We found a local pond this winter that was holding some crappies. This was a big deal for us since our closest place to catch some crappies was a minimum of an hour driving time one way. This is a small pond with an abundance of bass, perch, pumkinseed and pickerel and apparently now crappie.
I was met with a strong west wind yesterday when I arrived at the launch. This would be my second trip out this week so I was still learning the pond, my Navionics app on my phone was a big help. I highly encourage anyone who spends time on the water or the ice that has a smartphone to look into it. It’s very affordable and will maximize your fishing time. Areas that I was looking for where the deep holes, sharp breaks and flats with structure (in this ponds case fallen trees and weeds) close to the deep holes and and breaks.
The surface temp in Vermont has shot up quickly in the past two weeks. Yesterday I had a 70 degree reading. I knew that this meant most of the crappies had already spawned so I focused on the areas I mentioned before in hopes of finding them post spawn. Using my Navionics app noticed that the north shore of the pond had a very sharp break into 28 feet of water so I headed there.
The techniques was simple, I was set up with a Bobby Garland baby shad under a bobber using my 9′ Riversider ultralight rod. I worked the bait shallow to deep cruising the shoreline with my trolling motor on a speed of one until I got a bite. I would stop when there was structure in the water and work the area more. I was very pleased to find that many of the trees blown down on the shore line actually extended out a ways into deep water. Many of them extended as far out as 15 feet of water which in a crappie fisherman’s eyes is an ideal depth to find crappie holding on structure. Most of the fish that I caught here in the 6-10′ range with hard structure.
I was a little discouraged to catch over 40 crappies in my two trips and not one of keeper quality, ok well maybe one was of the legal 8″ inch size. I guess that’s good news for a couple years down the road. I was also able to hook into a few bass, one an acrobat, and way too many pickerel. Click on this link to see a GoPro video of a crappie being caught.
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
Tools Of The Trade
(The Modern Pan-Fishermen)
The first jig rod I ever caught a fish on was hand-made, nothing more than a crafted piece of wood. Today, 15 years later my rods are custom built from the finest graphite blanks and designed to catch specific fish and detect the lightest of bites. Ice fishing has gone through a major revolution in recent years. By all means, what you’ve got will work, but if you are willing to adapt to these new methods and tools then you will see more success on the ice.
The modern age of ice fishing has created the finesse ice fishermen. It has become common practice to put down the large wooden jigs sticks with 10lb test and pick up a lighter graphite jig stick spooled with 2-4lb test, have boxes full of jigs, and carrying a Vexilar from hole to hole. All of these things are an essential tool for me while chasing panfish in the lakes and rivers of the Northeast.
I have three rods that I use. The first is a True Blue made by Clam, the second is a custom built “Meatstick” by Jason Mitchell, and the last (which I use the most) is a Riversider. Each rod has it’s own productive qualities that help me detect bites in different situations. All of these rods are in my rod case because they are durable and they get the job done. These rods are also very affordable for the average “weekend warrior”, they are all pretty much under forty dollars.
More important than the rod, is the jig. I mostly fish for bluegill, perch and crappie, having a variety of jigs is a huge advantage for me in catching fish. Believe it or not, I have found that smaller is usually better. There are two types of ice jigs on the market today, vertical and horizontal. Vertical jigs are soldered jigs and are for most fishermen their “go to jigs”. My favorite vertical jig is an orange and chartreuse teardrop Caty jig tipped with 3-4 spikes. These jigs are small, but the teardrop shaped blade gives it a deadly downward flutter, often times triggering the fish to bite. This action allows the fishermen to fish the entire water column, targeting the most active and aggressive fish. The second type of ice jig is a horizontal jig. These are somewhat new to the market and these jigs consist of molded metals in all shapes and sizes, and now metals, including tungsten which is heavier than lead. These jigs offer the fish a different presentation. Unlike the vertical jig, these jigs swim. They have a sudden side to side up and down movement that mimics small bait fish or a small insect. Teamed with a micro plastic, this bait can be very productive. My go to horizontal jigs are Custom Jigs and Spins Diamond Jigs, and their Gill Pill. One of these jigs tipped with a micro plastic, say by Maki Plactics, will surely put more fish on the ice.
Out with the old and in with the new, well only if you want to. The old techniques will always work to a certain extent, but I encourage you to finesse more fish on the ice this season and try some of the tactics of the Modern Ice-Fishermen.
This Article can be found in The New Hampshire Vermont Outdoor Gazette