Talkin' Outdoors

Every crappie fisherman knows the importance of being on the lake and fishing around shallow structure in the springtime to locate and catch big spawning crappie. Dangling jigs or shiners around shallow root systems can produce some eye-popping catches.

What about fishing for crappie this time of year when the weather turns super hot? Should you stay home and shell peas or can you actually catch crappie when temperatures flirt with double digits and being on the lake up in the day brings with it a threat of heat stroke? Crappie fishermen who know never quit targeting their favorite fish; they catch them in hot weather, but they have to do it differently.

Fellow outdoor writer and friend, Tim Huffman from Poplar Bluff, MO, is a serious crappie angler whose articles appear in several crappie fishing publications; he is also senior writer/editor for CrappieNow online magazine. According to Huffman, knowing the depth of the thermocline on your lake is vital for catching hot weather crappie.

“The thermocline is a transition layer that separates two different water temperature zones. The top layer is known as mixed or ‘sweet’ water. The bottom layer is colder and known as the ‘dead zone’ because few fish go there and the ones that do are not active because of lower oxygen levels. The actual thermocline is a small, thin layer between the upper and lower layer,” said Huffman.

According to Huffman, summer fishing on water with a thermocline can be tough. However, he says, one good thing is that it puts all the fish in the upper layer of water so it won’t take long to learn what depths crappie are using.

So, just how do you know if your lake has a thermocline and if so, how do you find it?

“You can turn up the sensitivity on your locator to see the thermocline. Or, drop a minnow down to six feet and keep it there a few minutes. If it is still lively, drop it down to 9 feet and hold. Repeat until you find the depth where the minnow dies quickly. Just above the ‘killer depth’, or cline, is where minnows (and fish) have a better oxygen zone and will live,” said Huffman.

What is the most effective way to fish this magic depth where the fish are sure to be located in the heat of summer?

“Here’s the first and maybe one of the most important tips for fishing the ‘cline’. Treat the thermocline like you would the bottom. Look for suspended fish that will often be up over a ledge, hump and other typical structure. Schools of baitfish are another key feature that will have crappie nearby, usually under and behind the school. Experience is the best way to learn where late summer crappie often hang out,” Huffman continues.

This crappie fishing expert suggested three methods of fishing for crappie in summer.

One is slowly trolling crank baits. He suggests adding a soft plastic lure three feet above the crank bait to catch some bonus fish.

Long line trolling is another method Huffman uses. He casts several lines out 50 feet behind the boat. Curley tail jigs seem to be a favorite for crappie in summer.

Finally, Huffman uses what is locally known as “spider rigs”. Trolling slowly while using two to four poles secured in holders with two lures per pole is an effective way to target summertime crappie.

One final tip Huffman offered – “Use a jig tipped with a minnow because the minnow adds a realistic look, smell, action and flash while a jig provides color to get the attention of crappie,” he added.

Head for the lake, locate the thermocline and you could be dining on crappie filets for supper. You can shell peas anytime.

(Check out Tim Huffman’s crappie fishing articles at