Outdoors column: Late winter crappies through the ice

There is no doubt this winter of 2013-2014 has been one for the record books.

Never in my outdoor career have I ever struggled with weather through a winter season like this one.

Cold temperatures, weather fronts and snow were the order of the day – almost every day – on the ice this winter.

Strangely enough, my fishing success was very good considering the harsh winter.

March can be the most consistent time of the winter to score on crappies.
March can be the most consistent time of the winter to score on crappies.Submitted photo

Crappies were the most consistent of the species this winter and I look forward to chasing them in March.

This month requires a bit of an adjustment with relation to their location as March is a transition month for most pan fish. Here are some tips to assist you in locating those March crappies.

Think deep initially

My first plan of attack for crappies in March is to head to deep water and fish the areas that are traditionally good during December and January.

I do not spend a lot of time in these areas if I don’t see the results on my flasher units. I start there because often they hang in these deep water areas all season and it’s a good first effort but because we have had tremendous amounts of snow and cold they often relocate into the shallows because of oxygen concerns. Start in these deep water areas first but plan to relocate much shallower as the next step.

Shallows as backup

Sometimes both crappies and bluegills will surprise you in March.

If we get a surge of warm weather, these critters often move to the shallows in preparation for the spawn and ice out.

Remember, not all fish do the same thing at the same time. Chances are there are still deep fish out there but also a fragment of the population that will go shallow. Just remember back to the muddy bays of last spring when you found those crappies up in the shallow, mucky bays.

These are the areas they will frequent come March.

The shallows will also attract pan fish this time of the year especially when the oxygen gets depleted in the deeper waters.

Many times these fish will be in water between 6 and 11 feet right up until ice out.

Travel issues on the ice

The biggest issue for ice anglers right now is the ability to travel on the ice and get where you want to go.

The north central part of our state is absolutely buried in snow and the lakes are now heavy with snow and ice weight and the ability to get around in a four-wheel drive vehicle has diminished.

Travel now is recommended by snowmobile only.

Now that the ice houses are being removed, don’t expect any plowed roads to assist you … in March you are on your own.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.