8 Best Crappie Fishing Lakes in Nebraska

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Crappie are one of, if not the best, tasting fish in Nebraska. I know many walleye anglers would vehemently disagree, but you can’t deny how tasty and fun crappies are to catch on minnows and small lures.

In the spring, black and white crappie species are among the most targeted fish on many Nebraska lakes, but which bodies of water are the ones worth visiting during the short spawn window?

Keep reading to discover the best crappie fishing locations in Nebraska. 

Nebraska’s Top Crappie Spots

Catching crappie isn’t complicated. I prefer to use ultralight gear and simple tackle when targeting crappie.

As I mentioned, the springtime spawn is the best time to catch crappie, but they’re a fish that’s active throughout the year.

They’re closest to the bank in the spring because they spawn along shallow rocky or hard bottom areas, often amid cover. I’ve caught a lot of crappie on cliff banks and shallow brush piles in the spring using minnows, jigs, and small spoons. 

Once they’ve finished spawning, crappie will often move to deeper water around a brush pile or other structure but will still make foraging runs into the shallows. During the summer, typical crappie tactics work, but many anglers overlook using small crankbaits to locate a hungry school of crappie.

As fall sets in, crappie will follow their food back to the shallows, and throughout the winter, they’ll hang out around ledges, especially if there’s a brush pile nearby. 

No matter what time of year you’re fishing, always check the local fishing regulations, as some lakes on this list have unique laws.

Now, you’re ready to check out these great crappie fishing lakes across Nebraska. I’ve listed them alphabetically.

Davis Creek Reservoir

Located in central Nebraska, near North Loup, Davis Creek Reservoir tends to have high numbers of crappie, year over year, which is perfect for an angler looking to bring a mess of specks home for dinner.

The 1,145-acre impoundment has tons of coves, bays, and main lake points, making it an excellent spawning crappie habitat. These areas are where you’ll find the most crappie in the spring.

Remember, the south-facing coves will warm faster than the others, so it’s best to hit these in early spring and the rest in late spring. Once the water warms up in the summer, they’ll move to deeper brush piles along the main lake.

Since Davis Creek Reservoir is relatively clear, you must bring natural and translucent colors. Sometimes, adding a touch of color like chartreuse or pink will help your bait stand out from all the others the crappie have seen and help you get more bites.

If you want to stay for the weekend, you can camp at the Davis Creek Dam Campground, which has a concrete boat ramp. 

Harlan County Lake

Harlan County Reservoir in south-central Nebraska is a 13,000-acre impoundment near Alma. As with most reservoirs in the Cornhusker State, the quality of crappie fishing heavily depends on the previous years’ water levels.

When water levels are high, the crappie tend to have excellent spawning years; they might not even spawn when water levels are low. However, the crappie populations in this large reservoir have been fantastic recently.

There are several small creek arms around the lake; the ones on the northern side will turn on first in the early spring, while the ones on the southern side will improve later in spring. The crappie will be in the main lake for much of the year, along creek channels with brush piles.

Jigs, minnows, and small crankbaits will get you the most bites, especially when using natural colors mixed with a little pink, red, or chartreuse.

A couple of campgrounds are on the shoreline, and there are some places for anglers to stay in nearby Alma. 

Jeffrey Reservoir

For anglers in the southwest portion of the state, Jeffrey Reservoir is a narrow 595-acre lake with excellent crappie habitat. 

I recommend heading to one of the south-facing coves in the early spring since they will warm faster than the rest of the lake. As summer heats the water, the crappie will move to ledges and brush piles in deeper water, such as the creek channels or the docks on the lake’s southern end.

Crappie fishing lures and baits remain constant across the state; minnows, jigs, spoons, and small crankbaits will all work well here. The water is clear most of the year, so natural colors work best. 

Jeffrey Reservoir is just south of Interstate 80. You can find hotels in Gothenburg or North Platte, both about a half-hour drive (give or take a bit) east or west.

Johnson Reservoir

Located southwest of Lexington, Johnson Reservoir is a 2,068-acre impoundment.

There are very few coves and places to get out of the wind, so keep an eye on the weather while fishing here. But the crappie fishing is worth it when the wind allows.

The northwest corner of the lake is one of the best places to begin your search in the springtime, as it’s protected and loaded with docks. However, most of the lake has docks around it, so you’ll have to be strategic when fishing for crappie in the summer. 

Natural-colored jigs and crankbaits will work well at this reservoir, also known as Johnson Lake. Try a lure with a touch of red or chartreuse if you’re struggling to get bites.

There are a couple of small campgrounds at the lake, including Johnson Lake State Recreation Area, but the nearest hotels are in Lexington.

Pawnee Lake

Just west of Lincoln, Pawnee Lake is a 740-acre hotspot for crappie anglers in southeastern Nebraska. Branched Oak and Stagecoach Lake are two other nearby favorites, making this area a crappie angler’s haven.

In the spring, head to one of the riprap banks or shallow coves near a steep depth change to start catching crappie. As summer progresses, the crappie will move to the main lake points and deeper brush piles throughout the lake.

Natural and bright colors will work well when the water is clear, whereas when the water is stained, you should try using dark colors so your lures create a better silhouette to stand out.

As usual, live bait, such as minnows, works best no matter the season, but jigs, spoons, and crankbaits will catch them.

Pawnee Lake also offers excellent catfish fishing.

There is camping at the lake’s north end, within the Pawnee State Recreation Area. If you’re looking for a hotel, Lincoln will take care of you.

Sherman Reservoir

Sherman Reservoir in central Nebraska is considered one of Nebraska’s best crappie fishing lakes year after year. Thanks to its consistent water levels, Sherman is a 2,845-acre impoundment known for producing big specks. 

The Dead Horse Creek Arm and Moon Creek Arm are the best places to start searching for crappie in the spring since they’re south-facing coves and have many smaller shallow coves and inlets that will warm faster than the rest of the lake.

The clear water means you’ll need to be stealthy with your approach. I recommend translucent and natural colors for your jigs and crankbaits. Minnows will work well to catch the big crappie found here. 

Several campgrounds in the Sherman Reservoir State Recreation Area. The nearest hotels are in Loup City to the west.

This lake is near Davis Creek Reservoir, which we mentioned above.

Wellfleet Lake

This small reservoir is one of the best spots to go crappie fishing in the southwestern portion of the state because it has lots of crappie, though they’re not always the biggest. 

The north end of the lake is shallow and will heat up faster in the spring, so I would begin my search for crappie there, but as the water warms and summer sets in, you should head to the deeper holes and drop-offs.

Crankbaits and jigs in natural and bright colors work well in this reservoir, but as with most places, live bait is best.

The only camping here is primitive. There are modest supplies and rooms in Curtis, with more options about 30 miles north in North Platte.

Whitney Lake

Don’t worry; I didn’t leave the northwest portion of the state out of options. Whitney Lake is one of the, if not the best, crappie lakes in the state, even though the water level gets dangerously low some years.

This irrigation reservoir has relatively barren shorelines and little typical crappie structure, resembling a bowl barely getting deeper than 10 feet.

In the spring, I recommend finding the depth changes near a flat and starting along those to figure out if the crappies have already moved shallow against the banks or are still in relatively deeper water.

The odd watercolor makes me want to throw darker or brighter-colored jigs. Spoons, crankbaits, and the trusty live minnow will also work in this lake.

The nearest places to stay are 25 minutes east in Chadron.

Catch More Crappie

Want more tips? Check out our simple how-to guide to crappie fishing.