Slab Crappie Success On Ice

By Nick Simonson

While mid-ice can provide a challenge for any ice angler as various species enter the winter doldrums, crappies tend to provide consistent action. Crappies are a schooling fish and when a couple are located and caught, others can be hooked in the same fashion. At this time of year, Runnings has the gear you need and the lures required to consistently catch slab crappies on the ice and with a few of the following helpful tips, you can locate the schools of the biggest fish and keep the action rolling.

High Times

On any lake with a crappie population, dawn and dusk tend to be those times when anglers find the most success. That’s because in the low-light periods, crappies – with their bigger eyes – are better able to see the rising food sources that are found in their waters. Some of these food items are downright microscopic, and the small things that chase them aren’t all that big either, including aquatic insects and little minnows.  This creates an ideal food chain for crappies to follow, and the shifting light triggers their movement as well. Bites will sometimes run all night in many waters, but don’t give up on daylight opportunities either, especially in lakes with dark tint or dingy water.

Start Small

To catch crappies, provide offerings that match the forage whether it’s small aquatic life, or the remaining young-of-the-year minnow populations. Tiny jigs, like the tungsten HT Mormooska, can be tipped with colored spikes and wax worms to offer up small, natural items that can be jigged, wiggled and slightly vibrated depending on the attitude of incoming fish. Make sure to use the smallest line possible, going as low as one- or two-pound-test, as crappies are easily turned off by thicker monofilament – especially in clear waters.

Utilize a spring bobber to detect a crappie’s inhale of these small offerings. Both species of crappies have relatively large mouths and can suck in and spit out a bait with little detection on a standard rod. Clip on spring bobbers, or rods with options already built in, are the way to go at mid-ice, when fish aren’t as aggressive. Keep one eye on the sonar when fish move in and gauge their reaction to the presentation of these small baits. When the fish closes in on the offering, watch the end of the spring bobber for a jump or a downward pull and set the hook.

Move On Up

As the prime time of dusk and nightfall sets in, don’t be afraid to upsize and trigger the instincts of feeding fish at the peak of their daily binge. Small spoons like the Lindy Frostee, or Northland Forage Minnow will draw fish in through movement and some flash, and when tipped with a minnow head or a number of spikes, convert lookers into biters. If a nearby water is known for giant specks, don’t be afraid to pack some bigger lures for the adventure. Rapala Jigging Raps will give those crappies over 12 inches in length a bigger target, especially when things get going and a school of larger fish is found. Experiment with a variety of lures for crappies as the season progresses.

Have a bobber rod rigged in an adjacent hole with a small minnow as well to increase the odds of a hook-up. As a school moves in and mills around a more active presentation, they’ll be drawn to the subtle (and sometimes scared) motions of a baitfish and grab the less aggressive option. Many Runnings stores often have a couple sizes of minnows to choose from, so mix and match to what the fish are feeding on more reliably.

Keep An Eye

Finally, utilize the technology available from Runnings to stay on fish. Powerful gas, propane and electric augers allow for a lot of drilled holes, which lets anglers explore a wider area along a shelf from the shallows to the adjacent depths and the transition area in between. It might take some searching to find the schools, but when they are discovered, a good sonar will help keep them near with presentations that draw them in.  Use sonars from Vexilar, HumminbirdMarcum, and Garmin, available at your local Runnings to gauge how fish are reacting and to locate new schools of transitory crappies when the bite slows down. Those units with zoom options shine this time of year, especially when the zoom can be adjusted to fish suspended in the water column.

Putting these tips together with the advice from the friendly staff at your local Runnings will help you seal the deal on some successful slab crappie fishing at mid-ice. Focus on key activity times and forage, and experiment with smaller offerings to get the most out of your panfishing this time of year. By putting in the time and effort to locate fish and stay on them, you’ll find more success than ever before.