9 Tricks to Help You Catch More Dog-Days Crappie

crappie fishing
During the sultry part of summer we know as the Dog Days — the hottest, most uncomfortable part of the year — crappie fishing can get real tough ... unless you know the secrets for success this season (Photo by Keith Sutton)

During the sultry part of summer we know as the Dog Days — the hottest, most uncomfortable part of the year — crappie fishing can get real tough ... unless you know the secrets for success this season. These tips could help.

Work the Thermocline

In lakes that stratify during summer (most natural lakes and those without power facilities), it's easy to zero in on the depth where most crappie lurk. Stratified lakes have a layer of cool, unoxygenated water on bottom and a layer of hot, oxygen-rich water on top.

A layer of fairly cool, oxygen-rich water called the thermocline is sandwiched between the two. Regardless of whether the thermocline is eight inches thick or eight feet thick, that's where you'll find your quarry.

The thermocline's depth varies from lake to lake. To find it, watch your sonar while moving around the lake, and look for suspended fish — any fish. You'll notice most are within a specific stratum of water at about the same depth. That's the thermocline. When fishing, start at that depth, and stay at that depth unless all else fails.

Try Bottom Fishing

When you know the thermocline's depth, look for areas where crappie-attracting structure covers the bottom at that depth, then bottom-fish a live minnow. Thread a slip sinker on your line, and below it, tie on a barrel swivel. To the swivel's lower eye, tie a 3-foot leader of light line tipped with a crappie hook. Add a minnow, then cast the rig and allow it to settle to the bottom. When a crappie takes the bait, the line moves freely through the sinker with no resistance to alert fish to a possible threat.

Be Patient When Using Night Lights

If it's jungle-hot outside, fishing at night using specialty crappie lights can increase your catch. But be sure to allow plenty of time for your set-up to work.

crappie fishingInexperienced night fishermen often move after 20 or 30 minutes, thinking a lack of bites indicates a lack of nearby crappie. But you should stay in one spot longer than that before relocating elsewhere.

Relax, have a soda, and chew the fat.

Be patient long enough for the light to attract insects, for the insects to attract baitfish, and for the baitfish to attract crappie, a sequence that may take more than an hour. 

Attract Minnows, Attract Crappie 

When fishing is slow during daylight hours, try an approach that duplicates the use of a crappie light at night. A light attracts insects, which in turn attracts minnows. But minnows also can be attracted by chumming with dry dog food, bread crumbs or similar offerings.

Scatter the chum by handfuls in several shallow-water areas, then move back to the first place you put chum and drop in a minnow. Fish each consecutive spot and see if your catch rate doesn't improve. Often, it will.


When trolling for summer crappie — a tactic that works great for finding tight summer schools — try mounting your trolling motor on the side of the boat instead of the front. This allows you to move in a very slow, controlled fashion so you can mine deep structures more efficiently.

Pumping Iron 

Summer crappie often suspend in 10 to 20 feet of water around the branches of standing submerged trees. To reach them quickly, lower a small jigging spoon on a tight line directly down through the branches. Give the spoon a short upward pull at every three feet of depth. Crappie often inhale the lure as it falls, and the jerk will hook it.

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