie. They’ve evolved to know not to trust only a few warm days to start dropping eggs.
The best guide I’ve found is sustaining a seven-day average temperature of sixty-five degrees whether it be day or night will almost always kick off the crappie spawn regardless of where you reside.
Please note that this just signals the first of many waves that will happen over the course of the next three to four weeks.
Another important thing to note is that it is a daily average for roughly seven days. If it’s 70 degrees for a high for twelve hours and 50 degrees for a low for twelve hours, you’ll still not average the sixty-five degrees needed!
Nighttime Temperatures Play A Major Part In The Crappie Spawn
Night’s will usually be what causes the delay in the crappie spawn because the air temperatures fall to their 24-hour lows during this time. Clear nights can make the thermometer drop up to 30 degrees. Cloudy skies overnight on the other hand will act to insulate the ground temperatures consequently giving us warmer nights.
On years where you can get several warm days and cloudy nights, you can expect the crappie to spawn up to a week or two sooner than average!
Other Contributing Factors To Determine When The Crappie Spawn Will Happen
Here in Illinois, we have many shallow muddy reservoirs that attract heat early and sustain warmer temperatures than a deep clear natural lake. This can cause a speedup in the crappie spawn.
Power plant lakes also play a major role in making the crappie spawn happen quicker.
When the Lake Of Egypt power plant was producing full time, the front of the lake would be in spawn mode by the second week in March, and during abnormally warm springs even sooner!
The lake would actually have two spawns, as more towards the back of the lake would be a 12-to-15-degree water temperature difference making the lake a crappie haven!
Knowing Within Days Of When The Crappie Spawn Will Begin On Your Lake
Since we are looking for an average air temperature of around 65 degrees it’s time to do some simple math based off of the weather outlook. While this is not exact because we won’t know how long the temperatures will sit at the highs and the lows of the day, we can still be pretty accurate.
Take the highs for the seven days and the lows for the seven days. Add them all together. When you have your sum then divide by seven.
If you’re close to sixty-five then you’re really close to the spawn!
Each and every degree above is a much stronger signal that you’ll be on those crappie beds soon!
Once your air temperatures start averaging out around seventy for a week or so then things will be winding down.
Many crappie fishermen base their vacations around the spawn. I for one used it as a means to an end of hibernation. However, you look at it we know that the fish are thicker and more aggressive. Few things beat dunking a jig or minnow in less than a foot of water to feel a thump, or watch a bobber go under!
When trying to determine when the crappie will spawn on your local lake, take the formula I’ve laid out above and incorporate it. You might even get a few days ahead of the papers and know “the crappie spawn has begun.”