You guys know how I do enjoy some serious crappie fishing from time to time. No surprise then that this next bit of research about to be published caught my eye. Habitat Characteristics of Black Crappie Nest Sites in an Illinois Impoundment by Phelps, et al. studied nesting site locations and parameters for black crappie on Campus Lake, Carbondale, Illinois. The lake is only 40 acres in size, so they were able to effectively locate every nesting colony at the time of the survey. It is considered a eutrophic lake with frequent summer algae blooms, so it tends to match quite well with many of our smaller Indiana impoundments.
Some of the significantly different parameters found (all means) included:
- Water temp (70.4 F)
- Spawning depth (2.8')
- Oxygen content (9.12 ppm)
There was also a significant correlation to bottom firmness with black crappie prefering sand or clay bottoms in greater proportion than to their availability. In fact, the researchers commented, "We found no black crappie nests in the backs of coves that had muck substrates and received sediments from stormwater runoff."
Another interesting statistic was secchi disk readings which were 3.86' meaning black crappie nested at depths that were still within the range of sunlight penetration. There are some interesting trade-offs to spawning depth selection as we have documented before in this piece on nesting depth vs. season/UV penetration. While you would expect that nests must have some sunlight for warmth/egg hatching, at least on the waters I fish it is very rare to visually find crappie nests. I can spot bluegill nests about everywhere, but crappie seem to spawn at deeper depths or near cover that tends to hide or camoflauge their presence.
It will probably be another month or so before crappie start spawning around these parts, but this research might give you some ideas as to where to look for nesters on your waters this Spring.