Catching Crappie Under The Ice... The Easy Way
Crappie are "tailor-made" for ice fishing. The main 2 reasons are: there are a lot of them... and then are at least somewhat active year round.
Here are some tips to help you become consistently successful when fishing for crappie under the ice...
For finding them in the winter, a portable depth-finder and possible an underwater camera can help immensly. Of course, you can always just "feel it out" and use your instincts, and fish near structure, etc... but it's more hit or miss that way, especially in the winter.
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Keep in mind, during the winter, crappie will search out the warmest water they can find... and typically that warm water will be in the largest mass of water -- the part of the water the freezes last.
Once you've find a "warmer" patch of water, you'll need to focus on depth, structure, and oxygen content.
Try to find a spot with a depth of between 15' to 50'... near some structure.
An example: submerged timber around 30 feet to 40 feet deep... possibly near a river bed, or a channel.
Just remember that in the winter, shallow water becomes depleted of oxygen. So typically (in many areas) you won't catch as many crappie in the shallows in winter...and those that you do catch will usually be smaller.
Another little trick... if you're looking for winter crappie and catch a bluegill - drop your bait down about 5-10 feet deeper. It's common for crappie to suspend right under bluegill in the winter.
Next, the best times of day for ice fishing. Focus your efforts in the late morning and early afternoon. During these times of day crappie will typically travel along structure going from deep to shallow in their search for oxygen, food, and warmth.
They will also move along river beds, channels, and other contours.
Also, use very light tackle, with shorter rods. Use an ultralight rod about 4-5 feet long. Along with this a light spin casting or spinning reel works great. Don't use anything larger than 4 pound test fishing line.
Try some specialty icde fishing crappie combos with line counters, depth locators, etc. These work well because in ice fishing conditions, you'll almost always be vertical fishing with tiny jigs and smaller baits.
You'll need to have a sensitive rig so you can feel the "light bite" of crappie this time of year. Try a jig rig, or a double hook rig with a lip bobber. Sometimes the only indication you'll have of a strike is the bobber gently moving over onto it's site.
I highly recommend testing really small little "ice jigs". Tip them with Maggies, Mousies, Waxworms, Crapie Nibbles, or small minnows.
Now, if you're still having problems, make sure to lightly twitch your bait up and down... no more than an inch or two at a time. This is critical because sluggish winter crappie don't want to expend a lot of effort to feed.
And as with most other times of year, jig colors should be white, yellow, and/or chartreuse.
Remember, you don't need a lot of expensive gear to catch crappie...and winter is no different.
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