Photo of Capt. Gus holding a Lake Norman Crappie 

Spring is upon us, and crappie fishermen are catching limits!

Some call crappies the “Peoples Fish”, while others say they the “Fish of the Ages”.  That is because anglers from one-to-a-hundred love to watch their bobbers go under and to feel of the tugging crappie as it attempts to shake the hook. Its popularity does not come from its jumping ability, but because it’s easy to catch. After being cleaned, battered and fried, crappies are one of the best tasting freshwater fish.

March is the month to catch spawning crappies. Most are taken either on small jigs or live crappie minnows. When spawning is complete, they move from the banks and regroup in deeper water. While most are taken during the day, crappies are known to feed actively after dark. Night fishermen use lanterns and fluorescent lights to attract bait fish, which in turn, draw crappies and other predator fish.  Green glow lights, floated on the surface or suspended below, work well. The battery operated lights are available in lengths from 12″ to 48.” Not only do they attract fish, but also serve to illuminate the fishing area and make it easier to tie and bait hooks on an otherwise dark lake.

During the day, brush piles, docks, piers and boathouses afford shade, cover and protection that crappies require. Anglers pitch their jigs around entrances to boat houses and under boat docks. If they are good enough to cast inside a boathouse, that’s even better.

Knowing that crappies are attracted to brush piles, serious fishermen sink Christmas trees and other woody debris under the cover of darkness. Then, they will only fish these so called “secret holes” when the area is void of other crappie fishermen. Christmas trees are popular, but deteriorate quicker than limbs of hardwood trees and must be replenished yearly.

Small reels on long fiberglass fishing rods have all but replaced the once popular cane pole. Either will catch crappies when used with light line, an adjustable float and a tiny jig or minnow. A lightweight, closed- faced spinning outfit is also effective when fishing under boat docks and near submerged brush.

The key to catching crappies is to fish “gently.”  Move the bait ever so slowly, give the fish plenty of time to nibble, and play it carefully to the boat. The larger the crappie, the more likely its body weight will cause a small hook to pull from its soft mouth.

The creel limit on Lake Norman for crappies is 20 per angler per day, with an 8″ minimum size limit. Crappies can grow to 8″ in length within the first year. After that, the gain (length) slows to about 1″ per year. Large crappie (12” or more) are known as “slabs.”  Slabs are prized by fishermen who enjoy eating their fillets.

Crappie fishing is a great family sport and a culinary delight. Give it a try!

Tips from Capt. Gus! 
Experiment with different colors and types of jig tails to lure crappies. At times, they prefer twister tails over tubes, or jigs dressed with Malibu hair. When all else fails, use a plain jig-head tipped with a live minnow.

Upcoming eventsFree Fishing Seminar: “How Marine Electronics Have Reshaped the Sport of Fishing”   will be presented by Jake Bussolini at Gander Mountain, Exit 36 on March 16, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Contact 704-658-0822 for additional information.

Hot Spot of the Week: Bass fishing is excellent, particularly for those who target spotted bass. Warming water temperatures have drawn bass to the shallows, with the majority being caught in less than ten feet of water. Crappies and white perch are plentiful around brush and downed trees.

The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the high forties and low fifties in open waters not affected by the power plants. The water level is about 3.2′ below full pond on Lake Norman and 3.0′ below on Mountain Island Lake.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures, Inc. is an outdoor columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his web site, or call 704-617-6812. For additional information, e-mail him at