Fishing for Cold-Weather Crappie
12/20/2012 11:02 AM
Successful crappie fishing in winter can be as simple as finding baitfish. So, where to look?
As the water temps this time of year really start to plunge, baitfish leave the shallows and head to the main creek and river channels. They pack into huge schools and often suspend directly over the channel. When this happens, you can bet the larger predator fish will be close. This is when a fish finder really will come in handy. It not only will show you where the channels are, but it also will show you big schools of baitfish, along with the larger fish hanging below the bait or at least near the bait.
Many fishermen will automatically think they need to run down to the deep water near the dam, but on many reservoirs, these large pods of bait will gather in the deepest water just down from the upper dam. This can be a mile or two down from the dam and the easiest way to find the target area is to look for seagulls.They often will sit in the general area where the baitfish are hanging. The bait also will use the same seasonal areas year after year, so once you find them, you can look in the same locations the next winter.
When I fish a lake in the winter for crappie, I first locate where the baitfish are hanging out, then I look for key structure breaks — long points that have sharp edges that drop into deep water. Humps and islands also are good structure areas.
When the game fish begin to feed on the baitfish, their pursuit breaks large baitfish schools into smaller schools, and these smaller schools often will run along a specific depth to try to escape the large predator fish. They will swim along the deep edges and then often will run up onto the shallow shelves and points to try to get away from the predators.
It wasn’t too long ago that the only way you saw crappie fishermen fish was to sit in one spot and fish old tree tops or weed beds. Then, fishermen figured out that these delicious fish — especially the large slabs — gather along these steep breaks this time of year, trying to take advantage of the schools of baitfish running along them. Spider rigging and slow drifting came into being and a skilled fisherman could easily load the boat with nice slab fish.
For crappie fishermen, a few rod holders attached to the boat are all that are needed. A slow pace with two to four lines set at the right depth can locate the schools of feeding fish easily. I often will boat to an area with the depth finder on, watching for the schools of shad. I pay attention to any larger individual fish hanging near the schools. I note the depth these fish are located.
When I get to a location where there are baitfish schools and good structure edges, I set my lines to that depth and simply drift. I tie on several jigs in-line, but I initially use several different colors. Once I start catching fish, I pay attention to the colors they hit. After I identify their color preference, I switch the other jigs to the productive color. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to tell what the water color and clarity are down where the fish are, so different jig colors can trigger the fish into biting on different days.
Another method is to slow troll — keeping the jigs moving slowly. When trolling, I watch my depth finder and look for the trailing jigs on the screen. They can be seen as long, trailing arches that stay at a continuous depth. I adjust my line to place the jigs at the same depth as most of the larger fish that I see on the screen. Once I figure out the right combination, the results can be fantastic.
Written by Keith Hendrickson, a ConservationTechnician with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
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By New Pro Products on
4/20/2013 7:03 PM
Re: Fishing for Cold-Weather Crappie