Here are some great spots to hit for slabs this season.
Crappies are filler for many Michigan anglers. They fill in a time when the season is closed for walleye, pike and bass. Specks also fill in a time between ice-fishing and open water.
Crappies are one of the first species to invade the shallows in the spring, and south-facing channels, marshes, marinas and bays attract schools of March and April crappies depending on where you’re at. Following are some bodies of water large and small that are sure to be crappie hotspots this spring.
Yoopers tend to be consumptive oriented. There’s nothing wrong with that. When people give me grief about keeping fish, I ask them if they heard the story about the guy with the loaves and fishes. Fish are meant to be eaten! For that reason, Yoopers are big fans of walleye, perch and brook trout. Can you blame them?
Crappies don’t have a big following in the Upper Peninsula, but that’s changing.
“I’d say that interest in crappie fishing is trending upward in the U.P. areas that I work,”shares Northern Lake Michigan Fisheries Biologist Darren Kramer. “Anglers that I have talked to seem to be looking for a new challenge and looking to try out waters that they haven’t fished before.”
South Manistique Lake
South Manistique Lake is well known for its walleye and yellow perch. Its crappies are kind of a secret.
“South Manistique has a nicely developing crappie fishery over the past 5 years or so,”says Kramer. Mackinac County’s 4,000-acre South Manistique Lake, sometimes called Whitefish Lake, is located near the town of Curtis. Shallow coves on the west side of the lake, like Wolfe Bay, are an ideal place to begin your search for crappies in the spring. Later, developing weedlines off Long Point and around Norton Island are good spots to float some slip bobbers and minnows for schools of specks patrolling the weed edges.
“Greenwood Reservoir can be up and down but has supported a pretty good crappie fishery for several decades now,” offers Kramer.“It’s an especially scenic body of water with islands and rocky outcroppings with abundant flooded timber.”
We all know how much crappies love flooded timber!
Marquette County’s Greenwood Reservoir is a myriad of islands and stickups. In other words, ideal crappie habitat. You don’t need to go any farther than right off the boat ramp on the south end of the lake. You can fish live bait, but Fuzz-E-Grubs, Impulse Smelt Minnows and Custom Jigs and Spins RPM Jigs will work just as well. Most crappies will measure 10 inches, but papermouths pushing 15 inches are not unheard of.
Dickinson County Small Water
Largemouth bass topwater aficionados drool when they see Dickinson County’s 700-acre Gene’s Pond. Crappie fans like it, too.
“Gene’s Pond is a very popular water for panfish throughout the year,”says Kramer. “It’s an impoundment of the East Branch of the Sturgeon River, with lots of laydowns, stumps and flooded timber. There is a scenic state forest campground and boat access site.”
The Groveland Mine Ponds in Dickinson County includes South Lake (340 acres), Island Lake (175 acres), East Lake (164 acres) and West Lake (220 acres).
“All of these reservoirs have black crappie populations, but West Lake has the most abundant population, by far,” states Kramer. “All waters have good, updated boat launches. The access road back to South Lake is quite rough, though.”
Roxbury Pond East
“I concur with Darren’s statement about crappie being a new challenge for many of our traditional panfish and walleye anglers,”says Cory Kovacs, MDNR fisheries biologist who works out ofthe DNR’s Newberry field office.
Chippewa County’s Roxbury Pond East is proof that big things come in small packages. At just 4 acres, you wouldn’t think that Roxbury Pond would be capable of producing much of anything, but it seems crappies have taken a liking to the place.
Crappies love timber. If you happen to find some in a warming, south-facing cove, all the better.
“The pond was stocked with black crappie in the fall of 2016. A quick 2017 netting survey found good survival of these fish and even some natural reproduction. Roxbury Pond East was a recipient of a habitat project where MDNR Fish Division and USFS placed 10 brush bundles in this lake to prepare for building a crappie fishery,”shares Kovacs.
Those are good places to start your search. Opportunities should steadily improve here as the age-class structure improves. Because the lake is carry-in-only, it’s the perfect spot to pack in your kayak or float tube and your fly rod or ultralight spinning gear and take advantage of this up-and-coming fishery.
Another Chippewa County lake, Whitmarsh Lake, is not very big either at 10.5 acres, but it has some big crappie potential.
“Reports from anglers have been good,” relays Kovacs. “Crappies up to 10 inches are consistently caught here.”
The access is directly off of Strongs Road southeast of Eckerman.
Alger County’s 266-acre Deer Lake is just inland from Shelter Bay.
“This lake is a bit more of a challenge, but in the springtime crappies stack up in the small cove located on the north side of the lake,” admits Kovacs. “This is a deep-water lake, and as the water warms, crappie will move offshore to the dropoffs, really protecting them from most anglers, as they can be difficult to find.”
Having a portable LCG, like a Humminbird Helix 5 (800-633-1468), is a great help in finding summer schools of specks. There is an improved MDNR launch at this lake.
