Outdoors column: Late season crappie options

by Steve Carney
Contributing Columnist

As we wind down the ice fishing season here in central Minnesota, the walleyes will be given a rest while the rest of us continue our pursuit of panfish such as crappies and bluegills.

We continue to be blessed in this state with some fine crappie fishing especially during the month of March. This month is by far the best time of the winter

March is crappie time and choosing the correct lake can make all the difference between success and failure. Photo courtesy of Steve Carney

to chase crappies and I have included some of my favorite late season choices for slabs. Don’t give up yet, the fun is just beginning!

Bowstring Lake
I just returned from famous Bowstring Lake just west of Grand Rapids, and the fishing was superb. I rate this as one of the top choices statewide for both numbers and size. My group spent a great deal of time working the midlake flats and we caught fish anywhere from 19 to 22 feet along the edges that dropped into deep water. Currently the ice conditions are excellent as we traveled by vehicle anywhere we wanted to go. Despite all the bad publicity about ice conditions this year, up north is just fine.

There are very few permanent houses on Bowstring this year and I recommend checking with the local bait shops about access spots and it doesn’t hurt to follow the crowds. There is plenty of room for all anglers on this huge body of water.

I found the average crappie ran from well over a pound to two pounds and they were very common. You can’t say that about too many lakes.

Leech Lake
This is a great crappie lake but at times they can be hard to find. I concentrate on the far northern bays such as Sucker and Boy Bay and fish right smack where we angle for crappies in the spring. Leech Lake crappies will stage in these shallow water areas and are very fond of holding in the small depressions that run about a foot or two deeper than the bay or channel itself. Leech doesn’t have the numbers like Bowstring but the average size is two pounds. In other words, when you find them they are beautiful.

One tip to remember if you are catching perch in these areas continue to move around until you find the crappies.

Knife Lake
This lake located near Mora has really made a great comeback over the last few years. The revitalization of the lake continues and the crappies have rebounded. I have found the average size is around half-pound and up meaning they are a very respectable keeping size. You won’t find the larger sizes for the most part but the numbers are good. I look to the muddy bottoms of the back bays as the crappies will congregate there feeding on rising insects from the muddy bottom. Don’t be afraid to check out the western side of the lake in the river channel near the public access. Crappies will use that area to gather and feed before the spawn. There are current issues there so be careful and I recommend walking in this area versus a vehicle.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.