Chasing Early Season Crappies
When it comes to early ice crappies, I have had some pretty memorable outings. These outings range from impressive catches to frustrating days where I couldn’t find enough fish for a meal. Still, I have no issues getting motivated to fish the early ice period.
The one thing I have learned about early ice fishing is that some lakes are very consistent producers and others are more hit and miss. However, I do find that panfish, particularly crappies, will often set up in the same area of a lake year after year. It was this concept that encouraged me to try a proven lake on last year’s first trip to the ice.
The chosen lake for this trip was one that offered a pretty classic deep basin bite. The water clarity was such that the weed growth was limited to fairly shallow water. Many times, the lack of quality weeds sends fish to the depths instead of into the weed growth.
Working off of waypoints saved from previous years, my partner, Matt Klug and I started our search for suspended crappies. Not surprisingly, the fish were not exactly in the same spot as they had been in previous outings. When working a deep basin bite, this is not that unusual as an expansive basin offers a lot of opportunity for movement.
Eventually, we did locate some crappies and began the process of drilling out the area we hoped to concentrate our efforts in. The fish had other ideas. After pulling a few to the surface, the rest vanished and we were back to looking.
As it turned out, this was somewhat the norm for the day. We would find fish, catch a few, and then start the process of figuring out which way they moved. Although we always relocated the school, it was clearly a game of chase.
By the time we ended our excursion, we were hundred of yards from where we had started. Although I found this to be a little unusual for early ice crappies, it is imperative to go with the flow. If the fish move, so do I. I am not someone that likes to sit and wait for them to return.
One fact I did find interesting was the aggressive nature of these crappies. One of my favorite early ice baits, the Pinhead Minnow, was extremely effective in producing bites. Although I did sometimes add a maggot for a little extra scent, it usually wasn’t necessary.
This outing was a classic example of the importance of mobility. If we had stayed in the first spot we found fish, our end results would have been bleak. The holes we checked on the way off of the lake held no fish.
By working with a partner, the mobility factor is definitely easier. There is a lot of hole drilling that takes place but with only six inches of ice, drilling holes was not a concern.
I also like to bring along some water for reading through the ice with my Vexilar. By placing the transducer in a small puddle of water, it is easy to get a reading through the ice without drilling a hole. This greatly speeds up the searching process.
Early ice fishing success is not a given, even on lakes you know very well. Being flexible and mobile is often the key to a successful outing.