Outdoors column: Hot pockets for mid-winter crappies

The last trip to a local crappie hole held no surprises; the fish were where they usually are this time of the year and they were biting.

A buddy fishing the same weekend on a lake in northern Minnesota found nice slabs in the same type of area and they were cooperating as well.

The author found a hot pocket full of dandy crappies like this. Submitted photo
The author found a hot pocket full of dandy crappies like this. Submitted photo

The key to catching crappies for the most part is finding them and right now it’s not that tough.

Deeper basin areas near shallow flats and old weed beds are a good place to start. Not the deepest water in the lake necessarily with 20 to maybe 30 feet being an optimum range. On the little lake I was on it was the main lake basin that bottomed out at about 21 feet and was where the fish were located. On the lake up north the deep water was over 40 feet, but the crappies were found holding in a 24 deep pocket off more shallow structure nowhere near the deepest part of the lake.

I say holding but crappies rarely hold, instead they move along in packs or schools munching on whatever they can as they go and don’t sit still very often.

It’s something to keep in mind and you may have to do some moving to stay with the fish. You can also sit still and hope they come back and they probably will, but if they don’t something has to be done.

Drilling more holes 30 yards this way or 20 yards that way might be the answer.

For the most part they’ll move along at a constant depth so it would be a good idea to stay with that same contour line or depth and drill some more holes until you start seeing or catching fish.

With my Humminbird Ice 597c loaded with a LakeMaster high definition map chip I can see exactly where I want my next set of holes drilled and makes pinning fish down that are on the move. It also serves as super sensitive depth finder and allows me to see the fish, my bait and even bait fish. In the flasher mode a pod of crappies will show up as a few red marks stacked on top of each other and is when you want to pay close attention because good things are about to happen.

If you’re not seeing fish they’re not there and is time to move on.

Fortunately for us, crappies are almost always feeding meaning they can be caught if you’re on them.

Although they’re not all that fussy you can put more on the ice if you keep your presentation nice and light. That means lighter line like three- or four-pound test and tiny baits like a 1/16 ounce Northland Forage Minnow tipped with a small crappie minnow or a mooska jig tipped with an impulse tapeworm. You could add a maggot to the mooska jig but you really don’t have to, the impulse is deadly all by itself.

See you on the ice.