Every serious slab hunter has a honey hole or two, some prized length of river or special spot on a local lake that’s pretty much guaranteed to hold big crappie.
Some folks will happily share this information, while others treat these places like state secrets and never breathe a word about them.
We’re the sharing kind, and to help you find your next slab, we’ve put together a list of the best lakes in each state to fish for crappie.
The good news is that the lower 48 are all home to either native or introduced populations of crappie. The bad news is that the further below the Mason Dixon line you look, the better the crappie fishing gets.
That’s a simple fact about climate, with mild winters and long summers allowing these scrappy fish to grow quickly and reproduce in great numbers. Fueled by more or less constant warm water and plentiful prey items, both black and white crappie mature quickly in the south and tend to grow much longer and heavier. And in the northern half of the US, where winter temperatures can kill fish, survival and replenishment rates can be low.
The difference is bigger than you probably think.
Lake Wilhemina, Arkansas, produced a 5-pound crappie in 2011. Lionel Ferguson caught a 5-pound, 7-ounce crappie in Tennessee in 2018. And a 4-pound, 14-ounce slab was pulled from Watershed Lake, Kentucky, in 2005. Reaching back in time a bit produces a 6-pound crappie in Louisiana, a 4-pound, 15-ounce fish in North Carolina, and a 4-pound 15-ounce papermouth in Virginia.
By contrast, Nevada’s state record stands at 3 pounds 5 ounces, Rhode Island's at 3 pounds, and Wyoming’s at just 2 pounds 7 ounces.
In the real world, any of those fish are trophies, but the raw numbers tell you something important. Cold water means smaller fish and fewer crappie overall, leading wildlife management agencies to favor stronger restrictions in areas with weaker populations.
And the abundance of southern slabs explains why crappie tournaments are a distinctly southern affair.
We’ve done our homework on this list, drawing from expert anglers and wildlife management agencies to select your best fishing opportunities. But of course, these aren’t the only places to try your luck--just some of the best.
Underlined states with an asterisk on our list are recognized as some of the very best places to fish crappie in America
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 Best Crappie Lakes
- 1.1 Alabama *
- 1.2 Arizona
- 1.3 Arkansas
- 1.4 California
- 1.5 Colorado
- 1.6 Connecticut
- 1.7 Delaware
- 1.8 Florida *
- 1.9 Georgia *
- 1.10 Idaho
- 1.11 Illinois
- 1.12 Indiana
- 1.13 Iowa
- 1.14 Kansas
- 1.15 Kentucky
- 1.16 Louisiana *
- 1.17 Maine
- 1.18 Maryland
- 1.19 Massachusetts
- 1.20 Michigan
- 1.21 Minnesota
- 1.22 Mississippi *
- 1.23 Missouri *
- 1.24 Montana
- 1.25 Nebraska
- 1.26 Nevada
- 1.27 New Hampshire
- 1.28 New Jersey
- 1.29 New Mexico
- 1.30 New York
- 1.31 North Carolina
- 1.32 North Dakota
- 1.33 Ohio
- 1.34 Oklahoma *
- 1.35 Oregon
- 1.36 Pennsylvania
- 1.37 Rhode Island
- 1.38 South Carolina *
- 1.39 South Dakota
- 1.40 Tennessee
- 1.41 Texas *
- 1.42 Utah
- 1.43 Vermont
- 1.44 Virginia
- 1.45 Washington
- 1.46 West Virginia
- 1.47 Wisconsin
- 1.48 Wyoming
Don't forget to check out our actionable list of crappie fishing tips!
Best Crappie Lakes
State record: 4 lbs., 5 oz. Shelley Meadows, Fort Payne Reservoir, 2007
As Frank Sargeant notes, “just about every wet spot in the state has either black crappie or white crappie, and many have both.” That spoils locals for great fishing, and it’s just not that hard to find a hot spot.
Known for big crappie, Pickwick Lake is a slab hunter’s dream. Located at the northwest point of the state, Pickwick is counted among the best places for smallmouth bass in the country, with crappie a close second.
Millers Ferry (William (Bill) Dannelly Reservoir
Millers Ferry may be the best place for massive crappie in the state, and that’s really saying something. Warm winters, lots of food, and plenty of cover give big crappie a chance, and slabs over 12 inches aren’t a rarity in these parts.
Sometimes called the “Crappie Capital of Alabama,” this 30,200-acre lake on the Coosa River is a premier fishing hole for papermouths. Pressure is high, however, and that trims the numbers of trophy fish.
What Eufaula’s crappie lack in trophy size, they more than make up for in numbers. For anglers looking to catch a mess of papermouths, this 45,000-acre lake is ideal. The best spring fishing relies on a warm, dry spring, so skip this lake if the weather has been foul.
State recond: 4 lbs., 10 oz. John Shadrick, San Carlos Lake, 1959
Arizona has an active crappie scene, sporting several lakes with decent populations of specks pretty much anywhere you turn.
Dotted with artificial habitat placed by Arizona Game and Fish, Roosevelt Lake is an excellent place to fish black crappie in spring. More than 1,600,000 acres, it’s not only big--it’s deep. Keep the shallows, use a good crappie fish finder, and you’ll find the slabs in no time.
Just 2,660 acres of surface area hide surprising water depths, and like Roosevelt Lake, you’ll need to work the shallows to find black crappie. Essentially a canyon reservoir, look for rock piles, points, and other structure that may hold slabs. A fish finder is essential gear for spotting schools and mapping topography.
This small desert lake is home to excellent largemouth and slab fishing, providing good cover and structure for black crappie to thrive.
State record: 5 lbs. Donivan Echols, Lake Wilhelmina, 2011
One of the best states for slabs, Arkansas has an enviable supply of places to catch a trophy. As in all locations, long-term weather patterns affect the fishing from year to year, but even in the worst of times, Arkansas is a better place for slabs than most!
Located on the Arkansas River, this 34,300-acre reservoir limits your daily take to 30 fish of either species. The quality of the crappie on Dardanelle varies with the volume of water flow from the river: higher water yielding better fish.
Surely the best lake to guarantee a crappie, the numbers of fish caught on Nimrod are simply staggering.
Perhaps the best place to hunt slabs in the state, recent surveys by wildlife biologists “reveal that the 6,700-acre lake averages 49 crappie per net per night, the highest average in the state. And 36 percent of the fish exceed 10 inches in length.”
Perry County’s legendary water for slabs routinely produces big white crappie. Expect roughly half your catch to measure 10 inches.
Deep brush piles are the name of the game on Hamilton, and searching water below the 40-foot mark with a minnow under a slip float is the ideal technique.
State record: 4 lbs., 8 oz. Carol Carlton, Clear Lake, 1971
California offers a climate that’s warm enough for crappie to thrive, and fishing can be excellent if you know where to look. Unfortunately, good locations close to major population centers are hard to find.
The crappie fishing is excellent on Berryessa when the water is replenished by winter storms. Brush piles and lay-downs are your best bet, though open water schools in summer can yield massive slabs.
Lake Camanche is pay-to-play, with a nominal fee charged per angler, per day. That money is well spent, being used to stock the lake with magnificent crappie and bass.
Big Bear Lake
Along the south shore of Big Bear, you’ll find plenty of structure and cover for black crappie, bluegill, and pumpkinseed. The limit is 25 panfish, all species combined.
