Tips For Ice-Out Crappie
When the season changes from winter to spring, fishermen tend to get a little antsy. Once ice-out finally arrives, it’s time to scout those crappie honey holes for quality slabs. What’s great about this time of year is that you can find great crappie fishing from shore, as they will chase bait in close. There is usually a window of three to four weeks after ice out to find these fish. Of course, patterns can get a little messed up with unstable spring weather, but putting in the time will pay off when the schools really move in.
As crappie transition from deep-water basins, they move into much shallower water. The prime places to look for are shallow bays and backwater coves. If one of these areas happen to have a slight current, that’s even better. South-facing shallows that are in the sun most of the day will warm the fastest, which stimulates plankton growth and starts the food chain. Baitfish will move to these areas, and roaming schools of crappie will be right behind them. Crappie will hang in their usual brush piles and weed lines and chase bait along adjacent flats. These areas are known as feeding flats, and they’re where you want to be.
When it’s early, going small is important. However, as the days progress and water temperatures rise, the fish will really start to gorge themselves as we head toward the staging portion of prespawn. That’s when I’ll up things to 3-inch baits; this helps to weed out smaller fish when all I want is the big girls. I like to start the season by throwing 1/16- to 1/8-oz hand-tied finesse jigs from Entyzer Jigs. Small soft plastics like Crappie Magnets and Berkley’s Power Nymphs on 1/32- 1/64-ounce jigheads are also crappie killers. These artificials can be fished actively, but I also do well when placing them under a float if fish are slow and suspended. Popping your float along so your jig wiggles and sways below is a good way to entice crappie with an apparent easy meal. If all else fails, then grab some small shiners and snap on a float. Slip bobbers are even better when fishing for crappie from shore if the fish are hanging a little bit deeper. Remember to keep your baits just above the fish, as crappie tend to feed upward.
First light is usually the best bite, but if they water is still a bit on the frigid side, then the late afternoon to evening bite may be better, once the sun has been warming up the area all day long. My lure/bait choices and presentation will not change but finding the right time of day can make the difference. Just remember that it may not be a consistent bite always. The action can be red hot for a few minutes, and then die off for another 20 minutes while the schools move around. If possible, it’s good to map out similar locations on the same body of water because these scenarios don’t take place in only one spot. These aggressive panfish feeding frenzies are happening all over this time of year, and it’s a wonderful thing indeed.
Kyle Quine, “Quine’s Fins”