How to Catch Crappie at Night in Winter?

by Tim Mueller

If you buy through links on our site, we may earn commissions at no extra cost to you. Learn More.

Winter nights are a great time for crappie fishing.

I know, I know… It’s a crappie behave very differently during winter nights, but with the right know-how, you can catch a lot of crappie during winter nights.

So, here I’ll explain how crappie behave in winter nights, give you tips to catch them, and suggest the best gear to use.

So, let’s get started.

Understanding Crappie Behaviour During Winter Nights

As the cold sets in, crappie become more active and group together in larger schools, they do this in preparation for the spawning season, and it’s during this time that they feed the most, making them easier to locate and catch.

During winter, crappie move deeper into the water as the temperature drops seeking out warmer layers of water, often congregating around structures like submerged logs or rock formations.

Another key behavior is their feeding pattern. Crappie are most active during the dawn and dusk hours, even in winter. They use this low light to their advantage to feed, making these hours the most productive for fishing.

But remember, crappie can be finicky, especially in the cold. If they’re not biting, it’s not that they’re not there, but rather your bait or technique may need adjusting. So, patience and adaptability are your allies in winter crappie fishing.

Quick Tips For Crappie Fishing In Winter Nights

Here are some quick tips I always give out to friends when they ask for advice to fish for crappie during winter nights:

  1. Location Matters: During winter, crappie move deeper into the water to find warmer temperatures. They tend to congregate around structures like submerged logs, rock formations, or underwater vegetation as they provide sense of security and are often where they feed
  2. Use the Right Bait: Crappie are known for their love of live minnows. Using live bait can significantly increase your chances of attracting crappie. But remember, the size of your bait should match the size of the crappie you’re targeting
  3. Experiment: If you find that the crappie aren’t biting, don’t be afraid to switch up your technique. Try fishing at different depths or locations. Experiment with different types of bait. Sometimes, a small change can make a big difference.
  4. Stay Patient: Crappie fishing, especially during winter nights, requires patience. If the crappie aren’t biting, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there. They might just be taking their time

Preparations for Catching Crappie at Night in Winter

Now, I’ll discuss how to prepare for a night of crappie fishing in winter. From the right gear to safety precautions, we’ve got you covered:

Gear Up

The right gear is the cornerstone of a successful crappie fishing trip.

A medium-light rod with a fast action is ideal for detecting the light bite of crappie. Pair it with a smooth spinning reel for the best results.

Your fishing line should be able to withstand the cold temperatures of winter nights. Monofilament line is a good choice as it remains flexible in cold weather.

For bait, live minnows or jigs are highly effective for crappie. Pack a variety of colors and sizes to see what the crappie are biting on any given night.


Layering is the key when fishing for crappie at night in winter.

Start with a base layer made of a moisture-wicking material like merino wool or synthetic fabric to keep sweat away from your skin.

Your middle layer should be insulating to retain body heat. Think fleece or down jackets. Your outer layer should be waterproof and wind-resistant to protect you from the elements. A good quality winter fishing suit can be a great investment.

And, don’t forget about your extremities. A warm hat, insulated gloves, and waterproof boots are essential to keep your head, hands, and feet warm. Heated insoles for your boots or hand warmers can add an extra level of comfort.

Study the Water Body

Crappie tend to congregate around structures like submerged logs, rock formations, or underwater vegetation.

Using a lake map or a fish finder can help you identify these structures. Lake maps often mark significant underwater structures, and a good fish finder can help you locate these structures in real-time.

In addition to locating structures, it’s also important to note the depth of the water. As the water temperature drops during winter, crappie move deeper in search of warmer water. This is a survival instinct as the warmer water at greater depths helps them conserve energy.

So, during winter nights, you’ll likely find crappie in deeper water than you would during other seasons.

However, keep in mind that ‘deep’ is a relative term and can vary from lake to lake. In some lakes, ‘deep’ might be 20 feet, while in others, it could be 50 feet or more.

Use your fish finder to help determine the depth where crappie are holding.

Check the Weather

Winter weather can change rapidly, and conditions can become dangerous quickly.

Always check the weather forecast before you go. If the forecast calls for severe weather, it’s best to reschedule your trip.

Remember, no fishing trip is worth risking your safety.

Pack Food and Drinks

Fishing requires patience, and you’ll need to keep your energy up while you wait for the crappie to bite.

Pack high-energy snacks like nuts, cheese, and granola bars. Hot drinks are a must for a winter night fishing trip. A thermos of hot coffee, tea, or hot chocolate can keep you warm from the inside out.

Also, consider a hot meal. There are many portable options for heating food, from simple heat packs to compact camping stoves. I mean, a hot meal can make a big difference in your comfort level during a cold night of fishing.

Techniques to Catch Crappie at Night in Winter

When I’m out on the water, there are a few techniques I rely on to catch crappie during winter nights.