State record: 4 lbs., 3 oz. Daryel Thompson, Northglenn Lake, 1990
More known for its cold, clear water and trout fishing than the bath-like temperatures and murky water crappie prefer, slab hunting in Colorado can be challenging.
When Jayhawker Lake was created, the standing timber was left in place, creating ideal structure and cover for crappie. The premier place in Colorado to catch a slab, Jayhawker is where we’d look first.
Horsetooth holds healthy populations of panfish, including crappie. The daily limit for all panfish species combined is 20, but be aware of high mercury levels and limit your consumption appropriately.
Savvy slab hunters work the marina and tower for crappie, as open water is typically not very productive on Chatfield.
State record: 4 lbs, Pataganset Lake
The “Calico bass” in Connecticut brave cold winter temperatures, limiting growth and suppressing replacement rates. They also face a variety of predators, including voracious pike.
That doesn’t mean they’re not there, but don’t expect top-flight fishing.
Miller’s Pond, near Durham, is one of the first places we’d look for crappie. Just 33 acres, it offers plenty of cover and structure, allowing a variety of panfish to call it home.
More known for bass and pickerel than crappie, Moodus Reservoir nevertheless holds reasonably-sized schools of panfish.
Large numbers of pike keep the crappie population small, but they’re there if you work brush piles and submerged trees.
State record: 4 lbs., 9 oz., Noxontown Pond, Marvin Billips, 1976
Black crappie were introduced to the waters of Delaware, where they’re doing quite well. By contrast, white crappie aren’t nearly as abundant. Even with both species present, no one thinks of this state as a hotspot for slabs, as cool winter temperatures and high fishing pressure make Delaware a tough state for these warm-water fish.
Well-known to locals as a premier bass lake, Lums also holds healthy populations of both black and white crappie. The blowdowns and brush piles on the east and west sides of the lake are ideal spots for slip floats and minnows or jigs. Just be aware that fishing pressure can be heavy on weekends and holidays.
Heavily pressured from shore, Becks is a good place to hunt crappie if you’re willing to hike to spots others won’t.
Adjacent to the Appoquinimink River watershed, Noxontown Pond holds both species of crappie. Don’t expect slabs, but hand-length fish aren’t uncommon.
State record: 3 lbs., 13 oz., Ben Curry Sr., Lake Talquin, 1992
For Floridian anglers, it almost makes more sense to ask, “Where is the crappie fishing not awesome?”
Blessed with mild winters and warm summers, the lakes, ponds, and rivers of Florida offer some of the best slab hunting in America.
Talquin’s 8,800 acres offer plentiful stumps and logs, giving black crappie a place to hide and hunt. January through April are the prime fishing months for slabs, and this is easily one of the best places anywhere for big crappie.
Here, the slabs grow fast, and monsters are common. Just consider that anything under 10” must be released, and you get a sense of the size of the keepers.
Harris Chain of Lakes
As you’d expect, spring is prime time for black crappie, and many anglers troll open water using fish finders to locate large schools. For shore-bound anglers, the dock lights at Hickory Point Park at Lake Harris are simply amazing at night.
St. Johns River
Lily pads, creek mouths, brush piles, shallow ledges: St. John’s River offers it all. The black crappie fishing here is excellent, and schools will often hold in place under a specific section of vegetation, allowing you to return again and again to the same spot.
12,550 acres of crappie heaven await anglers at Orange Lake.
Shallow water and thick vegetation combine to create ideal black crappie habitat, and a poor fish here is a keeper pretty much anywhere else!
Perhaps not as productive of slabs as Orange Lake, Lochloosa is no slouch. It’s just that Florida’s waters are so rich in crappie that they defy easy comparison.
Cypress trees line the edges of the lake, and between their trunks and knees, offer excellent vertical structure for black crappie.
Adjacent to St. John’s River, Lake Monroe offers spectacular opportunities for slow trolling and spider rigging.
Perhaps the most productive lake in Florida in terms of total numbers, 2-pound crappie are as thick as thieves, with specimens running to 3 pounds more common than almost anywhere else in the US.
35,000 acres of lake offer ideal conditions for slabs, with 10-inch specimens counted as small.
Water grasses adjacent to deeper water are common, and these spots hole ridiculous numbers of fish.
State record: 5 lbs., Theresa Kemp, Bibb Co. Pond, 1984
Georgia is a crappie fanatic’s dream state, offering excellent chances to catch the slab of a lifetime. Warm weather, long summers, and plentiful prey items give the crappie a chance to grow quickly and grow big.
Like Florida, there are almost no bad places in Georgia to catch papermouths, just varying degrees of awesome.
Clarks Hill Lake
Local legend Billy Murphy knows Clark Hills better than you know your bathtub. His advice is simple: “From the first of March to the middle of March is when we’ll see more of the big crappie. We’re in a jacket when we catch the bigger ones. You don’t see those big fish as much once T-shirt weather comes in.”
West Point Lake
26,000 acres of sun-warmed water offer plentiful opportunities to reel in slabs. Submerged trees, brush piles, and other forms of cover and structure that attract crappie are abundant in the shallows, and the slabs are sometimes monstrous on West Point.
A prime destination in Georgia for crappie anglers, working the creek mouths and stained water of Oconee is almost always productive. Shooting docks is no slouch either, and longline trolling is a favored technique as well.
Sinclair is known for a winning combination of numbers and size, and the forecast this year provided by Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources is excellent.
“Similar to previous years, expect abundant fish with an average size around 8 inches. Approximately 25 percent of this spring's catch will be greater than 8 inches, and around one fifth of all catches will be 10 inches or greater. Expect some crappies over 2 pounds.”
Nottely’s 4200 acres offer some of the biggest specks in Georgia.
Indeed, a lot of big crappie call Lake Nottely home, and slabs running in the 10-12-inch range are common. Even bigger fish can be expected, with 13-inch specimens relatively abundant.
45,180 acres of lake formed by the Chattahoochee straddle Alabama and Georgia, and Eufaula offers both states nearly unrivaled crappie fishing.
8-10-inch crappie are plentiful, but some as long as 15 inches are expected every year.
Creek mouths and sandy beaches are prime spots for slabs, with Sandy Creek on the Georgia side of the lake being the hottest spot in spring.
State record: 3 lbs., 5 oz. Jason Monson, Brownlee Reservoir, 2003
Both black and white crappie are introduced species in Idaho, and despite freezing winters and less-than-ideal conditions, they’ve managed to make a foothold. Typically less numerous, as well as much smaller than their southern brethren, there are slabs to be caught in Idaho if you know where to look.
The Snake River and its many reservoirs are prime crappie real estate. A fishfinder is often critical on the river, especially where crappie are holding farther from shore.
Home to the state record, caught in 2003, Brownlee Reservoir continues to produce good crappie. Fish quality fluctuates dramatically, however, and according to Kevin Meyer, Fisheries Principal Research Biologist for Idaho, that’s due predominantly to how harsh the winters are over a several-year term.
C.J. Strike Reservoir
C.J. Strike faces a similar issue to Brownlee, with punishing winters killing immature crappie and reducing subsequent catches. The good news is that the current crop of crappie are quite good. If you work water 30-50 feet deep over flats and humps, you’ll find the slabs.
State record: 4 lbs., 8.8 oz. Ryan Povolish, Kinkaid Lake, 2017
Both white and black crappie make their home in Illinois, though punishing winters, slow growth, and little interest in restocking by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources means that size and slot limits may need to be adjusted to protect fisheries from over-harvesting.
