Early in the fall, weather can be quite changeable with hot days and cool nights. The changes can be confusing to crappie. Once the weather begins to stabilize, with cooler temperatures the norm, fish tend to move deeper. Crappies however move toward the shallower water and the cover than can find there.
All summer crappies suspend in open water. In fall they move toward the weed lines in shallower water. They will be near, but not in, the structure. They will be in smaller areas than was the case during spring and summer.
Generally if you locate one fish there will be a number of fish in the same area. As the vegetation dies, the fish move away from it. If the angler can find healthy weeds, chances are that a number of fish will be in the same area.
Crappie fishing season extends later in the calendar year in southern Illinois. Mild winters and an abundance of cooling lakes are good for a bountiful harvest of these find eating fish.
The most productive crappie lures in fall are the same ones that work in the spring and summer. That is, the 1/32 ounce to 1/8 ounce jigs in white, yellow or chartreuse with either a plastic twister tail or the marabou feather tail. Leadhead jigs with a small minnow are also deadly on fall crappie.
The jig and minnow combination is deadly on Cedar Lake over in Jackson County southwest of Carbondale. The fish are in 6 to 8 feet of water. On some southern Illinois lakes the size of fall crappie is not sensational, but they are good here. There is good structure in Cedar Lake in the form of standing timber and brush.
In Jackson County there is 145-acre Lake Murphysboro near the town of the same name. Crappies in this lake are up to 3/4 of a pound in weight. The crappies like minnows suspended at 8 to 10 feet.
The 2,300 acres of Lake of Egypt produce crappie at varying depths. Crappie in the shallow water during the evening hours can mean fish at 18 to 20 feet during the day. Anglers sometimes overlook this lake due to pressure from recreational boaters as well as its close proximity to Crab Orchard Refuge.
The bait of choice on Lake of Egypt is minnows during the daytime. Jigs are more popular in the evening. Jigging spoons, Little Georges and Rattling Jakes can produce fish on the points. The crappie action stays good well into the fall.
The three lakes of Crab Orchard Refuge are Crab Orchard Lake, Devil’s Kitchen Lake, and Little Grassy Lake. All are located quite close to one another in Williamson County. All provide good crappie action on jigs and minnows. Crab Orchard will have fish on the causeways and around structure at depths of two‑and‑a‑half to three feet.
If the water level drops, the action picks up, but the size of the fish tends to decrease.
Structure is the key at Devil’s Kitchen Lake. Look for fish in the timbered areas and edges of shallow weeds. Do not overlook the beaver dams.
On Little Grassy the fish will be at about 8 to 10 feet. Structure is best for locating fish. As the water continues to cool, the fish will move a couple of feet deeper.
Crappies in southern Illinois are plentiful and provide action throughout the fall and early winter. Before putting that tackle away for the winter, give it one more shot close to home.