Late Ice Crappies-The Fast and the Furious
Our good friend Ron Anlauf shares a few key points on icing late winter crappies.
This is no time to give up, not when the best is yet to come. If it was over it would certainly be understandable, but it isn?t. And it isn?t over till it?s over. What isn?t over Ron Anlauf icing crappiesis the last of the hard water crappie action, and what?s left is the icing on the cake.
It?s hard to imagine that anything under a thick sheet of ice and snow can get better as time goes by, but it sure can. The last month or so of the season can produce incredible action, especially when you get down to the last couple of weeks.
Crappies are almost always vulnerable because they seem to be constantly feeding, at least to some extent. If you can find them you can generally catch them. If that?s true you start to realize that the most important part of actually catching a few slabs is being in the right place. It probably isn?t all that easy as you still have to find the right place, and you still have to be there at the right time, and you still need to be using the right bait.
Even so if you can put it all together the rewards can be well worth the effort and with a little information you can get a head start on all of the fun.
Finding the right place will vary depending on where you are and what happens to be available. Professional Angler Rick Olson of Mina, South Dakota targets big slabs on his home lake which is a small reservoir. He says: “I look for crappies to hold over deep water near the edge of the main channel. One of my hotspots is right out my back door and I?ll get set up late in the evening and wait for schools of big slabs to move through.
The best action usually occurs long after the sun goes down and you have to stay late or you could completely miss out.” When it comes to putting them on ice Rick likes to keep things simple and does it without a lot of commotion. “Most of the time I?ll use a plain gold Aberdeen hook and a larger fathead minnow on one line, and a colored jig head and minnow on another, and let them both sit perfectly still. The minnow will swim and kick and give the presentation all the action you need. More often than not the still bait will get hit while a jigged bait gets rejected.”
John Janousek of Nisswa, Minnesota targets late ice and crappies and starts his search in deeper water and moves shallow by the very end of the season. “You can usually find crappies holding in deeper water near a drop off and they are almost always suspended.
Regardless if they?re in twenty feet or forty feet of water they?re usually holding off the Bottom, and most often that?s about eight feet up. Timing is important and will vary depending on the lake you?re fishing as some are good daytime producers and others turn on only after dark”
His bag of after dark tricks for icing slabs includes using tiny light sticks and glow baits tipped with minnows. “I?ll fasten a green or red Northland Tackle Fire-light Glow Stick about six or eight inches above a glow lure like a Northland Forage Minnow Fry and tip it with a small minnow. It pays to keep the bait lit up and it needs to be charged with light to get the most out of it. You can fully charge a glow lure in a few seconds with a Northland Glow Buster and you?ll want to charge your bait every five or ten minutes for best results. It seems like every time you charge it up and put it back down the hole that something comes in to at least take a look.”
You can watch your bait and see what?s happening down below by using a good depth finder like the Marcum LX3. The LX3 will show your bait, your split shot, and any fish that comes through either up high or belly to the bottom. By watching the depth finder you?ll know if what you?re using is doing the trick, or if you need to try something else.
By the very end of the season crappies will often make moves into shallow water, even though there is enough safe ice left for someone to walk on. Janousek has found that crappies will often move into shallow mud bottom bays where there are clumps of lily pad roots late in the season. Others have found that active fish will move into old stands of reed beds, all of which can make for some exciting angling especially when you set the hook on a giant slab in four or five feet of water!
All of the above hinges on the amount of safe ice that you have left and safety always trumps a hot bite, no matter how good it is. There is no fish that swims that is worth losing a life over, so play it safe.
On the other hand there are those that miss out on the best of the best because they are uninformed about safe ice conditions. The general consensus is that daytime temps pushing into the forties and even fifties immediately creates unsafe conditions and this
simply isn?t true. Those warm temperatures are usually only reached for a short period of time late in the afternoon, and will cool down quickly as the sun goes down. The damage early on is minimal and safe ice can continue to exist for a month or more, even after you?ve hit the first daytime high in the fifties. See you on the ice, one last time.