First stocked in 2010, Kinkaid Lake is probably the best place to hunt a slab in Illinois. A survey conducted by wildlife biologists in 2019 revealed that 87% of the crappie “were over the minimum nine-inch length limit, 76% were over 10 inches, and 13% were over 12 inches.”
Surveys continue to demonstrate that Rend Lake holds a healthy population of slabs, but sizes and numbers simply don’t equal Kinkaid.
Excellent numbers of black crappie make Shelbyville a great place to fish for those interested in dinner. While the lake doesn’t produce monsters very often, that’s due--in part--to overpopulation by smaller fish that the state encourages anglers to keep!
State record: 4 lbs., 11 oz. Willis Halcomb, Private Pond, 1994
Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources takes crappie angling seriously, and they’ve worked really hard to improve the stock of slabs available to fishermen in the Hoosier state.
Patoka Lake is known for big crappie, and especially down lake, you’ll find deep ledges that hold large schools. It’s also worth searching for vegetation at mid-depths, where cover attracts slabs throughout the summer.
1,228 acres in northeast Indiana, Lake James is a prized crappie destination for ice fishing as well as the spring spawn. Warm weather brings lots of aquatic vegetation, offering extensive habitat for slabs, as well as plenty of growth-promoting prey items.
Fishing pressure for bass is high on Lake Monroe, but the healthy crappie population is rarely disturbed. Pondweed, milfoil, and coontail abound, and smart anglers work these weedbeds and floating plants for slabs.
State record: 4 lbs., 9 oz. Ted Trowbridge, Green Castle Lake, 1981
Iowa is blessed with lots of water holding healthy populations of crappie, though true slabs depend on milder winters several years in a row and good water levels. But when the stars align, the slab hunting is simply excellent on many of Iowa’s lakes.
Red Rock Lake
When Red Rock lake floods properly in the spring, raising the water level and carrying nutrients into the food chain, the crappie simply explode in number and size. Good years lead to 12-14-inch slabs, while lean years cull numbers substantially.
Watch the spring weather, keep an eye on water levels, and hit Red Rock when the fishing’s predictably good.
Just 120 acres, Lake Miami is nevertheless an awesome place to hunt big crappie. Augmented by brush piles placed by the DNR, the crappie habitat is excellent, and monster slabs are common.
Once the place to be for crappie, slab hunting on Rathbun Lake has declined as habitat was eroded or lost. That doesn’t mean that the fishing is poor, but rather that slab hunters will need to look deeper and fish smarter.
Quality electronics are essential on Rathbun, as is searching for females staging for the spawn.
State record: 4 lbs., 6 oz. Hazel Fey, Woodson Lake, 1957
Record flooding in 2019 devastated parts of Kansas. But it also brought much-needed nutrients to the food chain, resulting in a crappie boom in 2020 that continues to influence catch rates and size.
Doug Nygren of Kansas’ Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, says “we’re set up for some of the best crappie fishing we’ve had in years...We had a big carryover of fish because our reservoirs were inaccessible for a long period of time.”
Tuttle Creek’s crappie population really benefited from the flooding, and larger and more numerous slabs are the result.
12-15 feet of water near brush piles: there’s nothing special about where to look on Melvern Reservoir. But what has changed are the numbers. In 2020, lots of small crappie were caught, but they’ve grown a lot since then and will continue to do so.
Expect this to be a premier slab spot over the next few years.
El Dorado Reservoir
El Dorado’s 8,000 acres are holding some of the biggest slabs in the state, with 14 inches or more being possible. High numbers are anathema to growth like this, though, so for now, El Dorado’s mantra is go big or go home.
State record: 4 lbs., 14 oz. Penny Hopper, Watershed Lake, 2005
Kentucky anglers shower a lot of love on crappie, and each spring, you’ll find the lakes crowded with boats full of slab hunters. Milder winters and predictable food chains yield nice slabs, year in and year out.
The premier spot to hunt a slab during the spawn, Kentucky Lake is going to see a lot of fishing pressure every spring. Watch weather patterns carefully, time your fishing trip well, and you’ll have incredible fishing for big slabs.
Herrington’s 2,335 acres are prime crappie territory, and the lake produces enough slabs to support a guiding industry.
Expect big slabs but not high numbers. Central Fishery District biologist Jeff Crosby notes, “It’s a good, quality fishery, but crappie numbers are low...The lake has both white and black crappie, and we have sampled 12 to 14-inch fish.”
After the Corp of Engineers lowered the water in Lake Cumberland in 2013, crappie habitat was inadvertently improved, leading to much better fishing since then.
Some of that submerged vegetation dies each year, and the lake will eventually succumb to decline. That said, Southeastern Fisheries Biologist Marcy Anderson thinks, “The outlook is still good for Cumberland, especially on the upper end of the lake.”
State record: 6 lbs. 1969
With a climate pretty much made to order for crappie, Louisiana’s anglers are spoiled for places to catch sac-a-lait. And with the largest crappie ever caught on the books, trophy slab hunters travel to work Louisiana’s waters for big fish.
Expect significant fishing pressure on most well-known crappie lakes.
Locals know that good electronics mean full live wells in this 16,000 acre lake.
A popular location for tournaments, spider rigging is probably the most productive technique on D’Arbonne. Locate the two river channels running through the lake, and troll the edges of both.
In a state blessed with tremendous crappie lakes, Toledo Bend stands out for both the numbers and size of its crappie.
Good electronics are essential to find the ledges adjacent to deeper water where crappie will seek cover, but once you get to those ledges, the fishing is truly legendary. Ed Terry, a guide on the Bend, “made 230 guided trips — and he and his clients brought home an average of 40-plus fish each trip. They caught many, many more — so you do the math.”
Fishermen in central Louisiana know Saline for its prime crappie fishing, though this sprawling natural collection of backwaters and lakes can be intimidating to the uninitiated.
The trick is to think deep as long as the water is hot, which is almost always. Bring good electronics, find the shad, and you’ll be on more crappie than you care to fillet!
In cooler water, Tony Fuqua hunts shallow structure, not giving up on a spot till it’s produced numerous crappie. “It’s not unusual to take a couple of fishermen out and catch 50 fish in just a couple of hours, especially the first few months of the year.”
Lake Bisteneau has more cypress stumps, blow downs, and brush piles than any other place I’ve ever fished, hands down. And while that creates hazards for boaters, it’s heaven for crappie.
Spring and fall are excellent, as you’d expect, but winter can be a surprisingly good time to catch slabs. Dress warmly and be willing to move away from the port, making longer trips to less pressured areas of the lake.
Caddo Lake’s 26,800 acres offer plenty of shallow brush piles and aquatic vegetation, especially on the Texas side.
Ideal habitat for slabs, pre-spawn fishing in cold water is hot once you locate the staging areas among the cypress and hardwood structure.
At 260,000 acres--yes, you read that right!--the basin frightens a lot of fishermen away. Worried that they’ll never find the fish, they skip this sprawling cypress swamp and head to smaller water.
But clean canals and bayous typically hold crappie, especially up in the shallows to either side of the main channel. Look for thick cover, and work the edges where hungry crappie will hunt for a meal.
Poverty Point Reservoir
Just 2,700 acres, Poverty Point produces ridiculous numbers of 2- and 3-pound crappie, though fishing pressure can be heavy.
