Two species of crappies can be found in New York's lakes and rivers. White and black crappies both can be taken by New York anglers. Crappies will average 6 to 14 inches in length. Some lakes and rivers often produce better fishing than others. This is due to the fact that crappies are prone to large swings in population. Various factors can cause this to happen. Drought, poor spawning seasons, depleted food supply, loss of habitat, abundant predators, and over harvest, all can affect them. To combat this New York State recently changed the regulations for crappies. There is now a 25 fish limit and a 9 inch minimum size limit in all N.Y. waters. Some of the best waters for crappies are Cayuga Lake, Whitney Point Resevoir, Black Lake, and Chautauqua Lake.
Crappies prefer slow moving water in rivers, but often collect up below dams in the spring. Later they tend to collect in deeper areas with weed cover or log jams. River crappies differ from lake crappies beacuse they tend to wander more. High water can move these fish miles up or down stream. So where you catch them today they may not be there tommorrow. When weeds beds or fallen timber is not available crappies will congregate around bridge abutments or large boulders. River fisherman should watch for any new trees which wash out and fall in. These are fish magnets and in a few days it may be swarming with crappies. Lake crappies are more predictable and will almost always be found in the same areas. These would be weed beds and around docks and piers. When the water temperature becomes to warm crappies will move out to open water and suspend down 20 to 40 feet in open water then move into shallower water and feed at dusk.
Crappies will feed on a variety of items including small minnows, insects, crayfish, and worms. Crappies are most active in the morning and at dusk. However later in the summer they often feed at night exclusively. This is one reason some people often think the lake is fished out. Night fishing for crappies can be fun. Special floating lights where allowed by law are used to attract fish. Light often attracts insects and bait fish. Then the crappies will move in to feed on the abundant source of food.
Tackle for crappies is simple. Any ultra light out fit with 2, 4, or 6 pound test line. Crappies have very soft mouths so use of light wire hooks is recomended. Fishing a perch minnow under a float set 4 to 6 feet deep is a good bet. Fish the deep water edge off weed beds. Small jigs or soft plastic baits will catch crappies when they are active. Vary the retrive until the desired results are achieved. Dry flies and small poppers will catch crappies if they are feeding on insects and this can be as fun as using top water baits for bass. All in all the crappie is becoming a very popular fish.