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Both black crappie and white crappie are among the most beloved pan fish to go for. Not only can they be fished successfully all year by beginners and experts alike, but they are also thought to be one of the tastiest fish. With their soft white meat, they are even considered by many to be the most delicious freshwater fish. All the more reasons to brave the cold and get out on the water!
Where to Fish For Winter Crappie?
While crappie tend to be scattered during summer you will find them congregating in groups during the winter. In the colder months, they go far deeper down than in the warmer seasons, often at least 20 to 30 feet down. Mostly they congregate in brush piles at the bottom of a lake. On sunny winter days, crappie are more likely to be right in the middle of a brush pile. On cloudy days, in contrast, you will get luckier on top of a pile or at its edges. If you experience a string of warmer days, the crappie might also move into more shallow waters, so always be aware of how the weather has been lately and what the forecast says.
It is also very much worth it checking your barometer for the perfect time to go fishing since crappie have a tendency to bite best before a storm front.
Aside from brush piles, crappie can also be found around boat docks all year round. Another structure to watch out for are concrete pillars for bridges, especially during winter, since the concrete gets warmed by the sun and functions as a cozy heater for a school of winter crappie.
What Lures and Baits To Use For Winter Crappie Fishing?
Crappie have a diverse diet which means you can get them to bite with a variety of lures and baits. Especially when you use artificial lures you might also want to apply Crappie Nibbles to your hook or lure. These dough-like balls, when dissolving in water, create a scent that is irresistible to crappie. If you are using tube jigs, you can simply put the Crappie Nibbles inside the jig.
Plastic jigs are classic crappie bait for all seasons. For the slow-moving winter crappie, though, you will want to use smaller jigs with an 1/64th ounce or 1/16ounce jig head.
It is also recommended to change the color of your jigs depending on your fishing location, the seasons, and the success you are having on any given day. The slower movement of the fish in winter, the changed color of the water and pressure, all these are reasons why the crappie are more likely to bite when you use a color that is a little bit different than the one you usually go for. Play around with jigs in the same color family. Instead of choosing a completely opposite color, you can, for example, in clearer water, try a more muted and transparent variety of a color you had success with.
Keep in mind to rig the bait in a way that makes it move horizontally so that it looks more natural by tying a loop knot.
Minnows are a favorite on the menu of crappie and work well at times when the fish are more lethargic than you bargained for. While minnows are often hooked through the lips, it is way better for stationary fishing - which is what you are gonna do in winter - to hook them near the dorsal fin. This way it is easier for you to feel them move around.
What Hooks To Use When Winter Crappie Fishing
Aberdeen Hooks in #1, #2, and #4 are recommended for crappie fishing. Additionally, those thin wire hooks will also not damage the minnows when you chose to fish with live bait.
If you often have trouble with a fish swallowing the hook, you might want to try circle hooks.
Tru-turn hooks are also a good idea if you want to get a little more experimental. They work a bit like stepping on a rake - when a fish strikes the hook reacts to the pressure and swivels in a way that makes sure that the point of the hook grabs the deepest hold possible.
It is often hotly debated if the color of the hook makes much of a difference, but a lot of anglers swear on gold, bronze, and red hooks when it comes to casting for crappie.
What Fishing Rods To Use For Winter Crappie Fishing?
According to your preferences, you can go with a slender 6ft or 7ft rod. The important thing here is, again, that the delicate mouth of the crappie does not get torn - there is a good reason that these fish are also called "papermouths." You can ensure this with a rod that absorbs some of the force instead of letting it get transferred to the fish's mouth. This is why you need a delicate ultralight or lightweight rod with medium to fast action.
What Fishing Line To Use For Winter Crappie Fishing?
Ultralight rods will offer you the most line choices, though. Since you might need to go very deep, braid is recommended. It simply cannot be beaten when you need a lot of line on your spool and it has the highest precision of all lines.
If you do not want to invest in an ultralight crappie rod, you will want to go with a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader or chose a mono or fluoro line. Monofilament is a classic and it keeps your knots tied, but it is quite buoyant and thus not the best choice for days when the fish are really deep down. Fluorocarbon is not only highly sensitive it also has very low visibility, which is good for winter since many anglers have experienced that crappie are more likely to see the line in winter. On the downside, you need to be very careful with your knots since they might not hold.
What Reels To Use For Winter Crappie Fishing?
Most importantly, since you are already going with light bait, line, and a rod, your reel should be lightweight too, so that it will not throw off the balance of your rig. Spinning reels work better with ultralight lines and lures as there is no friction when the line unspools and you can cast very smoothly.
Other Equipment To Use For Crappie Fishing In Winter...
To locate crappie you can work with side imaging, LiveScope, or a combination of both. A fish finder with side imaging functions via two sonar beams located at the sides of your boat. Natural structures, like the brush piles you are looking for, will appear on your screen. A lot of anglers recommend using side imaging to locate the structures where fish are likely to be found, and then, when you arrive at the structure you can switch to LiveScope to make sure whether there are actually fish or not.
If you do not want to go electronic, find a lake map or a topographic map so you can look at the structure of the lake you want to fish in and find the depths the crappie are likely to be at.
Crappie Winter Fishing Techniques...
When you have found a brush pile where crappie are waiting for you, boat over the pile and present the jig vertically. It is important to keep the jig slightly above the crappie instead of lowering it right into their midst because the latter might spook them. Only move the jig very rarely, since the metabolism of the crappie has slowed down they will take their time to bite. When you think you have caught all fish hiding in a pile, before moving your boat, just try to lower your jig some feet, you likely just have emptied one level of a pile.
You might also try double jigging and simply tie two jigs to a line so you can fish at two depths with one line. This only makes sense, though, if the crappie are on top of the brush pile. You will likely not be able to feed two jigs deep into the brush pile without a snatch.
Bobber and Minnow Rig
When you use minnows fishing for stationary targets it is best to use them with a bobber. This is especially useful in relatively shallow, clear water - when you are fishing without a boat from a riverbank, for example. This rig will give you the quintessential nostalgic fishing feel and might awaken memories of childhood adventures at the local river!
The bobber should be positioned several feet above the hook, the deeper the water the closer you will want to move it to the rod tip. Use a small float: if something takes the minnow it should feel as little resistance as possible.
Adaptation is Key
As you can see, winter does not have to ring in a break for fishing - all you have to do is to make sure that your equipment and techniques are appropriate for the requirements of the season and that you are willing to invest more time than you are used to. Many anglers say that the key to winter crappie fishing is time and persistence. Pack a big thermos of hot coffee and get ready to spend a long winter day on the lake - in the evening, you will be rewarded with pan-fried crappie
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