There are many ways to fill a pail with crappies in Indiana, and many places to do it. You might be spider rigging over deep structure with half a dozen rods at the ready, or you might find yourself dipping a minnow into isolated brush piles with a 12-foot-long panfish pole.
Methods may vary, but the joy of catching your limit of these plucky panfish is just about universal. Crappies are hard not to love.
Indiana is home to both black and white crappies. As a general rule, white crappies are more common in large Southern Indiana reservoirs, while black crappies are more abundant in the clear natural lakes toward the state’s northern end.
Individuals of both species commonly surpass a pound, and it’s not uncommon to catch 2-pound crappies in most of the lakes listed here. The current state record, weighing 4 pounds, 11 ounces, was caught from a private lake in Jennings County.
Even more so than other game fish species, crappie populations are highly cyclical. Even the best lakes can go through relatively dry spells, but these Indiana crappie lakes are some of the most consistently excellent in the state.
Great Crappie Fishing Lakes
Patoka Lake spans 8,880 acres across three counties in Southern Indiana, making it the second-largest reservoir in the state. It’s also a reliable fishing lake for a variety of species, and crappie are no exception.
The lake has several long, finger-like coves and creek arms loaded with brush and standing timber. Crappies relate to this woody cover year-round, and anglers catch them in practically all seasons from brush along the edges of the creek channels in 20 to 25 feet of water.
Of course, spring is the best time to catch crappies in shallower areas, and shore-bound anglers have solid opportunities from the bank from March through May. Fish often congregate around shallow brush piles and treetops during this season.
The Patoka River Arm is usually the most productive part of the lake for crappie—especially the King’s Bridge area—but the Lick Creek Arm also holds a lot of fish. Water clarity is typically good, making cover easy to spot, but use caution to avoid spooking the fish.
Like any lake, crappie populations in Patoka can be cyclical, but this lake tends not to have extreme boom and bust cycles like some lakes do. So even during downswing years, there’s still a solid crappie fishery available.
Patoka Lake typically produces abundant crappie in the 9- to 11-inch range, along with a few giants up to 17 inches. White crappies are usually more common than black crappies, but that balance can shift some years.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Indiana DNR jointly manage the lake. Seven state recreation areas provide access along the lake’s 160-mile shoreline.
More than 10 boat launches are available along the lakeshore. Popular launches include the Kings Bridge Boat Ramp and Walls Boat Ramp on the Patoka River Arm and the Lick Fork Boat Ramp and Fishermen’s Boat Ramp in the Lick Creek Arm.
Cagles Mill Lake
A reservoir of 1,400 acres in West-Central Indiana, Cagles Mill Lake (also known as Cataract Lake) is one of the best crappie options in the middle portion of the state. Both crappie species are present, with white crappie being the most common.
Cagles Mill Lake is a flood control reservoir, and it experiences drastic fluctuations in water level. Managers draw the lake down in winter, but it may fill above the normal pool by springtime.
Local anglers have learned that when the water rises early in the year, crappies follow. High water often brings the fish right up to the banks in springtime. Anglers catch many of them in just a foot or two of water.
Early spring crappies are attracted to the warmest water they can find. Several northerly coves between the dam and the boat launch in Lieber State Recreation Area are crappie magnets as early as February.
Focus on rocky shorelines in the coves and adjacent points. There’s also excellent bank access along the north shore of the lake just east of the dam, and if the water isn’t too high, almost the entire shoreline is walkable.
There isn’t a ton of natural cover in Cagles Mill Lake, hence the importance of shoreline structure. However, anglers who know where to look can find a bit of timber, some submerged brush piles, and several stump fields. Once crappies get into spawning mode in April, these areas are top producers.
Stump fields close to the creek channel are especially productive as spring progresses and the lake warms up. These areas are great in fall too, and there’s a significant October crappie bite on Cagles Mill Lake.
The water here tends to be deeply stained, especially in spring, so choose bright colors or lures with a little flash. Crappies in the 9- to 12-inch range are abundant, along with some larger fish.
Monroe Lake is the largest reservoir in the state, encompassing 10,750 acres just south of Bloomington in South-Central Indiana. It’s an excellent fishing destination for everything from bass to catfish but is genuinely outstanding as a panfish lake.
