3-25-12 – First Time Seeing the Glory Hole With Open Water

So this winter we were lucky enough to stumble upon a great little spot that held huge amounts of crappie.  The fish were stacked up all winter in a deep hole on a bend.  Deep water crappie excite me but we had a lot of learning to do.  With all the warm weather up here last week, I was excited to take the drive and see if the ice was out at the hole.  We were on ice there a week and a half ago and there was still a foot and a half of ice, so I was not sure what I was going to find.  Well just before the spot there is a small lake that was still completely iced over, my excitement soon shrank.  A few more miles up the road it came back again, the spot was iced out, Game On!

There is no boat launch to this spot so I was forced to bring my small little row boat and Mark to help me get it into the water.  The temps were cold, 40 degrees when we got there in the morning and raining.  With my Clam blue suit in hand, I grabbed my Vexilar and loaded up the boat and slid it down the bank into the water.  Row Row Row we did to the hole where we were successful all winter.  As soon as we got there Mark snagged a nice little Crappie.  I decided to run a Fat Boy made by Lindy under a bobber  7-8′.  From what I saw this winter, most of the larger fish were caught 6-8 feet down cruising the channel of the deep water.  I knew I would catch less fish but I also knew that if I did hook one then it would be a dandy.  It didn’t take long to watch my bobber disappear and I had a decent 11″ Crappie.

We found one spot where I was marking a ton of fish on the Vexilar and so I decided to take the bobber off and vertical jig some “big reds”.  It was tough because in my excitement to load the truck the night before I forgot to throw in my anchor. Our biggest dilemma of was the day was that we were unable to stay right on top of the fish.   I did manage to also pull up some really nice river perch in the deep water that were schooled with the crappie.  The most effective method was a Fat Boy tipped with a white Mister Twister rigged under the bobber 7-9  feet.  “This did make for interesting casts, Mark was on the look out all morning!”

Once our clothes were wet enough that we were shaking from the cold damp March day, we decided to do some exploring.  Since this spot always produced we had never really seen what the rest of the setback had to offer.  We loaded up the boat, sat in the truck for a bit to warm up and took a walk.  To my surprise we found some of the best spawning habitat I had ever seen.

The ice was just out here as I could tell since the crappie were still in their suspended holding pattern so this spot had not warmed up enough to draw the fish in.  You can bet that I’ll be there next weekend to learn more about these Glory Hole crappie!

Here are some pics of some of the days catch.

Searching For Ice Out Crappies

So the end of the ice season has come for most of us, and for many areas in the country the search for pre spawn and spawning crappies has already come and gone.  Here in the northeast, ice out on our lakes and ponds usually happens towards the end of March to mid April.  With ice out, surface temps rise and the crappie start thinking about the next life cycle; the spawn.  Crappie typically spawn in shallow sheltered water.  Small cuts or setbacks off the main lakes are great places to look.  These spots may not be fishable in the summer though.  They have enough fishable water in the spring due to run off and rising water levels on the lake.  At this point, the water levels flood shoreline brush making ideal spots for giant crappies to lay up in and spawn.  I have caught fish in as little as 6″ of water.  Ideal depths to look for are flats in the 4′-6′ range.  Shelter and cover are key components to be mindful of.  Crappie are lazy, they will look for the warmest water closest to their deep winter basin’s and weed flats.  Brush and other structure also create great habitat for spawning and are sheltered from the wind and spring time chop on the lake.

Pay very close attention to the surface temp.  Crappies will start searching for spawning locations when the water starts to consistently hold in the low to mid 40′s, however they won’t actually start to spawn until it reaches the 60′s but it’s not unusual to see them spawning in the upper 50′s.  One degree in temperature change  can make all the difference in the world. Creeks and culverts flowing into the main lake are also great areas to be aware of.  The afternoon bite is typically better since the daytime air temps have warmed the water up.  Run-off water is warmer than the main lake temp creating another hot spot for ice out crappies.  We use our Navionics to find cut backs and flowages on the lake when in search mode.  Once we find them, we cast small jigs tipped with minnow under a bobber or a small micro plastics by Maki Plastics.  Cast to the brush and pop the bobber back in.

My spring time Crappie Fishing setup consists of a 7′-9′ noodle rod.  I like the 7′ Eagle Claw and the 9′ Ultra Lite  Rod made by Riversider.  For shallow water I like to use the fixed Thill bobber made by Lindy.  Under that I am usually running tungsten jigs from Bentley.

