Pros4-1Source's Keith Worrall talks Spring Crappies in the Northwoods.
Springtime brings blooms to the Lilacs in the upper Midwest and Trilliums in the far North, and to the northern Crappie angler that means some of the hottest fishing of the year. The Crappies move in to spawn and are concentrated in areas of the lakes or river backwaters for a couple weeks.
I headed out a couple days ago to a couple thousand acre lake in Oneida County, WI I had never fished for pre-spawn Crappies armed with my Humminbird ci SI unit and an Aqua-Vu Micro+DVR pocket sized camera. The water temps were a bit cool registering on the Humminbird in the lower to middle 50’s, so I started in the late Winter haunts searching with Side Imaging and looking over the area with the Aqua-Vu for schools of fish.
I moved into the 6’ to 8’ weeds next and saw a couple Perch and Pike on the Aqua-View, but no Crappies. Shallower yet, even in just over 2’, still there were no fish.
This lake is part of a chain of lakes, so there is some current and bog style structure in the back of the targeted bay. The next logical step was to arm up our St. Croix rods and fish VERY shallow along the shoreline bog edges.
We slammed ‘em.
Knowing what to look for and when is the key to finding the schools of shallow crappies.
The ‘magic’ water temperature is 54 to 58 degrees for the migration to begin. When the temps reach that level, the males move in first, followed closely by the larger females. Here’s how to find them.
If the water body you are about to fish has mostly sand as the shoreline bottom composition, look for reeds from the previous year first, and emerging new cabbage or similar weeds second. If there are reeds along the shoreline, the Crappies will be there in numbers eventually. The North shore warms faster than the South, so search the North for the proper combination of the right temps and bottom composition first.
If the sandy shoreline has little or zero for reeds, literally any change to a softer bottom and/or any emerging vegetation even just a few inches high, will attract the Crappies. Brush and stumps along the shorelines will also hold fish.
In lakes featuring softer bottoms, seek out the black bottom shallow marl (mixture of mud and sand) bottoms and any cover. If there’s no cover, the Crappies still have to spawn, and will head for the warm water in the shallow back bays.
Rivers and flowages will offer both types of structure, and you could be successful finding any of the magic combinations in the slack water bays and stump fields. Contacting the fish after narrowing down where they are is easy in the North this time of the year; the Crappies are always willing to bite at least ‘a little’ all day, pretty much regardless of weather conditions.
Once the sun starts to hit the tree lines, the bite goes into overdrive.
Anchoring up on the fish will cost you.
Be mobile, use your electric motor, and cover water to find the schools of larger Crappies.
I like to rig my St. Croix pan fish stick with an Abu spinning reel in a ‘5’ size like the Cardinal S5-C and wind the spool with 4 pound Berkley Trilene XL. I love small jigs for pan fish, and prefer 1/16 ounce jigs I make using my Do-It Mold.
I prefer pink and chartreuse for jig colors, and tip the jig hook with 1” Gulp! Minnows or 1.5” Gulp! Jigging Grubs. I almost never use live bait for Spring and Summer Crappies anymore, as the Gulp! products outperform minnows and I can catch nearly a limit on one tail.
I use a small bobber almost all the time for depth control, allowing me to hang that jig in front of a crappie and move it along nice and slow. SLOW but erratic movement will entice even the fussiest Crappie to eat our Gulp! offering. I like weighted bobbers because they are easy to cast a long distance, and even a slight bite will register well.
Once you find and begin catching the Crappies, it’s important to remember that we all need to limit our catch instead of catching our limit on many waters across the country. Ten Crappies is a fine meal for 4 folks with adequately portioned side dishes.
My family pan fries our Crappie fillets in butter or oil using just enough to fry the fillets at 375 degrees, breaded with a mix made from rice flour, Lawrys seasoned salt, and white pepper to taste. If you like a crisper fillet, add 1/3 corn meal to the mix. No egg mixture is necessary, just roll a wet fillet in the rice flour and drop it in the preheated pan. Fry until golden brown on both sides and serve with a hot vegetable side and sliced tomatoes. In season, the skillet gets another course while it’s still hot, a mixture of sliced Zucchini and mushrooms fried to slightly crisp on the surface with your favorite melted cheese mixed in just as the squash is done.
Can’t beat that, not even with a stick.
Get out there and fish, you can't catch 'em sitting on the couch!
Submitted by Keith Worrall for Pros4- 1Source.