Crappie fishing has always been most popular during spring when they move into the warmer, or less cold, water after ice-out, then remain in shallow water right through the spawn, which is just now winding down. Just because that shallow water fishing is over for a while is a lousy reason to quit fishing for crappie.
Crappie certainly do not quit hitting just because they leave shallow water. In fact, they feed more through summer. Summer is their major period of growth. And summer is a time of bounty in nature. Food is never more abundant.
Why do most anglers quit fishing for crappie once the shallow water, springtime fishing is done?
Probably some anglers have other things on their minds, maybe walleye fishing or bass fishing. Some anglers have had their fill of fishing, just like the majority of trout anglers do after the first few weeks of the season. Maybe others do not know where to find crappie once they leave deep water.
Crappie do not disappear after they leave shallow water. They just move into deeper water. Finding them is not all that difficult. It is only more difficult than it is during spring because during spring anyone can find crappie simply by joining one of the clusters of boats around a lake.
For the past couple of weeks at Chautauqua Lake, crappie have been on their spawning beds in water as shallow as 2 feet. As they finished spawning they moved off their beds into adjacent deep water. Now they can be caught along the outer weed lines. One of the nice things about fishing for crappie in this situation is that you never know what you might catch along the outer edge of the weed beds. Walleye, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are common. Even big muskie occasionally hit a jig intended for crappie.
Crappie are difficult to locate using sonar in shallow water because the cone is so narrow, and because the fish shy away from boats to some degree. This all changes in slightly deeper water. And the deeper the water, the easier crappie are to locate on a sonar screen.
The appearance of crappie is slightly different from one sonar screen to the next. Generally, they appear as clusters of medium size marks. In 10 feet of water only two, or three marks may be visible on the screen at any moment. In deeper water you might see several medium size marks at a time.
In a large lake like Chautauqua Lake, locating crappie that may be scattered all over the lake basin can be difficult since marks of other fish species may be nearly identical to the marks made by crappie. Still, this is no more difficult than locating other fish species.
One of the more reliable places to find crappie through summer at Chautauqua Lake is along the piers of the Interstate 86 Bridge. The area between the bridge and the ferry is also a good place to look, particularly along the deeper channel near the middle of this area.
The seasonal progression may be a bit farther along at Lake Wilhelm. My weekly phone call to Fergie's, the bait and tackle shop you probably visited if you have fished this lake, revealed that some exceptionally large crappie have been caught recently in about 10 feet of water, either outside the weeds or off steep banks.
As spring gives way to summer at Pymatuning Lake, one fishing pattern that has usually proven productive has been drift fishing over the wide basin just south from the islands at the north end of the lake. This is a typical case of small groups of crappie being scattered in a lake basin during summer.
Anglers who fish for crappie exclusively during spring may think of these fish as being in large groups. But this is the case during spring only because they are either clustered in warmer bays or clustered for the spawn. During the remainder of the warm weather season crappie tend to be in small groups. It is for this reason that it often is not productive to fish from an anchored position.
This is similar to the situation in the Seneca portion of the Allegheny Reservoir. Here, though, you are more likely to find crappie in deeper water, maybe deeper than 20 feet. This will usually be adjacent to the main channel.
Crappie might not be abundant in the Allegheny Reservoir, but it is likely that if you find some they will be big.