Good luck out there searching, the fishing is going to get good real soon!

Cut Back Spring Crappies from Lake Champlain

Searched out River Crappie

Jigs – An Addiction

For the type of fishing that we generally do, a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of jigs are a necessity. Panfish tend to be very picky with even the slightest abnormality in a presentation. In many cases, you can catch at least a few fish on any jig but I am confident that everyday there is one specific bait that will drive the fish crazy somewhere on your selected body of water.

Fish develop a search image for whatever food source is their primary diet at the time being. If you can piece together a bait that resembles their desired prey you will be successful. There is more to catching fish than just using right bait though… You need to give the bait the correct action, speed, and put it at the right depth. Once you figure this out, stick with it and stay mobile. There are always fish that are active and some will not bite regardless of what you do. By continuously moving, you are able to catch the active fish in each hole and not waste much time beyond that. Panfish usually are on the move so make sure you keep track of holes that have produced and be sure to return to check for fish again as these holes will likely be replenished.

As you will see below I have more jigs than I will ever use in one day. I’m not ashamed to admit these are just the ones that I have in my pocket for every trip. I have boxes of extras for when I break off and need to refill my pocket boxes. It’s a bad feeling when you are on a good bite and you lose your last jig that the fish are pounding on.

I have four main boxes of jigs and they are sorted for different applications and locations. The jig boxes that I use are made by Rose Creek. They hold even the heaviest jigs very well. The categories the jigs are sorted by are lead horizontals, Lindy, non-lead verticals, and tungsten. New Hampshire put a ban on the use of lead jigs under 1″ or 1 ounce starting this year so I can’t even bring it on the ice. Its definitely not worth getting a ticket just because I want to fish with a lead jig when there are many just as good options to use!

So onto the boxes…  The first one here is my tungsten box. Tungsten has the largest size to weight ratio of all metals. It is good for situations when you want to downsize your presentation and still be able to fish deep water, fast. It is also very useful in thick weeds because you can punch through them to get to the fish. Jigs in this box come from several distributors. On the left side of the box, the top three rows are from Sportsmens Direct. The next three rows are a new option this season. They are “hard rock” jigs by Northland Tackle. The remainder of that side are Fiskas. The right side of the box is filled with jigs from Bentley Fishing USA.

This is my non-lead vertical box. I have been using these jigs more and more lately and am finding that I get a better hookup percentage! The entire left side of this of this box are  Caty jigs. The right side of the box is mostly random jigs and proven flies that I have picked up at bait shops through the years.

This is my Lindy box. Unfortunately, all these jigs are lead and I cannot use them on the river. I used them quite a bit last year with great success! It is stocked with only three styles of jigs but they are good ones! These fish very heavy and show up on the flasher very well even in deeper water! On the left side at the top you see the Genz Bug, below that is the Fatboy, and on the right side is the Worm.

This is my final box. All these jigs are made of lead so they don’t get too much action anymore. All the jigs on the left side excepts for the last row are made by Custom Jigs & Spins. These are a very good option for beginners because they are cheap and have a big selection of colors and sizes. The top three rows are gill pills. They have a flat bottom and when jigged have a very good flutter action. The next four rows are diamond jigs. They fish very precise and work better than tungsten at times because they sink a bit slower because they weigh less. The last row on the left side is composed of Northland gill getters. The right side of the box the top row is he CJ&S mini mert. The next two rows are primarily Northland forage minnow fry. The remainder of the right side is made up for “shad dart” style jigs from CMT Tackle.

These have been my go to jigs this season. From top to bottom and left to right they are: CMT super glow butt silver/orange size 12, Bentley black  size 4, Custom Jigs & Spins diamond jig pink size 12, Bentley chartreuse size 3, Fiskas gold/glow bead 4mm, Custom Jigs & Spins gill pill red glow size 12, Caty jig teardrop orange/chartreuse size 8, Caty jig willow pink/glow size 6, Custom Jigs & Spins demon gold size 6, and finally a tiny no name glow jig I picked up at Classic Outfitters.

I hope this helps you be more confident with your future jig purchases. There are a lot of choices out there and its hard to know where to start. I am still learning every day and am always trying to find better options. Stay tuned for future posts on the topic of jigs. There will be one in the soon by Bobby taking you through the steps of jig making and how anyone can do it!