Crappie Fishing at Night: Expert Tips for Success

Crappie fishing is a popular activity among North American anglers, and fishing for crappie at night can be even more rewarding even if you don’t have very much experience. Night …

Crappie fishing is a popular activity among North American anglers, and fishing for crappie at night can be even more rewarding even if you don’t have very much experience. Night fishing to catch crappie can often yield bigger fish that are much more willing to bite your bait or lure. 

However, catching crappie at night requires some different techniques and strategies than daytime fishing would. In this article, we will share several expert tips and tricks to help you succeed when fishing for these feisty little fish at night.

Is Crappie Fishing at Night Good?

Night fishing for crappie 1
Night fishing for crappie can be productive, peaceful, and exciting with the right techniques and equipment.

Night fishing for crappie can be a highly productive way to target these tasty panfish. Many crappie anglers swear by the effectiveness of fishing for panfish in the dark since they are known to be much more active at night. During the night, the water is cooler, and they are less susceptible to predators while also being able to easily target their prey. 

Additionally, fishing for crappie during the night can offer a unique and peaceful fishing experience away from the crowds of daytime fishing. With the right techniques and equipment, crappie night fishing can be an exciting and rewarding experience for anglers of all experience levels.

Finding Crappie at Night

Crappie can be somewhat challenging to find at night because they tend to move around often in search of food. One way to locate crappie is to use a fish finder or locate underwater structures such as drop-offs or submerged timber, which will be a popular feeding area for crappie at night. 

Another way to locate these panfish is by looking for any visible signs of activity of schooling baitfish beneath the water surface. This can include water dimpling and gentle splashing on the surface or flickering underwater movement while the crappie follow their baitfish prey around. 

You can also get a good idea of where to check for crappie by talking to other anglers who have had success fishing for nighttime crappie in the area. Checking fishing reports or signs at the nearby dock and watercraft launch area can also give you some good ideas of where to catch crappie for that season.

Light Sources for Crappie Anglers

Using fishing lights can be a very effective way to attract more and larger crappie after sundown. A wide range of submersible fishing lights can be used to attract baitfish, which will, in turn, attract crappie to feed on them. Another option is to use a floating light, which will illuminate the area just above the water line and will attract flying insects for crappie to strike.

In addition to a submersible or a floating light, you can also use a headlamp or handheld flashlight. This light source is very versatile and can be used to spot fish and tie knots or do other things on the vessel while also helping to increase your night fishing success. 

If using a handheld flashlight or headlamp, it is important to avoid shining the bright LED lights directly into the water since it can spook the fish. Instead, try to use a softer light that provides enough illumination to see but doesn’t scare the fish away from your favorite fishing spots.

Night Crappie Techniques

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Vertical fishing, casting with a slow retrieve, and spider rigging are effective night fishing techniques for catching crappie.

For nighttime crappie fishing, one effective technique is to fish vertically with a jig or minnow suspended below a bobber. Slowly jigging the bait up and down can entice a strike from both stubborn fish and those that are eager to bite. You can increase the success of this technique by casting near-floating lights over deep water where large and active fish may be lurking.

Another option is to cast and retrieve a small jig or crankbait along weed banks or around structures in the shallow water where most crappie may be feeding in the darkness. It’s important to use a slow retrieve speed with a stop-and-go technique to allow the bait to sink and attract fish in the area. 

Another technique that many anglers are starting to embrace more regularly when fishing for opportunistic crappie is using a spider rig. This involves setting up multiple rods with jigs or minnows at different depths to cover more water. This technique is excellent at night when there is much less traffic in and around the same waterway and can yield incredible results with the minnows alive to help draw in more fish.

Areas to Target at Night

When fishing for crappie and other panfish at night, it’s important to target areas where they’re likely to be feeding. In general, crappie tend to move into shallower water during the night to feed, so areas with structure and cover near drop-offs or channels can be particularly productive. In the daylight hours, they can be much more spread out and difficult to find.

Look for areas of the lake or river channel with submerged timber, thick sunken brush piles, or weed beds, and try to find areas where crappie may be schooling to get the best fishing results. You can also look for areas where baitfish are present, as crappie will often be close by and won’t be refusing baitfish as their next meal. 

When fishing from a watercraft, use a fish finder to locate schools of panfish and target that fishing spot in the darkness or with the help of submersible lights. If you’re fishing from the shore, using a portable fish finder is your best option, or you can simply look for signs of fish activity, such as jumping baitfish or the moonlit reflections of water disturbances from feeding crappie.

Best Rigs for Night Fishing For Crappie

There are several rigs that can be effective for night fishing for crappie. One popular rig is a slip bobber rig because it allows anglers to adjust the depth of their bait and detect bites easily. 

Another popular rig is a simple jighead rig with a soft plastic grub or minnow that you can cast and retrieve slowly to mimic the movements of natural prey. Especially in the mid-summer months, grub baits seem to be a crappies preference since it’s an easy meal for these nighttime diners.

Many anglers also love using the Carolina rig, which consists of a sliding sinker, a swivel, a leader, and a hook. This beginner-friendly rig is particularly effective when fishing around different types of structures, as it allows the bait to move naturally and gives you the chance to cover a large area of water.

Night fishing for Crappie: Bait vs Lures

Both live bait and lures can be effective when fishing for panfish during the night. Live bait such as minnows or nightcrawlers can attract crappie with their natural scent and movement in the water. Some anglers also swear by using glow-in-the-dark jigs tipped with live bait since they are much more visible in low-light conditions and muddy water.

Lures such as crankbaits and spinnerbaits can mimic the movement of prey and attract crappie through vibration and flash too, but this will depend more on the water clarity than other options. Soft plastic baits like tubes or grubs can also be effective, especially when rigged with glow-in-the-dark jig heads or when fished under a full moon in the right location.

Ultimately, the choice between bait and lures will depend on personal preference and fishing conditions. It’s a good idea to experiment with both to see what works best for you; in fact, many anglers will keep a variety of both hard lures and soft plastic baits in their tackle box for any crappie fishing trip.

Crappie Fishing at Night: Shore Based vs Boat Based

Night fishing for crappie
Night fishing for crappie can be done either from shore or from a boat, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

When it comes to night fishing for crappie, there are two main approaches: shore-based and boat-based. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider both options before picking one and going with it.

Shore-based fishing can be a great option for those who don’t have access to a boat. It’s also a good way for beginners to the hobby to save money on equipment since you don’t need to invest in a vessel, the motor, and other relatively expensive gear. 

To fish for crappie from shore at night, you’ll need to find a good spot with plenty of cover and structure. This could include docks, fallen trees, weed beds, or other areas where crappie like to gather in order to hide from predators or feed on baitfish and other underwater prey. Once you’ve found a good spot, you can set up your equipment on the pier, dock, or shoreline and start fishing.

In comparison, boat-based fishing offers much more mobility and flexibility. With a boat, you can cover more water and target a wider range of areas around the lake or reservoir. You can also access deeper water, which is often where large crappie like to feed at night. 

However, boat-based fishing requires more equipment and can be more expensive than shore-based fishing. You’ll need a vessel, the motor, a depth finder, and other fishing gear to be successful. Additionally, you’ll need to be careful when navigating at night since visibility can be limited.

Whether you choose shore-based or boat-based fishing for crappie after sundown depends on your personal preferences and circumstances. Both approaches can be extremely effective, so it’s a good idea to try both if you can and see which works best for you.

Regardless of your choice, having basic gear such as a decent rod and reel, insect repellent, a dip net, proper lights, and the best crappie baits you can find will be needed in order to get the most out of your fishing trip.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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