Ice Fishing For Crappie – 11 Essential Tips
There are two important things to remember when it comes to fishing for crappie: location and presentation. First, you need to find the fish (easier said than done). Next, you need to find out what lure they want and how they want it presented.
Let’s start by talking about location.
Early Winter. When fishing early ice for crappie, the first place I would start looking for them is where you found them late fall or late summer. Most likely they will be still hanging around shallow waters near cover, where they feel protected and have access to food and a good supply of oxygen.
You May Also Enjoy Reading: A Look At The Best Ice Fishing Boots
Mid-Winter. As winter progresses, crappie will leave the shallow waters and go into deeper waters. This is where they will spend most of the winter. Look for them suspending near, in or around deep water structures or basins. Keep in mind that on a sunny day, they can be found suspending just below the ice. With the help of a fish finder as well as varying your fishing depth you should be able to get on a school of crappie quick.
Late Winter. As winter comes to an end, crappie will start to head back to their spawning grounds (shallow waters). So when ice fishing in late winter, I would recommend that you start looking where you had caught crappie before particularly in the early spring.
During this time, they will spend a lot of their time around structure and weed lines this is especially true during late winter time because they are heading back to their spawning grounds.
Do your homework. Now that we have an idea where the fish tend to be during certain times of the year it is important to study the lake you will be fishing. This is especially true when ice fishing a lake for the first time. Just by taking few minutes to study a map to find out the different structures and depths of the lake can save you a lot of footwork.
Choose your time wisely. At night crappie tend to school up and be more active. Crappie are also active in the early morning or late evening, but you can have success catching them during the day as well.
Now that we have an idea where to look for crappie, let’s talk a little bit about presentation.
Fish the limits. Once you are onto a school of crappie one of the first things I like to do is to see how high up in the water column I can catch them. For example, if I am can see that the school is sitting around 7 feet down, I might start jigging at about 6 or 6 1/2 feet down.
This does two things for crappie. First, by fishing just above the school, my lure has more visibility and I am able to draw in more fish. As opposed to fishing in the school where maybe only 1 or 2 fish may see my lure, fishing above them can give more fish the opportunity to strike. The more fish that see my lure, the better chances of getting hooked
Next, fishing above the school can increase my chances of getting bit. Once again, fishing directly within the school doesn’t do much to entice the fish to react to my lure. On the other hand, by fishing above the school, it forces them to come up and get it. This can result in the fish really hammering my lure and make the hookset that much easier. Sometimes, this means bigger quality sized fish, as they tend to be more aggressive.
So if you are onto a school of crappie and are only pulling out little dinks. Try fishing just above the school with a little bigger or more aggressive lure. If this doesn’t pull other the bigger fish, it may be time to move onto another school of fish.
Fish them as the predators they are. Many times when fishing for bass or bigger fish we think of crappie as baitfish. However, when ice fishing for crappie it is important to remember that they too are predatorial fish. Keeping that mind will affect how you fish for them. This may at times call for fishing more aggressively such as, using something that is going to give off a lot of flash and vibration.
It may also call for fishing with bigger baits. Some fisherman are tempted to always downsize when fishing for crappie. However, choosing bigger lures can help to catch bigger crappie and generate more agressive bites.
Drill more holes. One of the biggest mistakes many fishermen make is limit themselves to fishing just one or two holes. Yes, fish are moving below the ice so you can have success drawing them to you, but at times you can be much more successful by drilling several holes. Start by drilling 5 holes and doing a little hole hoping.
Vary your presentation. Another great tip is to vary your presentation or in other words try new things. If the fish aren’t biting on a plastic worm don’t be afraid to try something new.
One thing I like to do is to fish two holes with two completely different baits. For example, I might put a fat jig with a minnow head in one hole and allow it to dead stick or put it on a tip up. In the next hole I can fish my favorite lipless crankbait, bringing it up and down quickly and allowing the rattles to draw the fish in. Sometimes the fish will take the minnow and other times they will take the crankbait. This two hole approach allows the fish to tell me what they want and it allows me to catch more fish.
Soft Lips. Crappie have very soft mouths. With that in mind, another key ingredient to catching crappie is using the proper hookset. A very quick hookset can litteraly tear the fish’s mouth. So when fishing for crappie many times just a quick lift of the rod is all it takes to set the hook.
This is also important to remember when choosing a rod and line. Be careful when fishing with a rod or a line that is too stiff. Typically, I like to fish for crappie with monofilament as it has a little more stretch than other lines.
When looking for a good rod, I would recommend choosing one that has a soft tip. The soft tip will make it easier to see when you have a bite and it will not rip the lure from the crappie’s mouth.
Use an underwater camera. Sometimes we have no problem locating the fish, the difficulty comes to enticing the fish to bite. This is where a really good underwater camera comes into play. By watching your lure under the water you can see how the fish are reacting to your lure and make the correct adjustments to catch more fish.
Patience is key. Patience is essential when ice fishing for crappie. Sometimes it takes a long time to get onto a school of crappie. Don’t give up. Patience is key. However, when do you do find the fish, it is no longer the time to be patient. Drill several holes and switch back and forth to find out under which hole the fish are biting.
There you have it, a few of our favorite tips when fishing for crappie this winter. Hopefully by applying these tips you will catch more crappie.
Please share with us your tips in the comment section below.