Before crappies move to shallow later in the spring, they hold back in deeper water waiting for Mother Nature to send the right of spawning signals. This behavior-sometimes referred to as staging before the spawn--occurs when the water is still cold and often murky from early springs rains and run off.
April and early May water temperatures in northern latitudes may hover around high forties to fifty degrees Fahrenheit. In most cases, you can subtract 5 to 7 degrees to get the temperature several feet down. Also, the visibility may be limited to only a foot or two.
All these factors tend to keep crappies back on their heels, so to speak. The females are full of eggs, but still not willing to move towards the shoreline, and the males won’t go anywhere without them.
Yet despite these neutral or even negative conditions, excellent catches can be made, for a number of reasons. First, prespawn crappies are truly hungry. And even though the water is cold, it has risen above winter chill. Spawing cycle that is about to begin also drives appetites, and, finally, the natural foods are becoming more available. But this early feeding occurs mostly in deep water where most crappies anglers are unaccustomed to finding fish and may not know how to make an effective presentation.
After you locate a school of crappies, you want to vertical fish them. Just as you would when ice fishing, with exception you’ll have to use a heaver jig. The purpose of the extra weight is to hold the lure nearly directly below the rod tip. If suspended, reel up and just above the fish. Count the numbers of turns you reel up before you contacted the fish. So you can readily return to the proper depth. I use 1/8 oz. Northland Tackle multiplie colored gum ball jig, tipped with a Slurpies Swim’n Grubs or a minnow, you can hook the bait through dorsal fin or in the mouth out the back of the head. You can also use a bladed jig like the Mimic Minnow Spin from Northern Tackle, which, features a weedless blade wire form that flashesand flutters thru weeds, brush, and timber with a soft plastic trailer and putting soft plastic on a jig that doesn’t have it usually increases the appeal. The advantage here is increased visibility in dark water, and contrasting colors really help in that regard.
It’s a good idea to keep the trolling motor on slow speed rather than reving it up and down, both of which can create commotion in the water that crappies don’t like. Play it slow and steady.
Crappies may not concentrate in really shallow water, until water temperatures broach 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but some big crappies always arrive early. The only cover will be old reed stalks, new weed growth, and fallen trees, all which can be quite sparse. The cover crappies seek includes rock shelves, rock piles, pencil reeds, and fallen wood. The north shore of shallow, weedy cups within larger bays always draws the first groups. Steep marshy banks with overhanging brush attract fish, too.
Crappies also concentrate in the open, creating perfect opportunities for pitching baited jigs under small fixed floats. They often key on aquatic insects and tiny minnow fry at ice out, which can be perfectly imitated with wax worms, maggots, and plastics.
When you find them on rock piles, pitch to them with slip bobber rigs on 4 lb test line, tail-hooking the minnow on small jigs. Sometimes isolated reed beds out in the middle of nowhere attract the biggest fish. Cast small Northland Reed Runner Spinner Baits, over the top of the weeds.
Crappies may spawn while the water is still in the low 60 degree F range. After spawning, the biggest crappies in the every system scatter and disperse into multiple patterns, and will not be as accessible or as aggressive again until the fall patterns concentrate them.
Crappies and all pan fish are great table fare, and relatively easily to catch, so bring some home to fry. Along the way home pick up some Charlie’s Gone Fishing or Fishing Fever, fish batter. Just pour into a plastic bag, add some filets and shake till the fillets are well covered. Then place in a fry pan, with the oil heated to 350 degree, for 1 minute on each side or until the fillet turns golden brown. Then sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
2017 Guided Fishing Trip Rates
|Number of Anglers||Full Day Trip
8am - 4pm
|Half Day Trip
8am - 12noon
|1 - 2 people||$400||$330|
|Tag Boats||$150 per boat|
|Shore Lunch or Shore Dinner||$35 per boat|
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Rates for a full day or half day guided fishing trip are reasonable and include bait, fish cleaning and packaging services as well as use of pro's boat, fuel, fishing equipment and safety gear. Clients need only bring their valid Minnesota fishing license, rain and/or cold weather gear and food & beverage.
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Walleye & Northern Pike - May 12, 2018
Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass - May 12, 2018
Muskie - June 2, 2018
Charlie Worrath talks early season walleye for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
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