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crappie.gif (33225 bytes)Winter Ice
Fishing for
Black Crappie

mikec.gif (3608 bytes)
By Mike Christy


  smbellamy.gif (2683 bytes) There are many productive crappie waters located throughout New England including one near the southern Maine and New Hampshire Seacoast. I'm speaking of the Bellamy Reservoir in Madbury NH which originates from Swains Pond in Barrington and terminates into Great Bay. Located on Rt.9 just west of Dover, the reservoir was once just a stream ambling through pastures and fields until a dam was built. The reservoir now supplies the city of Portsmouth with it's water supply. The mean depth is about 7 feet with the deepest of spots reaching 20 feet. If you can imagine rolling fields with a trout stream winding through them, that is what lies beneath the surface of this water.

Black Crappie have been introduced into the Bellamy and thrive there along with other warm water species fish such as pickerel, largemouth bass, yellow perch and catfish. One of the most productive times to harvest crappie from this water is during winter while ice fishing. Crappie are active during winter and readily take small minnows or grubs placed on small hooks and jigs. 

balch1.jpg (98269 bytes)The best section of water on the Bellamy to target for crappie fishing  is between the Rt.9 bridge and the dam. A small access road on the west side of the reservoir leads down a sloping hill towards the frozen shore. Parking is available along side the road and in several pulloffs. Stop by Taylor's Bait and Tackle on Rt.9 for help with access directions. Finding the middle channel of deep water can be assisted by the use of a depth finder, or if you arrive after the first flurry of seasonal activity, simply searching for holes of past crappie fishermen in the ice will do. Finding the deeper water will more often than not help you locate a school of hungry crappie.

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.

icejigs.gif (5680 bytes)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.

swedish.gif (4315 bytes)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

  • Popular baits are tommy cod hooked through the mouth and jigs tipped with grubs.
  • When buying tommy cod, ask for the smaller baits.
  • Keep your baits moving, it can trigger bites.
  • Always keep your bait just above the school in the water column.
  • Crappie move for cover around dusk and low light conditions.
  • Crappie school and usually suspend in mid depths during daylight.
  • Spray your baits liberally with scented Crappie Attractant
  • Keep crappie caught within reason, over-population and reduced forage can limits fish growth.

Southern Maine waters to target for black crappie include Balch Pond, Shaker Pond, Lake Arrowhead and Bonney Eagle Pond.

New Hampshire waters include Arlington Mill Reservoir, Canobie Lake, Clement Pond, Horseshoe Pond, Jericho Lake, Moore Reservoir, Pawtuckaway Lake and Willand Pond.

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