Mike Frisch: Find those mid-winter crappies
Crappies during mid-winter are a top attraction on lots of waters for many anglers.
These fish often locate in deep-water basins or holes. Hot spots often produce from year to year, so anglers who have had success in past years often know where to start their crappie search.
Regardless whether an angler has basin "spots" saved from previous years or is new to a lake, staying on the move within a deep basin is often advisable until fish location is pinpointed. Recently, I have been using the K-Drill ice auger for my winter fishing and have been very impressed with this innovative product. The lightweight auger uses a hand-held cordless electric drill as a power source, so provided the battery is charged, it runs. Plus, it's lightweight for carrying from drilling spot to drilling spot, and it cuts holes quickly.
Once fish are found, the next consideration often becomes fishing depth. Crappies are notorious for suspending in the water column, so keeping your bait in the fish zone, or just above it as crappies often feed up, is important. For that reason, a winter sonar unit is critical as it allows me to see bottom, my bait, and any fish that appear. This allows me to quickly adjust my bait to the level the fish are at and to adjust my jigging methods to the fish's activity level.
Sonar is so important to my winter fishing that I won't fish crappies without it. Vexilar makes several different models of sonar to match each angler's fishing style and budget. Recently, I have been using the FLX-28 model and have been impressed with the unit's zoom features, which really let me hone in on "seeing" winter crappies.
Finding fish and keeping your bait at their level are important considerations for winter crappie success. The next consideration is the fishing set-up.
I like to use small tungsten jigs tipped with plastics. That combo has been so successful for me in recent winters that I rarely use live bait any more. A 3/32-ounce UV-pink Mitee Mouse Jig tipped with a glo white Impulse Tapeworm can be twitched and quivered in the water to give the bait an action that crappies can't seem to resist.
I like to keep the bait moving until a fish appears, and when one does, I often raise it a bit and slow the action, which often leads to a bite. Again, keeping a careful eye on my sonar for how the fish respond to my jigging motions is key to seeing specifically what action is best on a given day.
Another critical equipment component for winter crappies is using the right fishing line. Light line works best as it allows a small bait to have good action and to keep line-shy fish from spooking.
I use 2-pound test Floroice, which has a fluorocarbon coating so it is nearly invisible in the water and it resists freezing and stays limp in the coldest conditions.
Winter's cold doesn't have to mean long days spent inside. Mid-winter can be a great time to get out on the ice and chase crappies, and using the tips just presented can probably tip the odds for success in your favor! As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.
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Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest television series. Follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook or visit www.fishingthemidwest.com for more fishy information!