When we start talking about ice fishing for crappie, hard water fishermen get excited.
For ice fishermen across the ice belt, crappie is one of the most sought-after species. It is rewarding for an ice fisherman to master crappie fishing on the ice. If you want to find crappie, jig for crappie, and catch crappie at night, you have to follow our best 5 ice fishing crappie tips.
1. How to Find Crappie Ice Fishing
It can be difficult to keep up with the movements of crappie during the winter season. Staying mobile and using a flasher are the best ways to find crappie in the winter. In 5-15 feet of water, early ice crappie will hold the cover of weed lines and thick weed beds.
The healthiest weeds hold the most fish because of their ability to produce oxygen and attract bait. During the winter crappie will move to the basin of the lake and suspend off the bottom.
In the top half of the water column, the crappie suspends where the highest oxygen levels and most bait will be located. The crappie will move back to the shallows after a while. You can use your flasher to mark crappie in the water column before you start fishing.
2. Jigging for Crappie Ice Fishing
During the cold winter months when the fishing waters are frozen over, crappie will hold together in small groups called, pods or schools, they will feed on plankton that frequent heavy vegetation and structure such as underwater brush. and ice fishing lure for crappie that mimics plankton such as a tungsten ice fishing jig is the best ice fishing lure for crappie.
Jigging for crappie is the most popular way to catch crappie during the winter ice fishing season.
Our favorite crappie jigging method works like this:
- Drop your ice fishing lure to the bottom and then with your fishing reel – bring your ice fishing lure up a few feet and work a 1–2 foot section of the water column, and if you do not notice any fish action.
- Then, move your lure up a few more feet within that water column and perform that same jigging method, keep repeating until you notice some fishing success. The majority of bites occur when your bait is moving upward. You should move from hole to hole until you find active crappies.
- If you do not catch any crappie or the fish are just not biting you can opt for a fishing location change or you can try this ice fishing method at another point in the day – such as ice fishing for crappie at night.
Just like us fishermen, the crappie do not always feed on a dedicated schedule, so ice fishing at variable times of the day can oftentimes improve your ice fishing results and help you place more slab crappie on the ice.
3. Crappie Ice Fishing at Night
The peak bite times for crappie are dawn and dusk, with crappie feeding most active during the night hours. It’s important for you as an ice fisherman to take advantage of these crappie fishing times to catch the most active crappie in your ice fishing location.
Crappie jigging is most effective when done at night when fish are active and feeding. You should use crappie ice fishing jigs that are bright and colorful. Ice fishing lures such as soft plastic ice fishing baits can be added to a tungsten ice jig. This ice fishing lure setup will definitely attract the attention of hungry, (nighttime) feeding crappie.
If the night fishing is tough, we then recommend sticking with a simple ice fishing setup consisting of an ice fishing pole with a live crappie minnow or even a fathead minnow to convince picky fish into biting your bait.
Where fishing regulations allow, a glow stick or underwater light can be used to help illuminate your bait and underwater fishing area when ice fishing crappie at night. Using the glow stick or underwater light fishing trick for ice fishing crappie will help you to attract small baitfish and plankton all of which crappie are attracted to feeding on.
Ice Fishing Gear Talked About in This Story
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4. Where to Ice Fishing Crappie
You can find out where the crappie is holding by looking at the seasonal patterns that affect oxygen and light levels. Remember that when ice fishing crappie you’ll find them in and around shallow vegetation during early and late ice, and in the basins or deeper water areas during the mid-winter and late winter ice.
The crappie prefer ledges because they give them quick access to deep water during the winter. The best crapping fishing ledges can be found close to where creek and river channels intersect with each other, along the outer sides of a river bend, and along the edges of the bluffs. There are sunken brush piles on the ledges that are home to the largest concentrations of crappie.
Concrete Pillars or Concrete Pillions
There are many attractive features for wintertime crappie near concrete pillars or concrete pillions, whichever the case maybe. The sun warms the concrete of the pillars and/or pillions and the water surrounding those bridge supports, which attracts the fish. Crappie in and around concrete cover can be found at a number of depths across the span of the bridge, thanks to the fact that the bridge will have a supporting row of pilings running from shallow to deep water all of which locations would be suitable to fish for crappie in the winter. These winter sanctuaries are enriched by savvy anglers who like to try to stack the odds in their favor in the coming winter months by tying brush piles together and then dropping them next to the concrete pillars and pillions thus creating amazing winter crappie habitat.
5. Using Ice Fishing Sonar for Ice Fishing Crappie
There are a lot of benefits to having an ice fishing sonar unit on the ice.
You can easily find the drop-offs, holes, and hidden structures under the water that can concentrate fish in the winter. The important transition zones between the hard and soft bottom areas can be found with the help of a sonar display.
By making use of an ice fishing sonar you can literally watch the crappies’ reaction to your ice fishing lure, you can then adjust your ice fishing jigging strategy to help entice the crappie to strike. Which makes the use of an ice fishing sonar system very favorable among many a fisherman.
At a range of price points, there are many options for ice fishing sonar units. Basic units start at around $300, while feature-loaded ice fishing sonar combo units that include underwater video can cost up to $1,000.
It is difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison of all ice fishing sonars because they have so many different features.
Instead, ice fishermen should choose between the flashers and the liquid crystal display units, which are the main categories of portable sonar.
With the same starter costs, it’s difficult to decide whether to buy a flasher or an LCD unit. There are pros and cons to both styles and they will help you catch fish.
It is up to the individual to decide which basic and advanced features are worth having, and whether or not to pick an ice fishing sonar or underwater camera package for ice fishing.
There is no perfect ice fishing sonar unit for every ice fisherman, and there is no shortage of options. When shopping for an ice fishing sonar unit, remember to consider your budget, target species, style of fishing, and comfort zone for learning new technology. Regardless of the ice fishing sonar unit you choose, it will no doubt help you put more fish on the ice this winter.
Remember to stay mobile and make use of your ice fishing electronics until you catch some fish. Don’t forget when ice fishing for crappie it’s a good idea to mix in live bait like fathead and crappie minnows for when the crappie are just not biting on your ice fishing lures of choice.
You can also try ice fishing for crappie with ice fishing lures that mimic minnows for those larger, more aggressive feeding crappie, because these ice fishing lures usually represent baits that mimic the typical food source, plankton, which crappie actively feed on.
We hope that these ice fishing tips for crappie this ice fishing season and ice fishing seasons to come.