If you want to test your fish finding skills and experiment with lures, try crappie fishing in the winter. Crappie are known as freshwater nomads who move around lakes or rivers just as much in winter as they do in any other time of the year. However, this does not mean that crappies are difficult to catch. You can have lots of panfish fun in the winter months. Just keep these crappie fishing tips in mind.
1. Use the correct gear. Bring a lightweight or ultra-light spinning combo. In most situations, a 5 to 7 foot long rod with medium to slow action works well for cold weather crappie fishing.
2. Change to a lighter line. When crappie fishing in winter, try using a lighter line to tempt fussy crappies into biting. You may need to lower the weight of your leash from the six or eight pound test to the three or four pound test.
3. Go crappie fishing at dusk. One way to catch more winter crappie is to fish at dusk or in the evening hours. Changing light conditions often trigger feeding activities. If you are fishing through the ice for winter crappie at night, it’s best to put ice fishing safety into practice and bring a fishing buddy with you on your trip.
4. Use your fish finder well. During the winter months, crappies tend to train in deeper water. Use your sonar or fish finder to locate the baitfish and crappie schools so you know where to put your bait in order to get it into the “strike zone”. Success in cold weather crappie fishing depends on the ability to find the fish and stay there.
5. Lure winter crappies to feed your jigs a live minnow. Try 1/16 to 1/8 ounce marabou or curly tail jigs in white, yellow, pink, and chartreuse. Tap your jigs with a live minnow or wax worm and your presentation will be even more compelling for crappies in cold weather.
6. Slow down your presentation. Slow, methodical presentation is important in winter crappie fishing. Crappie will not aggressively pursue bait or cold water bait in an attempt to conserve energy. You also need to be extra careful with your line as the bite can be very light in winter.
7. Be ready to experiment and swap out your bait or baits. Vertical fixtures are often more effective in changing lighting conditions or at night, while horizontal fixtures are often best used during the day. However, this is certainly not a hard and fast rule. So if the crappie isn’t responding to what you’re offering, be ready to experiment!
8. Insert the hook lightly. The key word here is easy. Crappies are often referred to as “paper mouths” because they have sensitive lips that are easy to tear. If you get a bite, be careful not to tear the hook out of the fish’s mouth.
Now that you know more about how to catch winter crappies, buy your freshwater fishing license and find a spot near you to catch them.
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, advocate of sport fishing for women, IGFA world record holder and freshwater guide in southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has been featured in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @ shefishes2.