Mid-Winter Suspended Crappies
There are few things in life more entertaining than playing the cat and mouse game on our electronics while trying to entice a fish to bite our offering. Mastering the flasher or typical depth sounder settings to dial them in allows us to watch the bait fall through the water column to the nose of a fish. What happens next is addictive.
The reaction of the fish mark on my screen when my bait is presented is better than any video game I have ever played. So much so that I can watch my bait and the fish for many many hours on end without losing interest. You can really get a feel for the mood of the fish, and whether or not you have the right bait tied on based on the movement of a few bars on your flasher or graph.. so much fun!
I was out on the ice in the Kawartha’s Northumberland region with a couple good friends last week in pursuit of suspended winter crappies. The
fish that we targeted were suspended over an 18’ “mini basin” at the entrance to their spring time spawning grounds. We made the long hike out to the area that Aaron had previously located. Drilled the holes, and setup Michael’s monster hut. The Fishing Inn as we call it. Always a great time sitting in a hut with these guys for several hours. So many laughs, and so many fish! Aaron dropped his transducer down the hole and instantly marked fish.. A lot of fish.
He was first to drop and quickly came back with a healthy crappie! We were in for a good night. Each of us started with a different bait presentation in an attempt to quickly determine a
preference for the fish that particular evening. Michael started with a jigging rap type bait, Aaron with a small tube and myself with a mini shad type soft plastic bait. While Michael and I were icing fish on a fairly regular basis, it was very evident by the number Aaron was moving that the tube was the hot item. Aaron would drop his offering down the hole and the fish would instantly start to move up towards it. And in most cases eating his offering.
It was really something to watch! As it often is when I fish with Aaron. He is very good at finding the little subtleties that will trigger a bite. In this case he would drop his bait to the fish, make a few slight twitches and when one would show interest he would simply start to pull the bait away from it.
Sometimes several feet, and in a few cases just below his hole! If he detected the fish was committed he would suddenly pause the bait and watch his rod tip. Thunk! Fish on! That cat and mouse game was the ticket to our success this night, no question. Pull the bait away and then stop. Wait for the take and set the hook.
The fish on this particular evening were not terribly aggressive and in many cases we would stop the bait and feel what we were certain was a take, set the hook and nothing! We jokingly described it as a “push”! The look on Michael’s face was absolutely priceless every time he had a fish “push” the bait! I wish I had caught it on camera. Pure rage and disappointment.
Finding Crappies suspended, in numbers, during the mid-winter months is a very likely story. A soft bottom is typically the case as well. The theory is that a soft bottom generally prohibits aquatic vegetation and insects. So they are there in abundance to feed… Well.. ok sure! That is possible, and likely I suppose.. But In most cases I think they are staging for the spawn. Especially when given the relative proximity to their spawning grounds in this particular case. We know where they are during the spawn and it only makes sense that they setup somewhere close by during the winter months. Of course there needs to be a food sources in the given area to support
them while they wait. But I believe relative proximity to spawning grounds is equally important to keep in mind when trying to locate these suspended fish. In this case the first small basin on our way back out to the main lake.
Had a great time fishing with good friends. Many laughs and a tone of fish topside. That is what fishing is all about. The next time you head out looking for mid-winter crappies I hope you will consider a few of the points I have mentioned. Tight Lines!