Kansas anglers out in force as popular sportfish move to shallow water
PRATT -- Of all Kansas outdoor recreation opportunities, crappie fishing is one of the most popular. These tasty fish bite year-round, but spring brings them close to shore, where they spawn in shallow water. This makes great fishing for anyone with a hook and line.

Late spring is the best time to catch crappie. They move to shallow areas when water temperatures reach the mid-50s and wait to spawn at water temperatures of 60-65 degrees. They may spawn as shallow as 2 feet deep and are most active at dawn and dusk, when light levels are low. Look for spawning fish near cattails, rock piles, or brush and twigs emerging from water.

Live minnows are good crappie bait, especially during cool spells when fish are less active. Hook the minnow just under the dorsal fin to keep it lively. Use a bobber to set depth, and keep a minnow near structure where the fish are hiding.

When crappie are most active, small, colorful jigs can produce even better catches. Small spoons, spinners, or crankbaits can be effective, as well. For the avid fly fisherman, crappie present a welcome challenge and bite well on a variety of flies. Those that imitate minnows and nymphs are best.

Most crappie anglers use ultralight spinning gear because the fish are not hard fighters and generally weigh less than a pound. Monofilament line of 4- to 6-pund test allows an angler to cast tiny jigs and provides better feel for light bites. A slip bobber or float can help keep a small jig at just the right depth and might help avoid snags.

Spawning crappie are easily frightened by noisy movements, so approach shallow fishing spots quietly. Some anglers use 10-foot rods equipped with short lines, wading and dipping the lure in a technique known as "doodlesocking." Dipping the jig in likely-looking habitat, the doodlesocker can fish from spot to spot without spooking the fish. This is an effective method when crappie are in water less than 3 feet deep.

For anglers fishing for food, it doesn't get any better than spring crappie fishing. Best crappie lakes include Toronto, Hillsdale, and Pomona reservoirs and Sedan and Anthony city lakes. For more information on crappie fishing prospects, go to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Park's website, Reservoir ratings for crappie may be found in the KDWP Fishing Forecast. In addition, the most currently-recorded biologists' fishing reports may be found on the agency's Fishing Reports web page, and anglers can report their own experiences and read those of others on the department's Public Fishing Reports page. Water temperatures typically vary from north to south in Kansas, so some movement may begin later in the state's northernmost lakes.

Because they are prolific in most Kansas waters, crappie creel limits are liberal -- in most places, 50 fish per day. Some lakes have 10-inch length limits. Check the 2008 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary, available wherever licenses are sold or online at, for details.

For a video clip on Kansas crappie fishing, click "KDWP TV" on the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' website.