Surveys by the Indiana DNR show that crappies are the most-harvested species in the lake (followed by bluegill), even though more anglers target bass. Those catch statistics suggest that, although fewer anglers target crappies here, those who do are very successful.
Monroe Lake is also known for being one of Indiana’s most consistent producers of big crappies. So walking away with a stringer of 2-pound fish isn’t too much to hope for here.
There are plenty of prime spots to catch crappie on Monroe Lake, including numerous long creek arms and coves. Some of the most reliable crappie haunts include the Pine Grove, Middle Fork, and Saddle Creek areas toward the lake’s upper end.
Focus on stumps and brush in these areas, especially where cover extends from shallow water to the edge of the creek channel. While most of the lake is usually fairly clear, these upper areas are often quite stained.
Allen’s Creek is another excellent spot farther down the lake. Check out the timber-filled flat adjacent to where the creek channel swings close to the bank just north of this cove.
A huge assemblage of docks at Fairfax State Recreation Area marina also attracts crappies.
Artificial lures often outperform live bait on this lake, and a 2-inch jig on a ⅛-oz. jig head below a float is the most effective bait for probing shallow cover.
Slow trolling and long-lining are also good ways to target crappies when they suspend near deeper structures.
One of the best early spring spots for bank anglers is the State Route 446 causeway. The south end of the causeway spans the deep creek channel adjacent to a very productive shallow flat. As a result, anglers catch many crappies close to the riprap banks.
One of the best crappie hotspots in Northern Indiana, Mississinewa Lake is a long, meandering reservoir a short drive from Fort Wayne. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built this 3,100-acre flood control reservoir on the Mississinewa River, a tributary of the Wabash.
Crappies are the most abundant game fish at Mississinewa Lake, though it’s more of a numbers lake than a trophy fishery. It’s possible to catch hundreds of 8- to 10-inch crappies on a good day, along with a few fish ranging up to 14 inches.
The crappies in this lake are overwhelmingly white crappies, which thrive in Mississenewa’s turbid, nutrient-rich waters. Live fathead minnows are the bait of choice, though brightly colored crappie jigs and tubes also do the trick.
In early spring, crappies are attracted to the lake’s many small, finger-like coves as the shallows warm up into the 40s. The Red Bridge area is a perennial favorite, and many anglers catch their limit without traveling more than a few hundred yards from Red Bridge Marina.
The Liston and Goose Creek areas are productive as well. Water levels can make things tricky, though. Mississinew’s winter pool is about 25 feet lower than the summer pool, reducing the lake’s surface acreage to about half its full size.
As a result, the landscape can look drastically different from one day to the next as the lake fills during the spring. Luckily, shallow cover is abundant.
In the early aughts, the Corps of Engineers left Mississinewa Lake drawn down for six years straight. As a result, a ton of brush and small trees grew in what are now the lake’s shallows when it fills. You’ll find plenty of rocky structure as well.
Crappies use this cover at various depths, following the rising waters into shallow spawning grounds throughout spring. Tossing jigs and minnows into isolated pieces of newly inundated cover is one of the most consistently productive tactics.
Don’t stop your search for Indiana crappies at the lakes listed above. Crappies inhabit countless waters all over the state, and given the cyclical nature of crappie reproduction, some of these honorable mentions can be just as good as the top-tier lakes some years.
Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Indiana, Hardy Lake is a relatively small reservoir of 741 acres that offers an abundance of crappies.
Black crappies are the dominant species in this reservoir, with moderately clear water used as a local drinking water source.
Countless brush piles have been sunk along coves and points throughout the lake, providing ideal crappie cover. As a result, you’ll find crappies in brush here pretty much year-round, except when the fish move into the extreme shallows to spawn.
Crappies also hide in Hardy Lake’s abundant weed beds, especially in summer when weed growth is thickest. Focus on weed lines near the drop-off in the area around the Hardy Lake Amphitheater and campground.
There’s often a good night bite here too. Anglers use lights to attract plankton after dark, which attracts the bait fish that crappies hunt.
The Wooster Ramp is a good place to launch; it’s one of several DNR boat ramps around the lakeshore.
Hardy Lake has cycled through periods of being a great spot for catching larger crappies and years when smaller fish have dominated the lake. Either way, it’s a consistent lake for numbers.
