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Black Crappie are sensitive to light, which plays perfectly into to the hard water fisherman's hand, as long as there is snow cover. Glare ice and bright sun may delay an outing of a wise crappie fisherman by pushing it towards dusk and dark. Crappie are nocturnal and on bright winter days may be difficult to locate and entice to bite.
Ultra light ice fishing rods or jig-poles with two to four-pound-test clear monofilament line is required tackle. I've found the new ice fishing line which is designed to stay limp in cold weather works great. Suggested hook sizes are No. 4 or No. 6 when using bait. Add a small split-shot for weight a foot or so above the hook and a bobber that barely supports the rig and bait. I prefer to use spring bobbers since they are easy to see from farther way. As crappie can be very light biters; the lightest line and bobber are recommended. Always sharpen your hooks.
Artificials such as ice jigs and small spoons work well for crappie too. I always keep a jigging rod going while watching my other rods. When using a feather/hair type jig, tipping it with a minnow or grub seems to trigger more strikes. I've had good luck with chartreuse and hot pink lure colors, as well as glow in the dark varieties. Lures like small Swedish pimples work fantastic too. The key when using ice jigs and lures is to be attentive while the lure is falling back down the water column as that is when a strike normally occurs. I usually give a jig 2 or 3 upward strokes then let it slowly settle back down.
To be successful at crappie fishing the first thing you must do is find the depth at which the schools are located (usually 10-17 feet over 20 feet). Crappie look up towards their prey, so it is important once the depth of a school is located to never drop a bait below their depth in the water column. I usually start fishing with several lines at different depths until the correct depth is located. Once a fish is caught I adjust all my lines to that depth. When the action cools down, I will stagger the lines again until another school passes by. Typically, schools can be found near the bottom to several feet above.
Always keep your lines moving. Either by jigging a rod constantly at one hole, or move around to each rod and jig them in succession. Movement to your bait is key when crappie fishing. You may try clipping the end of your minnow's tail to give it a little boost in swimming activity. Check your bait often and replace any that are tired. One note about drilling and placement of holes: its not necessary to spread your holes out over a wide area. Normally crappie anglers will cut in 4 to 6 holes in a semi-circle or straight line fairly close to each other. This way when a school appears several hookups are possible. Although, scouting holes are always called for.
Crappie are carnivorous. Baits used to entice a bite include tommy cod, shiners, grubs and crustaceans. Beatific in the 2 inch length make the best baits. Placing live bait on a small weighted jig, or just a plain hook with a weight is common. I tend to hook minnow through the lips to give them a more natural presentation.
A day on the ice fishing for Black Crappie is an enjoyable pastime and is a great alternative to flag fishing for trout and salmon. Give it a try this winter!
Winter Crappie Fishing Tips
Southern Maine waters to target for black crappie include
Balch Pond, Shaker Pond, Lake Arrowhead and Bonney Eagle Pond.
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