June Crappie- Where to Find & Catch Them
Story & photos by John Phillips
Editor’s Note: Jonathan Phillips of Wetumpka, Alabama, is the president of the Central Alabama Crappie Club and guides on the Alabama River and Alabama’s Lake Jordan.
June is the month when finding crappie is easy, and catching them is often easy too. During the summer months, crappie are very predictable. I search for brush, logs and stumps on main river channels that provide shade and cooler water. I usually catch crappie in water from 12-24 feet deep.
I’ll sink structure for summertime crappie but mostly in Lake Jordan rather than the Alabama River, because river currents may wash my stake beds away. I concentrate on sinking structure in underwater trees on the bottom, logjams and other types of cover on the edges of river channels.
Using the Right Crappie Equipment and Tactics
I’ll generally tight-line with live minnows for crappie in June. However, I use larger profile jigs too in June than in the fall and spring. I like larger baits in the summer, due to the size of the shad that just have spawned in the spring being fairly large – about 3 inches. I want minnows and jigs that size or somewhat bigger. I prefer to mix the sizes of minnows I take with me to fish. Aggressive crappie seem to prefer medium-to-large-sized minnows this month.
To catch crappie on minnows, you must keep your minnows alive and lively. I use an Engle cooler to keep my minnows alive. However, any cooler with a battery-powered aerator feeding air into the cooler works. You can keep the minnows cool with ice that you treat with Better Bait to rid the water of chlorine and the minnows of their ammonia problem.
In June, I try to fish right on top of the spot where I pinpoint the crappie. The post-spawn is over, and the crappie are schooling up and feeding in cover. If I’ve been spider rigging before with eight poles, I’ll change to four poles for June fishing. I want to put those baits right in front of the crappie’s noses.
The amount of weight I fish depends on depth and current – but my favorite is 1/2-ounce. With a reasonable current, I’ll use a 3/4-ounce weight. If the current is stronger, I’ll have a 1-ounce weight.
I prefer 8-pound-test Hi Vis for my main line that I put a slip sinker on before tying on a barrel swivel. On the other end of the line, I’ll tie 18 inches of 6-pound leader line and then attach a #1 crappie hook at its end. I don’t lose nearly as many crappie on a #1 hook as I do on a #2 or smaller hook.
Before I start fishing, I’ll mark the spot where I see the crappie on my depth finder with a buoy. If I don’t have any wind on the day I’m fishing, I’ll drop the buoy right in the middle of the structure I’m fishing. If the wind’s blowing hard, I’ll drop my buoy 5-feet upwind of the structure and the crappie to keep my boat from blowing into my buoy and spooking the crappie.
To fish very-thick cover, you’ll catch more crappie and retie less often using the single-hook rig that I’ve described earlier. However, on overcast days or rainy days, the crappie often will pull out of that thick cover and hold off to the side or above the cover. Then a double-minnow rig works well.
Jigging for Crappie
To vertical jig for crappie this month, I’ll fish a chartreuse-colored jig or a jig with a chartreuse tail. I don’t tip my jig with minnows in June, although you can.
If I’m vertical jigging, I like Slabslobber, a fish attractant that I believe causes the crappie to hold onto the bait longer. When a crappie takes a jig, if you don’t set the hook immediately, it’ll spit that jig out within 2 seconds. When I’m fishing with jigs, I definitely believe Slabslobber helps me catch more crappie.
Catching What Kind and How Many June Crappie
More than likely, the crappie you catch in the summertime won’t average weighing as much as the crappie you catch in the spring and fall. However, you’ll still catch some fine crappie this month. In Alabama, an angler can catch and keep 30 crappie per day. I have caught and released 100 crappie before during June, only keeping the biggest. The best June bite generally occurs from just before daylight until 10:00 am and then again from 4:00 pm until dark, although you can fish the entire day if you prefer.
A problem you’ll often encounter after early morning is the boat traffic – generally the heaviest from about 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. The middle of the day is when the most boats, skiers and jet skiers are out on the water. If you’ll fish in the middle of the week too instead of on weekends, you’ll often catch more crappie, since fewer pleasure boaters tend to be on the water.
Knowing How Often to Fish a Good Spot
I scout for crappie quite a bit to have numerous places to take a party and let them catch crappie. However, I can return to these same crappie hot spots just about every day and catch crappie off the same sites I have previously. When you’re fishing a main river channel, crappie are moving in and out of heavy brush all day. The good spots I find to catch crappie will replenish themselves just about every day. By identifying productive June places, those same areas probably will yield good crappie the rest of the summer.
Contrary to popular belief, all the crappie in a lake or river don’t die after the spawn. There are plenty of nice crappie to be caught all summer long. I find and catch them, and you can too.
To book a crappie trip with Jonathan Phillips, contact him at 334-391-9735 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see the kind of fish Phillips catches all year long, visit his Facebook page at Team Phillips Guide Service https://www.facebook.com/Team-Phillips-Guide-Service-935028296557829.
Better Bait http://betterbaitsystems.com
Engel Coolers https://www.engelcoolders.com