State record: 3 lbs., 9 oz. Quinn Warren, Messalonskee Lake, 2016
Black crappie were introduced to Maine’s waters in 1921, but freezing winters and short summers have not done a lot to help them proliferate.
8,239 acres offer habitat for black crappie, but cold waters slow their growth and cut survival rates in winter. Ice fishing may be the best bet on the pond outside of the spring spawn.
Black crappie, as well as other panfish like sunfish, make their home in Sebasticook Lake. Crappie aren’t a sought-after species in Maine, with both large and smallmouth bass taking preference on Sebasticook.
As a result, fishing pressure will be low for black crappie.
Warm-water species like crappie aren’t a common catch on Sebago, but the best bet is to work the shallows for brush piles in the spring.
State record 4 lbs., 4 oz. Sid Stollings, Indian Acres, 1987
Maryland may not rival more southern states like Mississippi, but the crappie populations in its many lakes and rivers are doing well.
Loch Raven Reservoir
Loch Raven’s 2,400 acres are well known by bass fishermen, but they hold plenty of black crappie, bluegill, and white and yellow perch, too.
Thick hydrilla grows as the summer heats the water, providing excellent cover for prey items and crappie alike.
Prettyboy has some of the clearest water you’ll find in Maryland, and that means you’ll typically need to look a bit deeper for crappie.
Known more for its catch-and-release bass fishing, Wheatley produces decent numbers of black crappie as well.
State record: 4 lbs., 10 oz. James Crowley, Jakes Pond, 1980
Locally known as the “calico bass,” despite cold winters, black crappie seem to be doing really well in Massachusetts. And while true trophies are as rare as warm winters, there are plenty of places to catch reasonable crappie.
As the weather warms, fishing pressure for bass will increase to nearly intolerable levels, but most anglers skip the numerous bluegill and crappie.
Carefully managed to avoid invasive plants and animals, Manchaug’s 380 acres of clear water offer good-quality habitat for crappie.
Large populations of shad provide plenty of pretty for crappie, and though walleye and bass are the target species on the Connecticut, don’t ignore the slabs!
Bare Hill Pond
Just 320 acres, Bare Hill Pond’s shallow water holds plenty of black crappie, bluegill, and pumpkinseed.
Boating pressure can be really high on warm weekends, so hitting the water early or during the week is the key to success.
State record: 4 lbs., 1.92 oz. Frank Lee, Lincoln Lake, 1947
While pike, walleye, and bass take precedence in Michigan, the crappie fishing can be quite good, and fishing pressure for slabs isn’t as fierce as it is farther south.
Tippy Dam Pond
Tippy Dam Pond’s 1,540 acres are nearly ideal habitat for big crappie. Loaded with stumps, brush piles, and irregular structure, slabs have plenty of places to hide and hunt.
Undoubtedly the best place to catch bluegill in the state, Hamlin also supports a healthy crappie population, including some big slabs.
The Department of Natural Resources’s Mark Tonello notes, “During the most recent fishery survey in 2004, biologists collected 104 crappies that averaged 10 inches and measured up to 13 inches. But this was compared with over 900 bluegills that were netted during the survey.”
Pere Marquette Lake
Murky water, plenty of aquatic vegetation, and stamps and brush piles galore: Pere Marquette is dynamite crappie territory.
And while monster slabs call this lake home, most of the anglers here are after steelhead and salmon, leaving pressure pretty much non-existent for crappie.
State record: 5 lbs. Tom Christenson, Vermillion River, 1940
Minnesota’s anglers love slabs, with only walleye being more popular on its thousands of lakes.
That number’s no exaggeration--and with so many bodies of water in such close proximity, it’s fair to say that Minnesota may be the best place to fish for slabs in the northern US.
Keep in mind, however, that cold water and frigid winters mean that growth rates are low, as is replacement. Limits are kept small in Minnesota to preserve the crappie population year to year.
Massive, sprawling, and deep, Red Lake creates a home for nearly every species of fish found in Minnesota’s fresh water.
Ideal for ice fishing, Red Lake is also productive for black crappie during the spawn.
Sand Lake’s 4,300 acres offer plenty of shallow water immediately adjacent to steep drop-offs, creating a unique environment for panfish like crappie.
Pretty much anywhere you go near shore, the water’s just 5 feet deep or so, and it’s easy to find a place where the crappie have plenty of cover.
Just 165 acres, Steiger Lake nevertheless holds abundant black crappie and pumpkinseed.
Surrounded by weeds and vegetation at the edges, there’s always plenty of cover to attract slabs.
State record: 4 lbs., 4 oz. Gerald Conlee, Arkabutla Reservoir, 1991
Mississippi is a mecca to slab hunters. With a climate that’s ideal for rapid growth and predictable reproduction, the worst places to fish for crappie here are better than most almost anywhere else.
Arkabutla, Sardis, and Enid Lakes
These are northern Mississippi’s premier slab sites. Arkabutla is known for the big ones, while Sardis and Enid allow you to fill a cooler with 10- to 12-inch crappie in a few hours.
Be aware, however, that fishing pressure is heavy.
Perhaps the best place to fish crappie in Mississippi, Lake Washington produces both high numbers and large sizes.
Anglers are required to release crappie less than 11 inches, but filling the limit of 30 is nonetheless common!
A paradise for slab hunters, Granada Lake produces monsters as regularly as most states churn out 10-inchers.
Anglers are required to release any crappie under 12 inches, with the limit being 15.
Just think about what that means, weekend after weekend, and you get a good sense of why Mississippi ranks so highly in the minds of slab fanatics.
State record: 4 lbs., 9 oz. Ray Babcock, Private Pond, 1967
Pretty much anywhere you find water in Missouri, you’ll find crappie. And while walleye fever is common in the Show-Me state, anglers are discovering the joys of crappie, one slab at a time.
Lake of the Ozarks
54,000 acres of prime crappie habitat, Lake of the Ozarks is fast becoming a legendary crappie fishery, in no small part through the concerted efforts of dock owners who are placing brush piles along the shoreline.
Missouri’s Department of Conservation surveyed the Lake of the Ozarks, discovering that “63 percent of the white crappie and 52 percent of the black crappie measured were equal to or longer than the lake’s 9-inch minimum length limit.”
Fed by predictable flood waters every year, Truman Lake has a thriving ecosystem, plenty of prey, and renewed yearly cover.
The result? There are few places better in Missouri to find lots of 10 to 11-inch crappie.
Table Rock Lake
Well-respected as a bass fishing destination, Table Rock is also known for healthy slabs, and crappie over 12 inches are caught every spring.
24,900 acres, Stockton is ringed by trees that provide plenty of cover for slabs.
Unfortunately, most of the white crappie are presently under the legal limit, and the MDC reports that “Recent crappie trap netting surveys resulted in the second highest white crappie catch rates documented in the last 24 years. This is primarily due to a large year class of white crappie in the 7.5-9 inch range.”
The good news is that you’ll catch a lot of crappie, just not to keep. But if you’re looking for non-stop catch-and-release fun, Stockton simply can’t be beat.
State record 3.68 lbs. Gene Bassett, Tongue River Reservoir, 1996
Montana’s climate is less than accommodating for crappie. Cold winters and cold water are the norm, and slow growth and low replacement are the rule.
