I took the day to catch up on chores around the house but made plans mid day to chase an evening crappie bite with my buddy Mark. We ended up on the ice shortly after 4 and got right into the fish.
The fish were cruising a weed flat in 10-12 feet of water. They preferred the holes with weeds that came up to about 5 feet but could be caught just about anywhere. When you found them, they were super aggressive! We tried multiple jig, plastic, meat combos but it didn’t seem to matter as long as it was moving.
As the sun started to set, the fishing slowed but with fish still cruising, you just had to wait. Just about every fish that went through bit. As time went by we iced some nice crappie with the biggest pushing 13″. While the majority of the fish came through 6-8 feet off bottom, we did pick several right out of the mud.
We released them all for next time and packed it in just before 10.
As I add more years on to my age, I grow more and more concerned about getting our youth involved. A few of my students approached me about advising a Hunting/fishing club and without a doubt I accepted. I’ve had the chance to take them on the ice few times this year and as February break was almost over I took two of them to what I thought was going to be a hot bite and a positive time on the ice for these youngsters.
We made our way to the lake with a few extra Vexilars for the boys to use. Dylan and I had fished this spot the previous week and it was a hot bluegill bite. I thought it was going to be an easy day for the boys giving them a little confidence by putting some fish in their buckets. I drilled the area out and got the boys all set up and ready to jig. It didn’t take long for the two of them to start a baseball game, there was a great deal of swinging and missing going on as I fished beside them. After a few tips on presentation and ready the electronic in shallow weeds they were both hooking up a bit more. We fished for a few hours and I soon realized that the fish just weren’t here. I cut another grid of holes and went searching. I was able to locate some fish but they had slid to the weed edge in 9 feet of water and the weeds were right to the ice. This wouldn’t be a problem for me and Dylan but knowing that I had two young fishermen with me that had no experience reading electronics in thick weeds I decided it would be best if I took them to another body of water to target deep water suspending crappie.
We packed up our gear and made the short trip to a nearby setback. This particular setback was well known for a decent crappie bite early ice and I was hoping there might still be a few fish we could talk into biting. The conditions were poor, we had about 16 inches of heavy snow to deal with. I sent the boys out to clear a few spots in the channel for me to drill about 20 holes. It didn’t take long for one of them to get hooked up. As a matter of fact I don’t think I had even got my rod out yet. The first fish to come up was a decent little crappie, which to these boys was like pulling up a piece of gold. We had a short spurt where the fish would bite but it seemed like you’d only catch fish out of a hole that was fished for the first time, these fish are the fussiest crappie I have ever met. Both boys were able to catch a few fish, one even landing a nice pike. That’s what this sport is all about. Teaching and passing on what we have learned to the generations will only support a positive experience for those to come.
The trip for the day would be a quick but early one. My plan was to arrive to the lake and have my holes drilled by 6am in an effort to capitalize on and early morning perch bite. The perch that swim in this particular body of water are typically that of the larger, “jumbo” variety and the best best has always been the first hour of light. I made it to my coordinates a little after 6 and talked briefly to a fellow fishermen as I cut about 8 holes. The bite hadn’t started yet according to the voice coming from the shanty so I was relieved that I hadn’t missed it.
I fished my first hole without a mark on the Vexilar and then moved to the second. As soon as the transducer settled in the hole, I could see there were a few stacked beneath me. The perch in this lake are notorious for non-stop movement when they’re feeding. If you’re able to catch more than 3 out of a hole you’ve done good. The best method we’ve used is the leap frog method the chase the school, but i’m without a fishing partner so that wouldn’t work. This year, for some reason the fish seemed to be staying put, meaning they were in the exact same holes for a better part of a month. Because of this, a nice area had been all plowed out for decent fishing conditions. I quickly caught 8 nice jumbo perch and was now on my third hole as were a few old timers. The guys that plowed the area out a few days prior pulled up and asked me how the fishing was. I replied with “they’re just starting to turn on now”. Well once that was said they decided they needed to make some more room for themselves to fish so they began plowing more of the area out. The fish were gone once that plow hit the ice.
I fished through the rest of my holes without marking any decent sized fish and picked up my auger to venture away from the plowed area. The fish had vacated the area completely. It’s amazing how noise on the ice can impact fish in 35 feet of water, but if I had a plow blade being dropped in my house i’d probably leave too! Oh well, it was good while it lasted.
