Though two species of crappie are present in New Jersey (black and white), the
black crappie is more widespread and sought after. Black crappies are known as
excellent table fare. A schooling fish, crappie fishing can be faced paced when
have a tendency to school in open water, relating to stumps, standing timber and
artificial structure such as brush piles. Also they can be found in and around
shallow aquatic vegetation. Some of the lakes in New Jersey with excellent black
crappie populations include Assunpink
Lake, Lake Lenape (Atlantic County), Union
Lake (pdf, 430kb), Greenwood Lake,
(pdf, 500kb), and Lake
movements of black crappies are similar to other warmwater fish species. In early
spring, when water temperatures begin to rise, many fish will move from the deep
areas of a lake to shallow vegetated areas where spawning will occur. Even better
than just vegetation is an area with stumps and brush. Crappies love structure!
In early summer many crappies will begin to move to slightly deeper, cooler water.
However, some crappies can still be caught in the shallows. In early fall, crappies
will again begin to move, this time feeding on available forage in preparation
for winter. Crappies are one of the few warmwater species that can actually be
caught in greater numbers in the colder months between October and April, with
November and March being the two best months.
Anglers can catch these fish using small plastic jigs or hair jigs in a variety
of colors. Crappies are color selective at times, so experimentation is important.
Additionally, anglers must experiment with depth because crappies often will suspend
above structure. Sometimes varying the depth you are presenting the bait as little
as six inches can make a difference. Live bait, such as minnow, killifish, small
shiners and worms, can improve catches. Small grub tail twisters, such as beetle
spins or roadrunners, can also be effective. Remember, crappies are not always
on the bottom so the use of a float can be important.