Tongue River Reservoir
A popular crappie destination on long weekends and holidays, Tongue River Reservoir is surrounded by juniper that can create good cover for slabs.
Ice fishing is particularly popular on the reservoir, and with good electronics, nice hauls of crappie are a regular event all winter.
Fort Peck Lake
Fort Peck Lake’s walleye and pike combine with cold temps to keep the crappie population in check, but they can be caught, especially if you look deep and use a good fishfinder.
The black crappie that were introduced to the reservoir struggle through the winter, and they tend to hold in deep water inaccessible from the shore.
State record: 4 lbs., 8 oz. Allen Paap, Jr., Farm Pond, 2003
Nebraska’s cold weather and frigid winters don’t promise a lot for crappie, and slab hunters must be willing to research, scout, and work for their fish. Unfortunately, as Gene Hornbeck reports, the state just “doesn't offer a huge choice of crappie water. Private farm ponds and sandpit lakes account for the most fish.”
Sherman County Reservoir
Roughly 3,000 acres of water ringed in by marsh grass and willows, Sherman County Reservoir holds a reasonable population of crappie.
Larry Placzek, a local crappie angler, offers a few tips:
"The crappie action gets started in March...We find the best fishing off trails 3, 6, and 8, and at the inlet, as well as along the face of the dam. The fish will stage in the deeper water just off the cover they will spawn in, and then, as the water temperature climbs, they will move shallower until you might catch them at times in a foot of water in the willows and weed patches.”
Red Willow Reservoir
The 1,630 acres of Red Willow produce big crappie, just not in large numbers. But Steve Lytle, a local fishing guide, has caught 19-inch crappie here, though the average is closer to 11 inches.
Rebounding from a period of low water, Tuttle Creek now produces crappie of more than 2 pounds with some regularity. Plenty of aquatic vegetation at the edges offers great cover, and Tuttle Creek is probably the best bet for crappie anglers looking for a morning of great fishing, pre-spawn.
State record: 3 lbs., 5 oz. Lake A. Pressey, Weber Reservoir, 2017
Warm water and Nevada are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, and though crappie are caught in Nevada, largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass are more sought after and more common.
Echo Canyon Reservoir
8-inch white crappie are the norm in Echo Canyon, at least in better years. Fluctuation water levels and cold winters keep the population small in both senses, however.
Warm water species struggle for growth on Nesbitt, with even the largemouth feeling the cold. White crappie are far from abundant, but they can be targeted in the spring during the spawn.
Located in the southern portion of Nevada, Lake Mead has the healthiest population of crappie you’ll find in Nevada, and the Overton Arm of the lake is probably the best crappie destination in the state, winter or spring.
State record: 2 lbs., 15 oz. Brian O’Day, Great East Lake, 2016
Black crappie are not a well-known species on New Hampshire’s lakes, no doubt reflecting the cold winters and poor prospects for this warm water species. Introduced early in the 120th century, crappie have made a home in the state, but “thriving” isn’t a word wildlife biologists would use to describe their success.
This small reservoir is a good place to hit the ice for black crappie, though lax no-size limits and generous creel limits can impact fish quality from year to year.
Lots of trees along the edges of Pawtuckaway Lake create excellent brush piles and habitat for black crappie, and the panfish can be plentiful here.
Though ringed by houses and an amusement park, Canobie Lake is perhaps the best crappie destination in New Hampshire. Just 375 acres, its shallow water is warm for the region, holding respectable populations of black crappie.
State record: 4 lbs., 8 oz. Andy Tintle, Pompton Lake, 1996
While home to both white and black crappie, New Jersey's waters hold far more of the latter. Anything over 8 inches is a keeper, and the climate just doesn't provide the warmth needed for fast growth.
Though small, the lake’s plentiful trees provide ample brush to form habitat for crappie. Fishing pressure is minimal, and panfish of all kinds are common.
550 acres in the mountains of New Jersey, Swartswood Lake holds a sizable population of black crappie. Largely undeveloped along its shoreline, good spots for bank fishing are easy to access.
Boat rentals are available, too, giving anglers so inclined another opportunity to reach prime spots, and a boat launch provides further access.
More popular for bass than slabs, plenty of black crappie populate this lake. Brush piles are common, as are shallows attracting spawning slabs.
6,550 acres of relatively shallow water, Mosquito Lake offers access to its entire shoreline from the bank.
Plenty of cover, steady water levels, and warm water add up to excellent crappie reproduction rates, and while there are probably better places to look for monster slabs, for steady weekend-in, weekend-out fishing, Mosquito Lake is just perfect.
State record: 4 lbs., 9 oz. Oscar W. Buck, Black River, 1983
New Mexico may not be mentioned in the same breath as Mississippi, Texas, or Florida, but for slab fanatics, there’s plenty of action here.
Elephant Butte Lake
The largest lake in New Mexico, Elephant Butte’s 40,000 acres hold a healthy population of crappie, though white bass will be far more commonly on the end of your hook.
Once decimated by low water and algae blooms, Brantley lake has returned as a great place to fish for crappie in New Mexico. While it’s stocked with several species, including crappie, be wary of high levels of DDT in the fish you catch--and don’t eat them!
Approximately 11,500 acres, Caballo Lake is the destination of legions of anglers in New Mexico, as it’s known for abundant populations of large- and smallmouth bass, striped bass, and panfish.
A healthy population of crappie calls this lake home, and especially during the spawn, they’re easy to find and catch.
State record: 4 lbs., 1 oz. William Wightman, Lake Flavia, 2018
Long, harsh winters aren’t what crappie need, but that’s what New York supplies. And while both species of crappie are present in the state, slow growth rates and low replacement mean that true slabs are rare.
New York currently places a 9-inch minimum on keepers, with creel limits of 25. That should go a long way in improving the average size in coming years.
Whitney Point Reservoir
Careful water level management and the cultivation of aquatic plants have led Whitney Point to being the state’s premier crappie destination.
When the ice permits, the Whitney Point Sportsman's Association holds a crappie tournament here, and slab hunting in the spring is pretty much a local right of passage.
Eelgrass, pondweed, Eurasian milfoil, and water stargrass grow around the edges of Honeoye Lake, providing excellent cover for black crappie.
Honeoye is the shallowest of the finger lakes, making it a great place to visit each spring to target pre-spawn and spawning slabs.
Crappie are abundant on Waneta, despite plenty of predators like muskie.
Look for them in the shallow bays in the spring and the main channel in summer.
State record: 4 lbs., 15 oz. Dean Dixon, Asheboro City Lake, 1980
Anglers in North Carolina are crappie fanatics, and slabs are the most sought-after fish in the state’s many waters. Mild winters and long summers allow crappie to grow quickly, and replacement rates are excellent.
Winter doesn’t cool hot slab fishing on Jordan Lake, as Freddie Sinclair, a local guide, explains.
“January is a very predictable month… You know the fish are going to be stacked up in the deeper creek channels and deeper ledges on the main lake. Very seldom will they be scattered. If you find the baitfish, usually the crappie will be bunched up with them in good numbers.”
Harris Lake’s 4,100 acres now rank as one of the best places--perhaps even the best--to fish crappie in NC. Plentiful brush piles and nearly ideal habitat for crappie make Harris a “must fish” destination.
Fishing pressure can be quite high, however, especially around the spawn.
Contrary to the crappie mantra that spring is the ideal time for slabs, pros like Bud Haynes and Rod King recommend you hit Falls Lake in January and February.
