Ice fishing for crappies is a huge part of Canada and the USA’s fishing scene. In fact, recent studies determined that crappies are among the favorite species of hobbyists and serious anglers to catch.
It’s due, in part, to crappie’s sweet flavor and prevalence in the majority of US and Canadian lakes and rivers.
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Ice Fishing for Crappies Secrets
If you’ve never tried ice fishing crappies in the past, now is the best time to start! We’ll make it easier and more enjoyable for you. Simply follow these ice fishing tips for crappie!
Best Time to Fish
Fishing for crappie is continuous! This means you can target the species regardless of the time of the year. The limits will vary from one place to another. There may also be size restrictions that exist.
Statewide regulations will apply in rivers, streams, and lakes. But, there are some waters that have special regulations for a particular body of water. Make sure to check the local regulations first before heading out into the water.
Where to Fish
When targeting crappie, you should know that all bodies of water differ in terms of depth, oxygen levels, bottom contours, shape, and other factors. With that said, mouths of shallower bays will lead to deeper water which can be an excellent place for you to start.
This is because as soon as ice forms, the temperature of water in a shallow bay is colder in comparison to deeper waters. Crappie will respond to the change by moving deeper into the water in order to find forage and conserve energy.
If you ask seasoned anglers for crappie ice fishing tips, they will tell you that crappie can also be found near or on-drop offs, points, shelves, weedy flats, narrows, and other kinds of structure. This is worth keeping in mind.
Crappies are typically not fond of being near the bottom or the surface. Instead, the fish will suspend in between, usually slightly deeper in comparison to suspended bluegills.
- Lure, rod, crappie reel, and live bait
- Warm clothes
- Fishing boots or fishing shoes
- Plastic fishing chair or bucket for you to sit on
- Auger to drill a hole
- Scoop to remove slush and ice from the hole
Handy and Useful:
- Propane heater
- Plastic bucket or sled to haul your fishing gear
- Pop-up tent for ice fishing
- Emergency ice pick to stab ice should you break through
- Face mask
- Disposable hand/toe warmers
- Underwater camera
- Sonar unit to find fish
- Sunscreen to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays
- Small rag or towel for drying hands
- A smartphone app which shows where you’re from bottom contours and the depth of a body of water
- Flashlight or head-lamp to see in a low light setting
- Warm and waterproof gloves
- Ruler to measure fish (in case there are regulations set in place by local authorities)
- Tackle box with various weights, bobbers, and lures
- Slip-on ice cleats (for your boots)
- Compass should snow squall, preventing you from seeing the shore
How to Ice Fish for Crappie
Although some anglers like fishing without bobbers, there are those that fish with them. For those who do, most especially those who are fishing in deeper water, they typically:
- Thread bobber stops onto their lines
- Tie lures to their lines
- Thread slip bobbers onto their line
- Clip heavyweights to their lures
- Drop weights down to holes in order to determine the depth of the water
- Take off clip-on weights
- Slide bobber stops to locations that place lur at depths they want
- Drop lures and bobber rigs back down holes, set hooks if bobbers sink, jiggle, or behave oddly e.g. tipping on their sides
Many times, the fish attack their target from below, slowly rising to the bait and then inhaling it. This results in what anglers refer to as ‘up bite.’
You’ll be able to detect this bite when your bobber starts going slack. When you’re not using a bobber, your rod’s sensitive tip with a gentle bend will straighten or the line will go slack as the fish lifts up and sucks the bait in.
A common technique of seasoned anglers when ice fishing for crappie is jigging. This means you lift or twitch the crappie rod to tempt fish to strike. The up and down or vertical motions create the illusion of food falling naturally through a water column.
While there’s no universal rule as to how often you should jig, it’s possible that you can over-jig. This scares crappie away instead of attracting fish to your lure. A large jigging motion will work best when you are trying to attract distant fish. More subtle motions will work best in enticing crappie that’s already near your lure.
More Crappie Ice Fishing Tips
- The diameter of your line matters. Crappie often inspect a lure before biting. You would want the line to be invisible. Successful anglers often ice fish for crappie with a 2- or 4-pound test line.
- Big crappie can still be light biters. This is why crappie anglers add spring bobbers onto the tips of their rods. Spring bobbers are sensitive and they can detect bites, including the ones that you don’t feel or see.
- The species have soft mouths which can easily be torn when setting the hook forcefully. It’s best to raise the rod steadily upward with just enough oomph in order to set your hook but not more.
- When cleaning the crappie that you catch, it’s common for you to see black spots on filets. The pepper-like appearances are called neascus. They aren’t harmful and they don’t alter the flavor or health of the fish.
Patience is absolutely necessary when targeting crappies under the ice. Crappies, similar to other species of fish, search for shelter and food.
When you’re able to find spots that offer both, there’s a great chance of you finding good size winter crappies there.