to concentrate around woody structure. Fish here with jigs or minnows, moving often to find the fish. In some lakes, anglers have success trolling along steeper banks with small, deep-running crankbaits.
By October, crappies head into shallower water again, changing location and depth frequently. In addition to the steeper banks, try fishing around points.
Winter can be one of the best times for crappie fishing, if you're willing to brave the elements. Small jigs or minnows fished slowly around structure in deep water along steep banks or bluffs is usually the best method. Crappie hits can be light during winter, so watch for line movement.
The Management Story
How did crappie fishing get better in Missouri's large reservoirs? When research on crappies started some 25 years ago, Conservation Department biologists had to ignore the prevailing philosophy that large reservoirs are too big and too complex to manage for better fishing. Our biologists were told more than once that it couldn't be done.
It took several years of research on Missouri lakes to unlock the secrets of crappies in large reservoirs. We learned that anglers were catching mostly small crappies because few fish remained in the lakes long enough to grow to a larger size. We found that more than half of the small, young crappies in some reservoirs were harvested by anglers every year. A few years of fine tuning what we had learned resulted in crappie regulations for Missouri reservoirs.
Minimum size limits with lower daily creel limits ultimately provide the best quality crappie fishing. We also learned that each reservoir is unique. That's why there are different length limits for different reservoirs - they match the growth potential of the fish. The faster the growth, the higher the size limit.
In a few reservoirs the growth of crappies is erratic or slow, so size limits are not the best answer. Currently, there is a nine- or ten-inch size limit on eight Missouri reservoirs. On six of the reservoirs these regulations have been in effect for at least seven years.
Conservation Department biologists sample these reservoirs annually to determine if the regulations are working. If necessary, the regulations are modified. One of the best ways to determine if a regulation has been effective is to see if the populations have shifted to older and larger crappies. Included here are some of the highlights of the crappie regulations on six Missouri reservoirs where crappie fishing is popular.