Outdoors column: Late summer crappies make the grade

Late summer is a great time for getting after some super-sized panfish with slab sided crappies topping the list.

They are not always easy to find but when you do, chances are they are biting.

Crappies are almost always feeding and if you’re there when they are you should be able to hook at least a few of them and maybe a lot more.

Ron Anlauf worked the weeds for this slab sided crappie.
Ron Anlauf worked the weeds for this slab sided crappie.Submitted photo

One of the best spots to start looking is at the edge of the deep weed line and where you are likely to find schools of crappies cruising along sucking in whatever gets in the way. You can expect to find fish from outside the weeds to up into them when the conditions are right.

During the day you might find fish off the deeper edge of the weeds and maybe down a nearby drop-off where they can be easily found with good electronics. With a graph like the Humminbird 998c you can quickly scan a weed edge and know if it’s worth spending some time with a bait in the water.

A school of crappies will show up as stack of red marks on the 998c and are easy to pick out.

If you see fish you can drop the trolling motor and try and stay over the top of them and vertical jig a tiny lure like an Impulse Jig’n Tail Mini Smelt.

Simply drop the bait into the fish and ever so lightly lift and drop it and work the top of the school all the way to the bottom.

About the only indication you might get that a fish has picked it up can be a tiny twitch in the line.

When it happens just lift the rod up and set the hook. The plastic bait is really all you need and if you’re on fish you’re going to get hit, plain and simple.

If not, you might not be following crappies. Later in the day just before sunset you can run into slabs moving up into the weeds where they feed with reckless abandon and are easy enough to catch.

Try casting the same jig and plastic to the tops of the weeds and let the bait sink into them a bit before swimming it back out.

Crappies are actively feeding right now, but the weed edge pattern really heats up when we get into the early fall season and when good catches of eye-popping slabs occur with more regularity.

It’s a hoot if you’re there when it happens.

Some of the better lakes for producing weed line fish are Mille Lacs, Gull, North Long and Winnie, all of which have fish that can push into the pound-plus range which can make for some serious fun. See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.