Long and slender they are not, not when you get a big one.

Reel in a crappie at least 10 inches long, and better yet 12 to 15, and you’ve got yourself a football-shaped fish. They put that slab body to work, too, fighting hard, something that makes them especially enjoyable on light tackle. And they taste great on the table

So, yes, catching them is fun.

And now is probably the best time of the year to do so.

Anglers target them all year long of course. But spring – when they enter the shallows to spawn – is when they’re easiest to find and catch.

Here are some tips on how to do it.

First, think big, as in big water. Large rivers and lakes of 500 to 1,000 acres or more are prime crappie waters, generally speaking.

It’s a matter of food. Crappies, when young, feed on all sorts of bugs and larvae. Once they reach about 6 inches in length, though, their diet shifts largely to minnows. That allows them to pack on the weight.

Larger bodies of water hold more of that kind of food, so fish bigger waters when you can.

Next, fish around structure.

Especially once water temperatures hit about 55 degrees, crappies move to near-shore structure to spawn. Look for them in 1 to 8 feet of water around standing timber, brush piles, riprap, docks and bridge pilings.

Around such places, especially on rivers, fish the down-current side. Crappies usually feed where wind and current washes minnows and other food to shore from pilings. During the brightest daylight hours, the shady side of structure is good, as well.

When fishing timber in particular, cast to the edges of structure and work that area first, to get fish on the fringes. Later, cast closer to the main tree trunks.

If you’re fishing from a boat, use your fish finder to determine the depth at which crappies are holding. Then, look for places with structure at that depth all around the lake.

Consult a lake topographical map while you’re at it. It tells you things like depth, so you can more readily move to potential hot spots.

If you don’t have a fish finder, experiment. Cast your jig, then count down how many seconds you let your bait sink before starting your retrieve. If you're not getting fish, let the lure sink a little farther before reeling in. In that way, you can see where the fish are suspended.

Likewise, if you're fishing a minnow, use a slip bobber so that you can adjust the depth of your bait. Sometimes raising or lowering your offering just a foot or two means the difference between catching lots of fish or just a few.

And no matter what you fish with – be it live or artificial – go light.

Crappies are sensitive, and can be light biters. Light line, 2- to 6-pound test, and small hooks, sizes 4 to 8, are better for fishing live bait than heavy gear. Jigs in the 1/32- to 1/64-ounce range are effective, too, and can even be tipped with bait.

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See also: Color can seal a victory when it comes to catching crappies.