Yes, the water’s cold--but the big crappie are starting to move and feed, preparing for the spawn. And it’s then that you’ll find nature separating the trophies from the mere keepers for you.
Tar River Reservoir
Recovering from excessive agricultural run-off, Tar River Reservoir now enjoys clearer water and a growing reputation as a monster slab destination.
As old hands on Tar River like Jimmy Duke will tell you, light mono and very light jigs are the keys to success here.
State record: 3 lbs., 4 oz. Don Newcomb, Lake Oahe, 1998
Cold weather and cold water dominate North Dakota’s fisheries, and while walleye are king, winter crappie can be a treat up here. But in contrast to more southerly states, winter is prime time, with ice fishing being the method of choice for crappie.
“We have sampled crappies throughout the Devils Lake System, from Lake Irvine through Stump Lake, but Six-Mile Bay and Pelican Lake seem to be the places where crappies are the most prevalent,” says Todd Caspers, Devil’s Lake fisheries biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Winter turns the lake’s 170,000 acres into a frozen sheet of thick ice, and while most folks are chasing walleye and perch, savvy slab hunters can target crappie.
The spawn is also excellent on Devil’s Lake, as crappie pressure is low to non-existent--at least until the word gets out!
Black crappie haven’t been stocked in Lake Ashtabula since 2013, and with healthy populations of predatory fish like walleye, muskie, and pike, slabs get hit hard.
But fishing pressure is low for slabs, and ice fishing opportunities abound.
Bluegill and black crappie are abundant on lake Tschida, despite pressure from predators. And while true slabs are rare, 2-pound crappie are relatively common.
State record: 4 lbs., 5 oz. Ronald Stone, Private Pond, 1981
Both species of crappie are chased by Ohio’s anglers, and slab hunting is a passionate pursuit across the state.
Since instituting a 9-inch minimum and a creel limit of 30 fish in 2009, with further refinements on a lake-by-lake basis, the average quality of crappie has improved dramatically, making Ohio a great place to fish.
Lower water levels have allowed shoreline vegetation to recover, leading to a much-improved habitat for slabs. Sandusky Bay has since been a premier destination for crappie anglers, outshining nearly any other lake in the region.
Ray Peterling, administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife's inland fisheries division, is an avid angler and big fan of Sandusky. "You can sometimes catch 150 fish a day there and never see one under 10 inches," he says. "Crappies in the 15- to 17-inch range are not unusual."
The reservoir’s 1,200 acres have really shown the benefit of tighter restrictions, and now, true slabs are just waiting to be caught.
Accessible along its entire shoreline, Delaware Reservoir may be the best place to hunt a slab if you don’t own a boat.
Predictable warm water and plentiful cover make for excellent breeding grounds for trophy slabs, and Mosquito Lake provides both in spades.
Watch the water level and clarity. It’s also important to note that the crappie bite here doesn’t really take off until the water hits the low 50s.
With 6,550 acres of relatively shallow water, the spawning flats are typically north of Route 88.
State record: 4 lbs., 15 oz. Frank Robinson, Kingfisher Co. Pond, 1991
Oklahoma is another one of those nearly perfect states for slab hunters, offering warm weather and tons of water that’s just ideal for crappie. And there’s simply no question that both species grow quickly and reproduce like mad here.
Crappie need space to spread out, as well as predators to keep their numbers in check, and Lake Eufaula provides plenty of both. Eufaula’s 102,000 acres hold a more than healthy population of slabs, and trophy slabs are anything but in short supply here.
That can lead to tremendous pressure in peak seasons like the spawn, and anglers will arrive from across the country to fish this premier location.
Due to careful management, the size of the slabs has picked up recently, producing truly impressive stringers of fish in the range of pounds each.
Wes Watkins Reservoir
Wes Watkins’s 1,142 acres are perhaps best known for the virus that decimated its bass population, but this disease left the crappie untouched.
And with plenty of submerged timber, the slabs are thick in the reservoir. Mary Fowler, who works at the lake office, has seen 3- and 4-pound crappie pulled from Wes Watkins, and the potential for the reservoir to be a trophy fishery is definitely there.
That said, fluctuating water levels are a concern, so watch for high water in the spring. It’s a sure sign the crappie fishing will be excellent.
Just 935 acres, Longmire’s standing timber produces more slabs than you can shake a jig at, and true slabs are common.
Bob Myers, a local guide on Longmire, attests to the quality of the slabs. "A few years back, the lake consistently produced some 2- to 3-pound crappie … I've even seen some crappie that weighed 4 pounds."
The white crappie in Oologah’s 29,460 acres of clear water are abundant. And while catfish and bass may be the preeminent species on this lake, the white crappie are excellent.
Even a creel limit of 37 and no minimum length for a keeper can’t put a dent in the crappie on Oologah.
State record: 4 lbs., 12 oz. Jim Duckett, Gerber Reservoir, 1967
Oregon isn’t what anyone would call a crappie hotspot, but they’re definitely present in the state’s waters. More often caught by accident by most anglers in the state, die-hard crappie fanatics know that there are a few good lakes for slabs.
Brownlee’s 15,000 acres are fed by the Snake River, and if water levels haven’t dropped precipitously in the last few weeks, the crappie bite can be quite good.
Access by boat is simple, and though the bank is open along the entire reservoir, there’s precious little shade.
Any lake that holds a thriving population of rainbow trout is too cold for massive crappie, and that’s certainly true of Prineville.
That said, there are crappie to be caught here, especially once the sun has had a chance to work on the water.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been submerging juniper brush piles near the mouth of Bear Creek and the south shoreline above Sanford Creek, and those are the best places on the reservoir to look for slabs.
Henry Hagg Lake
Hagg is a bit cool for massive crappie, quick growth, or high replacement rates, but they’re certainly here.
You’ll need to identify submerged cover and do your homework, but when you find the likely spots, you’ll be on the fish.
State record: 4 lbs., 3 oz. Richard A. Pino, Hammond Lake, 2000
The Keystone state isn’t a haven for crappie, and cold winters lead to slow growth and replacement. As a rule, then, Pennsylvania crappie fishing “is more about quantity than quality. The goal on most outings is to fill the cooler with perfect pan size fillets.”
That’s starting to change as the state improves panfish management, however, and bigger and better fish are beginning to result from dedicated efforts.
Blue Marsh Lake
Blue Marsh Lake’s 1,150 acres are carefully managed for crappie, placing a 9-inch size limit and 20 fish per day creel limit on the lake.
As Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission explains, “Crappie populations in general, and the crappie population at Blue Marsh in particular, tend to fluctuate naturally with strong year classes followed by weak year classes… By increasing the minimum length limit and reducing the creel limit for crappie in Blue Marsh Lake biologists are attempting to lessen the extremes between the peaks and valleys of this lake’s crappie population.”
So far, the results have been promising, and really nice slabs are a more regular catch than in years past.
Cross Creek Lake
Offering plenty of cover and prey for crappie, Cross Creek sports a stable population of average-size fish. Enhanced management, like that at Blue Marsh, is working to increase the size of the slabs here, with spectacular results.
Recent years have seen tons of fish over the legal limit of 9 inches, and with continued care, Cross Creek could become the premier crappie fishery in Pennsylvania.
Anything but mammoth, this tiny lake holds a thriving population of crappie.
