Some fish are more active in warmer water and some, like trout, prefer cold water. Crappie and many other fish stay active in most water temperatures during the year.
The crappie is a very popular fish with most anglers. They are fun to fish for and are not super hard to find and catch. Some can grow to 20 inches or bigger and can weigh more than three pounds, but a crappie this size is a once in a lifetime fish for most anglers. The crappie is also one of the best-tasting fish you can eat.
Crappie will stay active during most of the winter on our area lakes and can be caught in just a few feet of water if the cover is right. What I mean by this is that during the hot summer months the crappie will seek out deeper cooler water with a big wood or rock pile and will hold close to the cover and move from deeper to shallow water to feed. But during the winter months the crappie will hold more around vertical cover such as standing flooded timber, stump rows or old fencerows.
On some lakes crappie will hold around steep bluffs and cliff lines. They may hold in deep water but will only stay down a few feet below the surface. I have fished for crappie on some very cold days with live minnows and caught keeper-size crappie in less than six feet of water holding on some type of vertical cover. The reason they hold on vertical cover in the winter is so they can easily make a change in water depth or temperature to follow baitfish by moving up or down the cover. This is a very typical wintertime pattern for several fish.
Once you locate an area with some type of vertical cover, very slowly and carefully check your fish finder to see if fish is holding in this area and at what depth. Then drop your bait close to the cover around the depth the fish are holding. You can use a floater or not and watch your line for any pulls or twitches and set the hook with an upwards jerk. You can use small live minnows or small colored jigs or tube baits.