Best Fishing Tips Ever-Terry Blankenship
Huron River Impoundments
While all of the Huron River impoundments offer good crappie fishing, the fishing differs on each one.
“Belleville Lake is probably the best for numbers and moderately sized fish,” says Lake Erie Management Unit fisheries biologist Jeff Braunscheidel. “You can expect to catch a lot of crappies in the 9- to 10-inch range in Belleville. There are bigger fish available, though, and you’ll catch both black and white crappies.
“Crappies are impoundment fish,” he adds. “The entire Huron River system offers that turbid, fertile type of situation that crappies love.”
Belleville Lake covers some 1,270 acres in both Wayne and Washtenaw counties southeast of Ypsilanti. The impoundment features a sinuous river channel that averages 10 to 20 feet deep with adjacent flats, cuts and bays that are loaded with stumps and downed timber that attract spring crappies. Look for big schools of specks to move into south-facing coves and shallows where the wood and dark bottom absorb the sun’s warm rays. Braunscheidel indicated that all of the Huron River impoundments have an abundance of minnows and shiners that big crappies thrive on.
The most popular access to Belleville Lake is access off Rawsonville Road on the lake’s west end. Bank fishermen can access the lake at a fishing park near the dam or at Edison Park.
The 975-acre Ford Lake is another Huron River impoundment that produces outstanding spring crappie fishing.
“The crappie population has been down in Ford Lake in recent years,” says Braunscheidel. “We don’t really know why, but it still produces some very nice crappies.”
Located in east-central Washtenaw County, Ford Lake routinely gives up crappies that will top 14 inches. Unlike Belleville Lake, Ford Lake doesn’t have a well-defined river channel running though it or a lot of woody debris. Because of this, crappies tend to be more scattered on Ford Lake. In the spring, look for crappies to concentrate in the shallower west end of the lake off points, near the islands, around emerging weed beds and in the back of bays. You can launch your boat on Ford Lake at an access off Huron River Drive.
Minnows are a hands-down favorite wherever crappies are found, and that is true on Ford Lake. Equally productive are tube jigs and safety-pin type spinners that imitate their favorite fodder.
Located just north of Ann Arbor on the border of Washtenaw and Livingston counties, 677-acre Whitmore Lake is close to a lot of anglers and receives a lot of fishing pressure. But, in spite of the pressure, Whitmore Lake routinely gives up stringers of spring crappies, many of which will push 12 to 14 inches.
In the spring, look for weed beds in 5 to 15 feet of water. Wear polarized glasses to spot schools of suspended crappies. Big specks can be found just about anywhere on Whitmore, but pay special attention to indentations in the shoreline, docks and points. Suspending a tube jig below a slip bobber is a proven combination. White, yellow and chartreuse are the best colors.
Contact the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 888-9487 or on the web at annarbor.org for information on bait shops and lodging facilities in the area.
Lake St. Clair
Lake St. Clair is famous for its smallmouths and muskies. Not too many people take advantage of the lake’s burgeoning crappie population.
“Lake St. Clair has a pretty good crappie population, but they tend to be really spread out,” says Braunscheidel. “The one time when they really concentrate is in the spring. Then they school up in the marinas and canals. Another good location is the St. John’s Marsh.”
Braunscheidel said that the entire east side of Anchor Bay is a myriad of shallow bays, canals and coves that crappies stack up in from mid-March through May. Big black crappies topping 16 inches aren’t unheard of.
Look for spring crappies to crowd into the shallows in Bouvier Bay, Scotten Bay, Pollet Bay, Fisher Bay, Goose Bay and Big and Little Muscamoot bays. Canals and channels that bisect Dickinson and Harsens islands are ideal spring crappie haunts. You can catch the big specks on just about anything you want — live bait, plastic and micro crankbaits.
For detailed maps, fishing information and bait and tackle, contact Lakeside Fishing Shop at (586) 777-7003 or on the web at lakesidefishingshop.com.
Randall Lake is one of a chain of seven lakes that is known for its quality panfish fishing, especially crappies. The 513-acre Randall Lake is actually composed of three separate basins collectively referred to as Randall Lake. The other two are North and Cemetery lakes. All feature clean, clear water, extensive weed growth and plenty of available crappie forage. Fed by the Coldwater River, the chain is located in central Branch County near Coldwater.
Spring crappies on Randall Lake can be found along the copious points, weedlines and coves, which characterize the lake. Most anglers use a run-and-gun approach, covering lots of water as thoroughly as possible until they establish contact with an active school of fish. Many crappie addicts use small jigs and tubes that allow them to fish quickly without re-baiting all the time. Some of the best action is along the north side of Randall Lake where the spring sun warms the shallows beginning right after ice-out in March. Most of the specks will average 10 inches, but crappies topping 16 inches aren’t unheard of from Randall.
Check out these lakes for crappies this spring. They’ll more than fill your spring angling appetite.