Recent surveys by the state resulted in a surprising number of monster slabs. “There were fish pushing 16 inches or so,” biologist Mike Depew reports. “And there were plenty of those desirable-size fish: 10-, 11-, 12-inch crappies.”
State record: 3 lbs. R. Sevegny, Watchaug Pond, 1976
Calico bass aren’t exactly a hot commodity in Rhode Island, and most anglers seem to ignore them almost entirely.
That doesn’t mean you can’t catch them, and they’re certainly present in the state’s waters.
The weedy north end of Georgiaville Pond is home to crappie, and perhaps the best time to target them is during the state’s short ice fishing season.
Barring that, work the shoreline and shallows in spring, and you’re almost sure to land a crappie or two.
Shallow and filled with stumps, trees, and brush piles, tiny Chapman Pond is the best bet in the state for a good crappie.
With plenty of cover and prey, Watchaug Pond is more known for largemouth bass than crappie.
Don’t let that stop you!
Home to the state record, Watchaug holds a healthy population of slabs that are all but ignored, and especially at the spawn, easy to target.
South Carolina *
State record: 5 lbs., 1 oz. Mrs. H.P. Owens, Lake Murray, 1949
Rivaling any state for its abundance of slabs, South Carolina has a wealth of great places to catch crappie.
Ross Self, Chief of Fisheries for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, reports, “Crappie are cyclic in nature and lakes will experience natural fluctuations over time, but essentially the species as a whole is doing well statewide and plenty of lakes offer outstanding opportunities for crappie fishing.”
Lined with cypress forming the vertical structure crappie can’t resist, Lake Moultrie’s 60,000 acres are a slab hunter’s paradise.
And the state has upped the ante on Moultrie by sinking fish attractors at sites with known GPS coordinates, available at https://www.dnr.sc.gov/fish/fishattract/fishattr.html.
Relatively shallow, high wind can make the lake nearly unnavigable, so keep that issue in mind when you’re planning a trip to coincide with a falling barometer.
Like Moultrie, Marion’s 110,000 acres are part of the Santee Cooper and just as paced with monster slabs.
Here, too, you’ll find fish attractors as well as the cypress knees and stumps that hold legions of crappie.
Creek mouths are plentiful on Lake Marion and always good places to hunt crappie.
Like Moultrie, Lake Murray can get rough in the wind, but it’s just as full of crappie, and despite what you may have heard, they get very, very big here.
Kit Carson, a veteran slab hunter, thinks “The best areas for crappie are from mid lake starting at Hollow Creek and Billy Dreher/Crystal Lake area… on up into the river arms of both the little Saluda and Big Saluda rivers. Overall the crappie most of the year will be found in open water, either in or along the underwater old river channel bends and break lines, suspended over such as a[n] underwater river bend or drop. Late March through April the majority of them migrate shallow for the spawn.”
Warming well before most others, Lake Secession is a great early spring destination for slabs, especially on its upper end.
State record: 3 lbs., 9 oz. Gary Ernst, Private Pond, 1974
South Dakota’s anglers are warming to crappie, but they’re a long way from popular when compared to cold-water fish like walleye and pike.
The reasons are easy to understand: frigid winters. Mark Ermer, a fisheries manager for the state, notes that crappie populations “are real sporadic in this part of the world… Sometimes we wait five years and sometimes 10 years. Those big year classes are very strong, and there is good fishing for five years. But then we slip back to low populations with big fish. Then we wait. We are definitely in a big dip."
A 2016 survey of Marindahl revealed plenty of 8- to 10-inch crappie, and this tiny lake--just 139 acres--is ripe for slab hunters as the pressure on this species is almost nil.
As an ice fishing destination for slabs, Pickerel Lake may be without equal in SD.
Expect relatively heavy pressure; however, dedicated crappie anglers are rare.
State record: 5 lbs., 7 oz. Lionel Ferguson, Loudon County, 2018
Tennessee’s anglers hold a special place in their hearts for crappie, and I doubt there’s a single one that doesn’t have a jigging pole ready to go each spring for the spawn.
One perennial problem for the state has been fluctuating water levels in reservoirs, with drawdowns sometimes destroying crappie habitat. Enhanced management has really begun to pay off, and crappie over 16 inches are no longer a rarity.
Plenty of cypresses, stumps, blowdowns, and brush piles make Reelfoot’s shallow water a haven for monster slabs in the spring.
As the weather heats up, expect general pressure on the lake to increase and spider rigging to become the dominant technique.
Fillet-sized keepers are common on Barkley, but true slabs depend on high water and good reproduction years.
Those haven’t been super common of late, and it’s a state-wide issue that’s decreased the quality of Tennessee’s fish.
Center Hill Reservoir
The crappie population in Center Hill is kept vital by continuous restocking, a necessity given the habitat loss caused by low water and drawdowns.
Hybrid black nosed crappie are abundant as a result of this intervention, but the clear water of this reservoir tends to keep them quite deep. Good electronics are key here, but when you do find the slabs, real monsters are common.
State record: 4 lbs., 8 oz. G. G. Wooderson, Navarro Mills, 1968
There’s simply no questioning Texas as one of the best states for slab hunting.
Texas’s crappie anglers are spoiled for excellent fisheries, and nearly every body of water is called home by thriving populations of big, hungry slabs.
A popular location for tournaments, Lake Fork isn’t just one of the best places for crappie in the state; it’s consistently in the top 5 in the country!
Growth rates are almost impossibly fast, with tournament anglers collecting dozens of 2-pound slabs in a day. Much bigger crappie are there, too, waiting for dedicated fishermen.
Shared with Louisiana, Toledo Bend, especially on the Texas side, enjoys cover and structure that attract crappie like a magnet.
The numbers of big slabs seem almost limitless here, and amateurs and pros alike agree that a trip to its 185,000 acres of prime crappie water is never wasted.
Lake O’ the Pines
Careful management, including an unusual program of culling in the winter, makes this lake an exceptional fishery for slabs.
According to Texas regulations, “For black and white crappie caught from DEC. 1 through the last day of FEB., there is no minimum length limit and all crappie caught must be retained,” subject to the normal creel limit of 25 fish.”
The step ensures that a lot of inferior crappie are removed from Lake O’ the Pines, and overcrowding is prevented, resulting in some real monsters.
Expect fishing pressure to be very high in peak seasons, however.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir
Unlike reservoirs in states like Tennessee that struggle with water levels and bad years for spawning, Sam Rayburn is so big and holds so much water that drawdowns and lean years just don’t make a dent.
As a result, spawning and reproduction rates are stable over the long term, yielding massive, healthy populations of crappie.
Sam Rayburn’s 114,500 acres can feel pressured in spring, but there’s generally plenty of free shoreline to work for slabs.
Just 950 acres of water near Abilene, Daniel Reservoir is simply amazing.
A 2017 survey of the reservoir revealed that “White Crappie were greatly abundant, and legal-size fish up to 15 inches were available to anglers. Most crappie reached legal size within one or two years.”
Watch water levels, however, as drought can reduce this lake substantially.
Coupled with careful management, Texas’s Parks and Wildlife has been actively placing brush piles around the edges of Granger, resulting in simply outstanding crappie habitat.
Their locations are available here.
Of course, natural brush piles and other forms of cover abound on Granger, making finding crappie in the spring pretty easy. As the heat rolls in for summer, however, good electronics are a must.