After a successful jigging new waters, we decided to test out the night time crappie bite. As many of your probably already know crappie can often be great night time feeders. Most fishermen choose to fish at night using some sort of illumination, anything from a lantern to a car headlight. For a few years now we have been fishing for crappie and trout at night use the Hydroglow Fishing Light. The Hydro Glow illuminates by using Green LED’s which are less abrasive to the fish and their feeding attitude.
We cut three holes, put the light in the middle hole and shacked up. As you can see in the pictures below the light really illuminates the ice and the water underneath it. It didn’t take long for the light to begin attracting bait-fish and crappie. Dylan hooked into a crappie within the first 10 minutes of the light being deployed. Night fishing requires a lot of patience. The fish typically are cruising at night searching out an easy meal. The longer you can stay in a hole with fish nearby the better chance you will have of putting a few topside. We fished them the same as we would during the day. Small jigs tipped with Maki Plastics and spikes.
The area we were fishing didn’t have much for weeds or any other kind of structure. When you would mark a fish on the bottom they were usually pretty easy to entice them into biting. We were able to ice a decent number of crappie with a few bluegill and perch mixed in a matter of a few hours. Not a bad first trip for a new spot.
We have had some great days during heavy snowfalls and today was no different. I arrived to my spot later than anticipated after missing my alarm and having to deal with snowy roads throughout the entire drive. I was cutting my first hole after 9 am though and was pleasantly surprised to see nothing but crappie as far as I could see on my underwater camera. After cutting another dozen holes, I got to fishing.
The first, second, and third fish that I caught were all crappie. The size also increased throughout as well. After the first three drops, I began catching mostly pumpkinseed so I moved on. The fishing slowed the deeper that I went so I was able to dial in an area and cut more holes over the sweet spot.
Throughout the day, the fish bit consistently as long the wind wasn’t blowing from the north. Mostly, the wind came from the west but it was variable and gusty. Fortunately, it switched often enough so that I never went long without a fish! When the wind stayed constant from the north, I used the downtime to search for better pods of crappie.
It’s always a toss up whether noise scares fish. Sometimes one auger is fine but two is too much. Other times it fires them up or scares them away. Today, cutting holes worked to my advantage. The noise seemed to scare the pumpkinseed and bluegill away. When they were gone the crappie fed heavily! I was able to capitalize during these times to add to my collection of fish!
I was greeted with a -11 degree temperatures at a body of water I had previously never seen. The lake could be classified as a basin lake with some other interesting contour/habitat around. I figured that I would begin my pursuit on the first slope into deeper water that I would cross.
The first hole I cut was over 20 FOW. I sat in my flip over shack for a few unsuccessful minutes before moving on. My second hole was in 5 feet deeper and stacked with fish. I dropped down a spoon because it was all I had tied on so far. I had lots of reactions and even a few bumps but no hook ups. I quickly tied on a smaller jig and threaded on a micro plastic. After dropping my jig down 15 feet I was hooked up. I reeled in an 8″ crappie. With fish still on the graph I quickly dropped back down to them and hooked up again. With two fish released, it seemed as though they had moved.
I sat still for a while longer and about 20 minutes later another pod of fish moved through. Again I pulled two fish out of the 6 or 7 that I marked. Figuring that I would see that pattern throughout the day, I gave it one more go. I sat for close to the same amount of time without a mark and then they popped up again. I pulled three fish this time but they were still in the 8-9″ range. I decided that it was time to cut out further.
Over the next couple of hours I explored the 25-40 foot range. While I caught a few crappie, they were all near the 25 foot mark. I abandoned the deeper water to cut the entire perimeter of the 25′ contour. My success continued with just about any hole I cut at the right depth. The only time I saw anything different was in one hole over 40 feet of water. It was stacked with 6 feet of fish suspended 15 feet of bottom. I figured it was a pod of bait but the only thing I pulled out of it were crappie.
I fished just about an entire day and highlighted my Navionics chart with waypoints varying from 24-26 feet of water where the majority of the fish were cruising. Although the biggest fish I caught was 10″, I see the potential for larger specimens. I will be back in the spring with my boat to see what else the lake has to offer!