Here’s what works for me:

  1. Vertical Jigging: This is my go-to technique for winter crappie fishing. I lower my jig to the depth where I’ve located crappie, then I slowly lift and drop it. The key is to make the jig mimic a small fish or insect that crappie would want to eat. I’ve found that a slow, steady rhythm works best.
  2. Slow Trolling: When the crappie are scattered, I turn to slow trolling. I set up multiple rods with jigs or minnows and slowly move my boat. The idea is to cover a larger area and increase the chances of my bait passing by a crappie.
  3. Using Light: On particularly dark nights, I use a submersible fishing light. I submerge it near my boat to attract baitfish, which in turn attract crappie. It’s amazing how much of a difference a little light can make.
  4. Experiment with Bait: I always bring a variety of baits with me. Crappie can be picky, and what works one night might not work the next. I’ve had success with both live minnows and jigs. I like to switch things up if the crappie aren’t biting.

Next, I’ll share my thoughts on the best rod and reel combo for crappie fishing in winter nights.

Best Winter Night Fishing For Crappie Rod and Reel Combo

Pflueger President XT Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo


  • Lightweight rod with comfortable grip
  • Smooth reel
Pflueger President XT Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo, 6'6" - Light - 2pc

The rod is lightweight yet sturdy, providing the perfect balance for crappie fishing.

I mean, it’s sensitive enough to detect even the lightest nibble, but it has enough backbone to reel in those larger crappie.

Regarding the reel, I can confidently say that it’s smooth and reliable, with a drag system that’s easy to adjust which is crucial when you’re dealing with crappie, which can often put up a surprisingly strong fight.

The reel also has a high gear ratio, which means I can reel in quickly if needed.

However, no product is perfect. One downside I’ve noticed is that the reel can sometimes feel a bit stiff, especially in colder temperatures. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s something to be aware of.

Lastly, one of the features I appreciate the most is the comfortable grip. When you’re out on the water for hours, comfort matters. The cork handle of this rod is easy to hold and doesn’t slip, even when it’s cold.


  • The rod is lightweight yet sturdy, making it easy to handle for extended periods.
  • Sensitive enough to detect even the lightest nibble, increasing your chances of a successful catch.
  • Smooth Reel: The reel operates smoothly and has a reliable drag system, allowing for precise control when reeling in a fish.
  • The high gear ratio of the reel allows for quick reeling when needed.
  • Comfortable Grip: The cork handle provides a comfortable and secure grip, even in cold conditions.


  • The reel can sometimes feel a bit stiff, especially in colder temperatures. This can make reeling in a bit more challenging

Other Gear For Crappie Fishing In Winter Nights

Fishing Light

A submersible fishing light is works by attracting plankton, which in turn attracts baitfish and, ultimately, crappie.

I’ve found that a green light works best for clear water, as it penetrates deeper and attracts more baitfish.

In contrast, a white light is more effective in murky water, as it’s brighter and more visible.

Some lights even come with a flasher function, which can help attract curious crappie!

Fish Finder

A good fish finder is invaluable for locating crappie, especially in deeper water as it uses sonar technology to create a picture of the underwater environment, helping you identify structures where crappie might be hiding.

It can also show you the depth where crappie are holding, which can change as the water temperature fluctuates.

Some advanced models even have GPS functionality, allowing you to mark productive spots and return to them later.

Tackle Box

I always carry a variety of jigs and live minnows, as crappie can be picky eaters.

Different sizes and colors can make a big difference, as crappie may prefer one over the other depending on the conditions.

I also include extra hooks, bobbers, and sinkers, as well as a line cutter and a pair of needle-nose pliers for unhooking fish.

Portable Heater

If you’re fishing from a boat or an ice shanty, a portable heater can make your fishing experience much more comfortable. These heaters come in various sizes and types, from propane heaters to electric models.

They can quickly warm up a small space, making those long winter nights much more bearable.

Just be sure to follow all safety guidelines when using a heater, including ensuring proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best bait for crappie at night?

Live minnows and jigs are the most effective baits for crappie at night. Live minnows are a favorite food of crappie, and their natural movement in the water can be irresistible to these fish. When it comes to jigs, I’ve found that ones with glow-in-the-dark or light-reflecting properties can be particularly effective at night. The light from the jig can attract crappie from a distance, increasing your chances of a bite.

What smell attracts crappie?

Many anglers swear by using bait that’s been scented with garlic or anise. These strong smells can draw crappie in, especially in murky water where visibility is low. There are also various commercial crappie attractants available that can be applied to your bait to enhance its smell.

Can you troll for crappie at night?

Yes, you can definitely troll for crappie at night. In fact, slow trolling can be a very effective technique for catching crappie in winter. By setting up multiple rods with jigs or minnows and slowly moving your boat, you can cover a larger area and increase your chances of your bait passing by a crappie. Just remember to keep your speed slow, as crappie are likely to be less active in the colder water.

Related Posts

Hi, I’m Tim Mueller, a fisherman from Michigan. During all my life I loved fishing and everything that surround this activity. After many months of thinking about it, I’ve decided to create this website to provide the best advice for fishers all around the world.