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PRATT — The Kansas crappie spawn is one of the most exciting times of the year for many Kansas anglers. In response to warming April weather, breeding fish are moving into lake shallows, and anglers are already catching them as they move to spawning waters close to shore. This concentrates the fish and makes great fishing for boaters and shore anglers. Reservoirs from Glen Elder in the northwest, Perry and Tuttle Creek in the northeast, Cheney in the southcentral, and LaCygne and Melvern in the southeast are reporting crappie caught in shallow water, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) Fishing Reports web page, the most currently-recorded biologists' fishing reports
Crappie move to shallow areas when water temperatures reach the mid-50s and wait to spawn at water temperatures of 60-65 degrees. They may spawn as shallow as 2 feet deep and are most active at dawn and dusk, when light levels are low. Look for spawning fish near vegetation, brush, and rocky gravel shorelines.
Live minnows are good crappie bait, especially during cool spells when fish are less active. Hook the minnow just under the dorsal fin to keep it lively. Use a bobber to set depth, and keep a minnow near structure where the fish are hiding.
When crappie are most active, small, colorful jigs can produce even better catches. Small spoons, spinners, or crankbaits can be effective, as well. For the avid fly fisherman, crappie present a welcome challenge and bite well on a variety of flies. Those that imitate minnows and nymphs are best.
Most crappie anglers use ultralight spinning gear because the fish generally weigh less than a pound. Monofilament line of 4- to 6-pound test allows an angler to cast tiny jigs and provides better feel for light bites. A slip bobber or float can help keep a small jig at just the right depth and might help avoid snags.
Spawning crappie are easily frightened by noise, so approach shallow fishing spots quietly. Some anglers use 8- to 10-foot rods, wading and dipping a jig in a technique known as "doodlesocking." Dipping the jig in partially-submerged timber and brush, the doodlesocker can fish from spot to spot without spooking the fish. This is an effective method when crappie are in water about 3 feet deep or shallower.
For visual tips on crappie fishing year-round, the 25-minute video, Kansas Crappie Bonanza, will help crappie anglers be more successful. Available to view free of charge on the KDWPT website, ksoutdoors.com/crappie-video, the video shows basic fishing strategies for any season and provides ample advice and tips from crappie guides and fishing experts on how to catch crappie anytime. Although weather is incorporated into the different strategies, the video focuses on the fun of crappie fishing no matter what the weather.
For anglers fishing for food, it doesn't get any better than spring crappie fishing. This year, the top crappie reservoirs include Lovewell, Hillsdale, Melvern, Big Hill, and Perry. The best small lakes include Cedar Lake in Olathe, Hargis Creek Lake in Wellington, Scott State Fishing Lake, Carbondale City Lake East, and Polk Daniels Lake in Howard.
For more information on crappie fishing prospects, go to the KDWPT website, www.ksoutdoors.com, and click “Fishing.” Reservoir ratings for both black and white crappie may be found under Fishing Forecast. Anglers can report their own experiences and read those of others on the department's Public Fishing Reports page. Water temperatures typically vary from north to south in Kansas, so movement may begin later in some of the state's northernmost lakes.
Because they are prolific in most Kansas waters, crappie creel limits are liberal — in most places, 50 fish per day. Some lakes have more restrictive length and creel limits. Check the 2012 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary, available wherever licenses are sold, or the KDWPT website for details. Fishing conditions may vary depending on weather, particularly storms and heavy run-off. For up-to-date information on lake conditions, go to "Where To Fish In Kansas" on the KDWPT website, simply type fishks.org in your browser.