Fishing & Boating News

Putting a Hurt on Midwinter Slabs

by: Ron Anlauf,

The author made this big slab an offer it could not refuse.
Photo by courtesy Ron Anlauf
(Jan. 09, 2012 - Braham, MN)

Crappie fishing has been good from the word go on a lot of lakes and right now is as good a time as any to check it out. Crappies usually play nice and if you can find them you can catch them and is why so many anglers target them during the hard water period.

So if they're going to bite then finding them has to be the key and location isn't all that tough. For the most part deeper water is where a good deal of the action takes place. A deeper flat or basin area next to a shallow shelf is a starting spot, so is a deeper hole in the middle of a shallower flat. A break line or drop off next to deep water is another potential hot spot but the action might be restricted to lowlight periods and even well after dark.

The deeper basin running fish are more apt to bite during the day and may be your best option if you're not willing to burn the midnight oil. A flat bottom or basin in the twenty to thirty foot range is what we're talking about and may not be the deepest water available but deeper isn't always better. If you're willing to stick it out till after dark; the edges of a weed line or drop off can really heat up and may be your best option. On lakes like Mille Lacs where there aren't that many fish you'll have a hard time trying to find them during the day. But come dark those schools of basin running fish will move in and up where they can be readily caught and better yet: they can be some real monsters. When you do find fish realize that crappies are almost always on the move and can't seem to sit still very long. They don't usually move far or move very fast but they keep on going and going. It could be that it's the most effective way for them to feed or maybe it's the fact that they're always being pushed around and chased by larger predators like northern pike. Whatever the case; you should be prepared to move at least a short distance one way or another and back again if you lose contact with a school of fish. It also means more holes drilled and when my gas powered Eskimo Shark gets some extra work. The Shark can absolutely fly through thick layers of ice and can help you stay one step ahead of a fish with restless fin syndrome.

The thing is if you're "on the fish" you can easily see them on a depth finder like the Humminbird Ice55. If there's enough crappies in the neighborhood they'll show up as several thicker red lines stacked up on top of each other and can run from close to the bottom to five or ten feet or more off. A single mark can be a crappie but it's the clusters or numbers that will hold the most biters. When there are more there is competition whereby the most aggressive try to inhale a bait before another fish beats him to it. Competition is definitely a good thing and a real key to the hottest action.

Teeny tiny jigs tipped with plastic bodies are top crappie getters like the new Mooska Jig from Northland Tackile tipped with an Impulse Mini Smelt or Tapeworm. The Mooska is made from Tungsten which is heavier than lead and allows for smaller baits that sink faster and provide better feel. Tip the jig with an Impusle plastic body and you're in business. Impulse is a scent impregnated plastic bait that has been proven to be too much for fish to resist and is downright deadly. You can add some meat like a Eurolarvae or two but the Impulse baits have proven to completely effective on their own. In fact I have yet to see where the addition of a maggot has meant more bites and more fish hooked.

Technique is extremely important if you hope to get your share of the slab fest and one of the big keys is keeping the amount of action you impart to the bait to a bare minimum. Light little twitches of the rod tip is about all you need to get their attention and all that's required to get a plastic trailer like a Northland Impulse Mini Smelt to do its thing. Take a look at your bait while you have it up shallow and see how little motion you need to make it dance and quiver and look like something that's meant to be eaten. Too much commotion and you're going to spook fish and spooked fish simply won't bite.

See you on the ice.

Ron Anlauf