Indiana’s largest natural lake, 3,000-acre Lake Wawasee is also one of the best crappie lakes in the northern part of the state. But this Kosciusko County lake can also be challenging for a variety of reasons.
One reason is that Wawasee’s black crappies are better known for size than numbers. The fish aren’t above-average in abundance, but they average 11 inches or better. There is also so much prime bottom structure and cover at all depths that pinpointing fish is often no small task.
The easiest times to find crappies are during the first winter ice (usually December) and again during the earliest warming spell of spring.
In particular, during these transition periods, look for crappies congregating in the narrow, shallow residential boat channels built along parts of the lakeshore.
These channels are the first places to freeze in winter for ice fishing, and the first to warm up right after ice-out. The canals also serve as crappie spawning grounds a little later in the spring. Cast live minnows and 2-inch tube jigs around docks in the channels.
During the rest of the year, look for crappies along deep weed edges in bays adjacent to these channels, specifically Johnson Bay and Conklin Bay.
A public access site with fishing docks and a boat launch is at the eastern end of the lake.
Lake Wawasee also nabbed a spot on our list of the best yellow perch fishing lakes in Indiana, and you’re likely to land a mixed bag of panfish using live bait or jigs.
Brookville Lake is known for being arguably the best walleye lake in Indiana. But anglers who troll crankbaits for spring walleye often catch some good-sized crappies, too. Likewise, crappie anglers armed with minnows often wind up with a walleye or two in their live wells.
Located just a few miles from the Ohio state line in East-Central Indiana, Brookville Lake covers a little over 5,200 acres. It has a long and deep main lake basin and several productive coves that offer a lot of flooded timber.
Brookville Lake has a stable crappie population and produces big fish most years. So on a good spring outing, there’s a fair chance almost all your fish will be over 10 inches.
But this lake can be challenging as well. The waters are quite clear, and during all seasons other than the spawn, crappies seem to favor deeper water here than in most places. Target submerged trees between 10 and 20 feet of water in spring; even deeper in summer.
Drift or troll slowly with live bait or natural-looking lures until you start catching fish, and then pause and work the area thoroughly.
Coves along the lake’s east shore are often the most productive, and the Fairfield Boat Launch is a popular starting point for crappie anglers.
1,650-acre Lake Lemon is located north of Bloomington in South-Central Indiana and offers a robust crappie fishery that often goes unnoticed outside local angler circles. Black and white crappie are both present, but the latter are usually bigger, commonly topping a pound.
Lake Lemon is mostly shallow, averaging just 10 feet, and a lot of the crappie action revolves around the main river channel, which is 15 to 20 feet deep in many areas. Anglers often slowly troll the channel edges with spider rigs looking for schools of crappies.
Bends in the channel are key areas, and there’s also a lot of bottom structure, like old foundations and roadbeds near the channel edges. Trees or brush close to the channel are prime targets too.
Cemetery Island, located straight out from the boat launch at Riddle Point Park, is a proven spring crappie hotspot. Work the drop-off to the creek channel on the island’s north side. There’s also bank fishing access at the park, and anglers catch some good crappies here in April.
When crappies move into very shallow water or hold tight to structure, jigging usually works better than trolling. Try an all chartreuse or a chartreuse/black tube jig, and tip it with a PowerBait Crappie Nibble if the fish are slow to bite.
Worster Lake is a small lake in Northern Indiana that spans just 327 acres but offers some impressive fishing opportunities. In addition to an excellent population of black crappies, the lake also harbors largemouth bass, walleye, and hybrid stripers.
Peak crappie fishing starts in late April, as fish start staging for the spawn in shallow cover. After spawning in the backs of the lake’s shallow coves in May, crappies come back hungry, and there’s often great fishing well into June.
There’s prime crappie water throughout the narrow, middle section of the lake. Here you’ll find productive 10- to 14-foot depths adjacent to shallow coves just a foot or two deep. Target weed lines, laydowns, and brush piles.
Thanks to the lake’s small size, it’s easy to cover a lot of water by slow trolling. Worster Lake is also great for kayak fishing, which is an excellent method for methodically covering a wide range of near-shore cover with crappie jigs and minnows.
Potato Creek State Park surrounds Worster Lake and offers ample bank and boat access.
Worster Lake is also a popular winter ice fishing lake.
Catch More Crappie
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