Crappie are a fun species of fish to target because they tend to congregate near weed beds and in shallower water, meaning you can target them reliably and start a feeding frenzy for sustained catching.
But do crappie bite at night?
The answer is yes, at all times of year. During the warm summer months, crappie fishermen swear by night fishing with artificial lights because the fish are more docile in the heat of the day.
But when you’re ice fishing in the cold weather, the nighttime crappie bite can be just as productive.
In this article, I will share some of the best, proven tips for catching crappie through the ice at night.
Can You Catch Crappie At Night When Ice Fishing?
Crappie fishing can really pick up at night, even in the winter when you’re fishing through the ice. Night can be the crappie’s most serious feeding time, especially around dawn and dusk.
In the wintertime, crappie tend to stay in small pods of 5-10 fish. They follow their typical habits of suspending in shallower water (5-15 feet) near weed beds and underwater structures.
You may need to practice some mobile fishing and hole-hopping until you find a good bit of structure that can host a school of crappie.
Crappie try to sit in groups and blend in near the lake bottom so they can ambush unsuspecting bait fish that swim over the top of their hiding spots.
This means two things for ice fishermen: first, if you can get one or two of the fish in the pod biting, you can probably catch several as the bite of the first fish will begin a feeding frenzy.
Second, if you can lure actual bait fish over the crappie (using a light to attract plankton), you will almost definitely start this feeding frenzy and find yourself pulling up one big crappie after another.
What Time of Night Is Good For Crappie Fishing?
The best time of night for crappie fishing is usually around dawn and dusk. Crappie rely on their good eyesight to hunt, but they need light to visually detect their prey, so they tend to bite more actively when there is still some light coming through the ice.
Fishing before it goes completely dark at dusk or when the sun starts to come up at dawn can land you some big biting crappie.
When it comes to fishing in the actual dark of night, you will have better luck on a cloudless night with a large moon shining on the lake.
The more light around, including artificial light, the more active plankton and other food sources will be, raising bait fish activity and triggering the crappie’s hunting behaviors. That’s when you can slip your bait in and expect a big strike from this coveted panfish.
Is Crappie Fishing Better in the Morning or the Evening?
Crappie are active night feeders, and the bite is best when there is a little bit of light in the sky, around dawn or dusk. But which is better, morning or evening? For me, it’s the morning hours that tend to yield the best results.
Early morning, beginning roughly half an hour before sunrise and stretching as long as two hours after sunrise, is a great time to catch crappie feeding.
While they might be slightly more docile in the low light of overnight hours, the fish are HUNGRY by the time the morning rolls around.
You can count on the morning bite pretty reliably, which means you will know right away if you are in a good location or if you should move to a new fishing hole.
Fishing at dusk, on the other hand, is more of a toss-up because you don’t know if the crappie have started their nighttime feeding or if they are still in their more docile daytime mode.
How To Fish for Crappie at Night?
When it comes to catching crappie at night, the biggest thing to keep in mind is this: crappie are most likely to bite in areas with some light.
You can target crappie at night by using light in at least four ways:
- Fish at dawn or dusk or on a cloudless night when there is some natural light in the sky
- Fish near permanent sources of artificial light, such as lights along a pier or walking path
- Use artificial light in the form of a floodlight or (preferably) a submersible fishing light
- Use lures and jigs that glow in the dark and that you can “recharge” with an LED light
Based on those ideas, here’s an example of following the perfect strategy for finding and catching big crappie at night through the ice:
First, plan to fish as the sun is going down or coming up, preferably on a night when the moon is shining on the ice. This will naturally get the crappie hunting more actively as they can see the bait fish and smaller forms of aquatic prey clearly.
Second, if the lake you’re fishing in has any type of developed light source around it, plan to start fishing there. My favorite lake has two spots like this along the shore– one illuminates a war memorial and another light is attached to a small facility building. I would start fishing in the light cast on the lake in one of these two locations.
Third, crappie are sure to be drawn in by a submersible fishing light . Drill a hole nearby your fishing hole as if you were setting up a deadstick, but instead lower the light into the water into the lower half of the water column.
Note: This strategy works better the longer you stay out fishing because phytoplankton will gradually swarm toward the underwater light. The plankton will in turn attract bait fish, and both of these types of critters will bring in the crappie.
If you stay on the lake long enough to let this system work, it’s almost sure to produce a panfish feeding frenzy.
Fourth, make sure to pick out some baits that glow in the dark. I have great luck with all kinds of species, including crappie, when using these baits. Not only do they get the fish’s attention, but they seem to be attracted to biting the things.
I recommend picking up some tungsten jigs that sink fast for responsiveness and a variety of other jig head shapes and sizes , too. Make sure to bring a bright LED flashlight that you can use to “recharge” the glowing paint on these baits.
Combine as many of these tips as possible, and you can expect a great night of crappie fishing!