Hard water anglers get excited when we start talking about hauling slab crappie through the ice. Crappie are one of the most sought after species for ice fishermen across the ice belt. Ice fishing for crappie is difficult yet rewarding for an ice fisherman to master. Here are our top 3 tips to help you find crappie, jig for crappie, and catch crappie at night.
1. How to Find Crappie Ice Fishing
Crappie move a lot through the winter and keeping up with their movement patterns can be as tricky as catching them. Staying mobile and using a flasher are the keys to finding crappie throughout winter. Early ice crappie will hold to the cover of weed lines and thick weed beds in 5-15 feet of water. The healthiest weeds will hold the most fish during this time because they produce more oxygen and attract bait. Mid winter crappie will move to the basin of the lake and suspend off the bottom 10-20 feet relative to overall depth. Crappie suspend wherever the highest oxygen levels and most bait are, typically in the top half of the water column. Late ice crappie will start to move back to the shallows and any remaining healthy vegetation. Drill 15-20 holes in these areas and use your flasher to mark crappie stratified in the water column before you start fishing.
2. Jigging for Crappie Ice Fishing
During the winter months, crappie typically hold together in pods of 3-10 fish and feed on plankton. Mimic plankton with a tungsten jig and soft plastic to catch crappies and keep the pod active. Jigging for Crappie is the most popular way to catch them through the ice. Drop your bait to the bottom, then reel up a few feet and work a 1-2 foot section of the water column with a series of light pulsing and pausing up and down. Most bites occur when your bait is moving upward. Keep moving from hole to hole until you find active crappies.
3. Crappie Ice Fishing at Night
Crappie feed most actively at night with the bite peaking at dawn and dusk. Make sure to take advantage of these times to catch the most active fish. Jigging bright plastics like a chartreuse wax worm paired with an orange or green jig head performs especially well for nighttime crappies. If the night bite is tough, we recommend dead sticking an ice fishing pole with a live fathead or crappie minnow to convert finicky fish. Another useful tip for ice fishing Crappie at night is to use a glow stick or underwater light where regulations permit. A glow stick will attract bait, plankton and crappie to your area.
Ice Fishing Crappie Tips
Find where the crappie are holding based on the seasonal patterns that effect oxygen and light levels. Keep in mind that crappie are found around shallow vegetation during early and late ice and in the basin or deeper areas during mid winter. Use your electronics and stay mobile until you find pods of biting fish. Present baits that mimic typical plankton forage and don’t forget to mix in live minnows for docile fish and lures that mimic minnows for larger and more aggressive crappie. Then once the ice starts to melt and the season changes, you’ll have to readjust your tactics and find the best time to fish for crappie in the warmer weather.