State record: 3 lbs., 2 oz. Mike Flickinger, Quail Creek Reservoir, 1993
Utah’s waters are a bit cold for rapid growth, but there are happy populations of slabs around the state and relatively low pressure given the popularity of other species. Both white and black variations are present, and some stocking is conducted by the state, but Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources still uses the phrase “extremely rare” to describe slabs in relation to walleye, catfish, white bass, and other common sport species.
Surrounded by desert, the DMAD reservoir holds thriving schools of white crappie that retreat to deep water in summer.
Once the heat is on, electronics are a must to locate fish. Once they’ve been found, their numbers can be very good.
Gunnison Bend Reservoir
The only known stocking point for crappie in Utah, Gunnison Bend Reservoir is probably your best best for a slab or two.
Just 706 acres, warm weather finds recreational boaters, water skiers, and jetskis crowding the lake.
Winter and early spring are the best times to look for slabs, as you’ll probably have the reservoir to yourself.
Lake Powell provides places where the water is shallow and cover is common, and it’s in these spots that you’ll find crappie.
State record: 3 lbs., 8.5 oz. Francis T. Geoffroy, Lake Hortonia, 2005
While by no means a top state for crappie fishing, Vermont is nevertheless a decent place to catch a cooler full of fish-fry material. Expect slow growth rates and low replacement, both of which demand careful conservation.
The result is a closed season, open only from the second Saturday in April to October 31. 8-inches is the minimum length for keepers, with a creel limit of 25.
Lake Dunmore’s 985 acres are known to hold black crappie, but by no means is this species “common.”
2,400 acres of wood-ringed, clear water, Lake Bomoseen does produce crappie, though anything over 2 pounds is a trophy!
Home to both white and black crappie, Lake Champlain’s shallows can be excellent places to catch slabs before and during the spawn.
The south end of the lake is the best bet, with the Landing, George David (Singing Cedars), Larabees, Lapham’s Bay, McCuen Slang, and Chimney Point access areas being the ideal places to launch.
State record: 4 lbs., 14 oz. E. L. Blackstock, Lake Conner, 1967
Virginia’s warm climate, long summers, and plentiful water add up to excellent crappie fishing, and it’s definitely a state to watch for trophy slabs. From the tidal portions of the Chick to inland lakes and rivers, crappie are flourishing across the state.
Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir)
48,900 acres of crappie heaven, Kerr Reservoir is perhaps the premier spot for crappie fishing in the state.
Between excellent habitat and friendly weather, the reservoir produces legions of 1 to 2-pound fish, and 4-pound monsters are not the rarity they are elsewhere in the country.
Smith Mountain Lake
Clear and largely empty of downed trees and brush, the key to success on Smith Mountain Lake is a good fishfinder.
If you can find the odd brush pile or cover, it will definitely hold crappie, and it has produced some record-setting slabs over the years.
Surrounded by cypress and aquatic vegetation, Chickahominy Lake is a prime spot for spring slabs.
1,230 acres, Chick Lake is a consistently excellent source of fat crappie, year in, year out.
State record: 4 lbs., 8 oz. John W. Smart, Lake Washington, 1956
Black crappie do just fine in Washington, and many lakes across the state hold stable populations of what are locally known as calico or strawberry bass.
Lake Washington’s 22,138 acres of deep water pretty much demand solid electronics, as finding the black crappie is no walk in the park!
Once you do, they tend to school in large numbers, and pulling slab after slab from the water is child’s play.
Be aware that fishing pressure can be high in the summer and that Gene Coulon Park, in particular, can get really crowded as a launching point.
Better known for bass than crappie, Silver Lake is my choice for early season slabs.
Uniformly shallow, it heats up quickly in the spring, offering a spawn that’s quite a bit earlier than you’ll find elsewhere in Washington.
Though crappie quality can vary a bit from year to year, Potholes Reservoir is a can’t-miss the majority of the time.
A 9-inch minimum and a creel limit of 25 fish help to keep the population healthy, even when the water is low, and this reservoir’s reputation as a general fishery is top-notch.
State record: 4 lb., 5 oz. Leonard Edgell, Meathouse Fork, 1972
If you can find a body of water that doesn’t hold crappie in the Mountain State, you should let West Virginia’s Central Fisheries Biologist, James Walker, know!
That said, cooler winters and cooler water just don’t produce consistent crappie harvests, year-to-year. As he explains, "There are a number of anglers targeting crappie and being very successful… But this means getting out early in the spring, but early spring temperatures are rarely steady so it takes anglers willing to understand the hit and miss opportunities of crappie. You have to be ready to change tactics to catch lakes when water levels and temperatures are just right."
In a state where slab hunting is often bedeviled by variations in temperature and water level and quality, Bluestone lake stands out as a constant.
Often one of the first places to see the spawn in West Virginia, hit Bluestone as soon as the water reaches the mid-50s.
Horsepower limits and a wave rider ban makes Stonecoal very kayak- and canoe-friendly.
Probably the best place to hunt crappie with a paddle, Stonecoal is vastly less pressured than nearby Stonewall Jackson Lake.
Stonewall Jackson Lake
Stonewall Jackson provides plenty of shallows with standing timber and stumps, and there are plenty of crappie to be found in the spring.
But be aware that water temperatures can fluctuate dramatically around the spawn, even within different areas of the lake.
State record: 4 lbs., 8 oz. Gile Flowage, 1967
While both white and black crappie call Wisconsin home, the latter are better able to tolerate its lower temperatures and long winters. And though species like walleye and pike may take center stage, pressure on crappie is low, and they’re easy to fish through the hard water.
Big slabs--some over 15 inches!--are the name of the game on Namakagon in spring, when the clear, cool waters of the lake start to warm and fishing on its north side heats up.
But when the ice is thick enough, don’t forget winter crappie suspended in deep water.
Offering brush-filled shallows that attract crappie predictably, Shawano Lake is a great place to work the edges for slabs.
While crappie average 10 to 12 inches here, bigger specimens are just waiting for dedicated anglers.
As Troy Peterson, a local guide, will tell you, knowing Roberts Lake is critical.
"Straight off of the Wild Rose are the reed beds...Right there is a steep dropoff. It goes from reeds to cabbage to 20 feet. Fish the reed edges at night and then go deeper when the sun comes out. They don't move much during the day, so search through 9 to 12 feet of water until you find the school."
State record: 2 lbs., 7 oz., Troy Schnepper, Boysen Reservoir, 2012
Wyoming experiences brutal winters nearly every year, and that just doesn't allow the crappie to grow like they can in more congenial climates. The flip side is that ice fishing is excellent, and crappie are consistently on the menu throughout the hard winter season.
A generous creel limit of 50 fish and trophy lengths of 12 inches or more make it well worth the trip out onto the ice.
As you’d expect given the presence of trout, Lake Absarraca holds water that’s a touch too cool for big crappie.
Black crappie nevertheless manage to survive here, but they’re hard to target unless you time the spawn just right.
Not a crappie hot spot by any means, the cold waters of Sloans Lake can produce slabs if you’re lucky.
Easily the best place to fish for crappie in Wyoming, the state’s Game and Fish Department reports that 9- to 11-inch white crappie are thriving.
Average lengths for slabs in Glendo are in the neighborhood of 8.6 inches for white crappie and 8.8 inches for black crappie, but these numbers are dependent on water levels, winters, and the abundance of shad each spring and summer.
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