Freezing cold weather may not be the ideal time to be crappie fishing in the minds of many people. Winter weather can be extremely harsh, but the die hare anglers of Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri know that quality crappie fishing is available despite the cold.
"The key to cold weather crappie fishing is finding them," said avid angler Dale Goff. "They bunch up in cold weather, so you can catch limits pretty quickly at times. You can get miserable in a hurry, though, if you don't dress in warm layers."
Goff concentrates his cold weather crappie fishing efforts on two features: boat docks and structure, primarily downed trees.
"Boat docks and boat houses are primary locations to begin searching for winter crappie," Goff related. "Look for boat docks near deep water."
The better docks sit over at least 20 feet of water. Crappie suspend under these docks and often relate to the brush piles, which are common under these docks. Cables, posts and other structures hold crappie, too.
Crappie are lethargic when temperatures are low. The dock structures and brush piles give them places to hide and ambush prey as it wanders by them.
Most anglers fish from boats. "It is best to fish the outside edges of a dock first, " Goff said. "That way you work your way from outside to inside and cover every angle of the dock. Crappie will not always hang at the exact same spot. Moving slowly and quietly will bring results."
Goff likes a vertical presentation when fishing brush around docks. It cuts down on the hangups and when you find the depth at which the fish are holding, you can put a fishing jig or minnow right above their nose.
Goff recommends using 6-pound line and wire hooks which will bend. "I get hung up a lot. The 6-pound line is strong enough to straighten the wire hook. I simply bend it back to shape and resume fishing."
I fished with Goff last winter. I questioned his tactics when he pulled up to a log sticking out of the water 50 yards off shore. I thought the water would not be deep enough to hold suspending fish. Goff settled my concerns when he related that he had been catching crappie from the log for a month.
Goff let his jig settle for a 7 count on his first cast. His ultra-light fishing rod arched and the first crappie of the day was on. We worked up and down the log for 30 minutes and pulled a dozen 11- to 13-inch crappie from it. We rotated between two other logs for another 30 minutes to finish our limits.
The fish were suspended at 7-8 feet in 15 feet of water. Goff offered a revelation when I quizzed him about the shallow winter depth. "I have noticed over the last 4 or 5 years that crappie are holding at more shallow depths in some areas of Lake of the Ozarks."
For further information about crappie fishing at Lake of the Ozarks visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.funlake.com.