Spring Crappie Fishing at Lake of the Ozarks

Dennis Newberry, Broker/Owner of Ozark Realty, talks about fishing for Crappie, just one of the many sporting opportunities the Lake of the Ozarks has to offer. If you like to fish and you like to eat fish, Crappie are at the top of the list for most fun to catch and best-tasting, fresh-water fish in the country. 

When I was about ten years old, I remember my dad taking me fishing for small-mouth bass on the river and large mouth on the lake. Once in a while we would get into a school of Crappie in deep water along a rock bluff not really knowing what we were doing. The crappie always fascinated me because when you find them you generally can catch lots of them! Once I moved to Lake of the Ozarks in the early 1990s, I got aquatinted with many natives that knew all the ins-and-outs of fishing Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River below Bagnell Dam. It didn’t take long for me to observe and replicate what I was witnessing. 

There are plenty of top-notch fishing guides here at Lake of the Ozarks, so I don’t want to downplay their role in a very important industry here at the Lake. I just merely wanted to share with you how I have enjoyed fishing for Crappie over the years and give you some tips on what bait I use, when I fish, and what you can do to increase your chances of catching your limit. 

When To Fish For Crappie

Although fishing for Crappie can be something you do all year long, I generally only fish for them from February to late May, as that is when they start to move into the shallows to spawn. I have determined that this occurs when the water surface temp starts to get above 42-45 degrees. Fishing from a boat in the Gravois Arm along the banks can be very productive in the earliest part of the spring season. 

Crappie Bait

I don’t deviate from what I use for bait other than when I take my daughters fishing. Because my girls are slightly impatient, I will sometimes buy live minnows to help increase our success, but 90 percent of the time I use a small 2” plastic minnow made by Bobby Garland called the Lil Swimr. Bobby Garland baits are readily available at most tackle shops at the lake, and I buy mine at Fitz’s Fishing in Lake Ozark. Wayne Fitzpatrick is the owner and is knowledgeable in all types of fishing at Lake of the Ozarks. The Lil Swimr’s come in many colors, and I’ve found nearly all of them work. 

Crappie Fishing Techniques

Cast out toward the bank, get your bait down into 3-6 ft. of water, and move down the shoreline until you find them. When you start catching them, stay put for a while and fill your live well. By the end of February or the first week or so of March, (again depending on water temperature) I start fishing from docks. 

Crappie will start to move into the docks, as Crappie are one species that require lots of cover. As the water temperature continues to climb, you can catch Crappie within 10’ of the bank and in water only 3’ deep. I generally catch the most crappie somewhere between 4’ to 8’ of water in March, April and May under the dock where there is good cover. 

If you own your own home or condo here at the lake and/or are interested in purchasing one with lots of good Crappie opportunities, know that by placing a Crappie cover or beds in your slip wells will eventually pay off. Soon you will have lots of Crappie living beneath your dock. If your dock is in deep water you might find that they are there nearly year round, as they go deep in cold weather. Tie off Crappie submergents that you can also buy from Fitz’s Fishing to the underneath side of your dock frame making sure it is weighted, so it will not move around and/or obstruct your boat hoist and/or swimming areas. These Crappie beds can take a few years to really start producing good results, so be patient. Let me provide you with a home, so you may provide some Crappie a home, which in return will provide you with dinner.