FISHING CRAPPIE and BLUEGILLS!
By John A.
Vance, Environmental Eng. Tech.,
& Outdoor Writer
(member Outdoor Writers of Canada) and 'pro guide' emeritus
photo's here are copyrighted and property of John A. Vance and no
reproduction of them or this article in whole or in part can be
reproduced without his express written permission. It
is for the use of ALL FISHER-FOLK's personal use (not for
financial gain of commercial entities) - and is presented here as
a 'sportsman-like' gesture - for
the betterment of all other fellow crappie and 'gill fishers -free
of charge -enjoy!
for 2012 update- I now have audio instructional Cds available for
ice fishing and crappie and bluegill fishing so you can learn to
be a very skilled fisher. These are just new for 2012, and I'm
adding to the list of subjects all the time. They are NOT fancy,
nor are they about me bragging about all the fish I catch –
they ARE the info you need to have to be a top notch contender!
Listen/learn while you're driving to work – or at home or
anywhere you wish! They are in the first person – like I'm
your fishin' bud sitting right beside you and looking you right in
the eye as I tell you what you need to know about a variety of
topics/subjects! Email me for a list of titles/subjects and
availability and pricing as they are not listed on my web site
yet. These are a great and easy way to learn – and
especially valuable for those of us that don't like to read books!
- John A. Vance
fishing for crappie is a real hoot -
but 'ice crappie' especially, can truly be a challenge!
Most of the time when ice fishing for crappie you'll
catch an array of fish - whatever is in the water you are fishing,
so you need to be prepared to catch 'em!
I've taken thousands of
bluegills, both large & smallmouth bass, hordes of perch
and hundreds of trout - and likely thousands of walleye - while
fishing for slab crappie. Especially
it seems, that ice fished weed-line crappie are often found near
walleye in many mid to large lakes. The point here is that crappie
specialists are going to catch lots of other fish, and from what I
see - if you can catch crappie with consistency - you can catch
any fish going! If you can be consistent at catching crappie
- including when ice fishing for
crappie, you to will likely declare as
I have, that crappie are truly 'a
for us ice fishermen, when fishing crappie, one of the secondary
'most often' catches is the very lively and 'bullish' bluegill.
These 'gills are also excellent eating. 'Gills are
regarded by most of us, to say the very least, as great a
'bonus' fish. Bluegills are most often simply called 'gills by
most ardent followers and fishers of bluegills - and make no
mistake about it - 'gills are not shabby - and have saved my butt
many times when crappie just weren't to be found or caught -
'long live the bluegill'!
If you are
already an ardent crappie fisherman, or should I say crappie ice
fisherman, you don't really need any
convincing - so we'll get right down
to what you need to know! I'M DEALING WITH LARGE
SLAB CRAPPIE IN THIS ARTICLE - GENERALLY
SPEAKING, YOU'LL CATCH SMALLER CRAPPIE IN CLOSER TO SHORE - I
often simply refer to these as 'weedline' crappie!
Perhaps the most
important key to catching crappie, and especially slab crappie,
and here we're dealing primarily with ice fishing for crappie at
that - is finding 'em!
Sad-to-say, this important factor is where most
ice fishing crappie fishers ( and for the most part - at all
seasons) fall down. In most lakes or ponds, crappie under the ice
will be in the warmest water they can find! And just where's that,
you may fairly ask? This is a huge topic all by itself, and while
we'll only basically deal with it here, if you want more in-depth
information, I'd recommend that you get my book ICE
FISHING BASICS and my crappie
fishing book "Just
Crappie" for more
fascinating information dealing with this! So where's the warm
water when the water is frozen over? If you are a 'local' ( to the
water body you intend on fishing) you will know what area
generally, of the water body has the largest mass of water in it -
this is usually where the water freezes last - and generally
this is where you'll find the warmest water. It'll
(usually) be down a ways, but it will be down there. Of course
there will also be other
warm water in most water bodies too, but as mentioned - a huge
subject - and I again recommend you purchase my "Ice Fishing
Basics" book and/or my "Just Crappie" book
for far more indepth info than I'm prepared to present here
on this webpage.
If you have a decent fish
finder, your task of determining where crappie are will be
immensely easier. Never-the-less, the best single method to find
crappie under the ice is by actually fishing a hole in the ice.
When you're actually doin' it, by trying various levels
right from bottom, or from ( not deeper than, usually) fifty feet
deep, whichever comes first, and onward right up to just below the
ice itself. It's worth noting that smaller crappie will
found in shallower water closer to shore. Often, crappie
can be found in large and mid sized water out in shallower
water near sunken
islands, shallow flats etc. in these larger water bodies.
Sometimes in these instances – they are not necessarily
close to shore at all. These places, sometimes also simply called
'humps' may be surrounded by quite deep water. Find
weedline crappie in the shallower water closest to the top of such
a hump, and the slabs out a bit deeper.
& bluegill bait and tackle!
you have light line and small ice fishing jigs, even for slab
crappie, and especially when ice
fishing crappie. Most fish
species, with only a few exceptions, take smaller offerings when
the water's hard. I prefer a size
eight hook, and proportionate ice jig for most slab crappie,
and when the going is tough
during a neutral or negative bite, I don't hesitate to go down to
size ten and twelve, and
in neutral or negative bite situations, I will OFTEN use an ice
jig with a horizontal presentation. Once
you actually find slabs, then switch over to a size 6 or four hook
as they'll easily rip out a small jig due to their brittle mouth.
I cover this more extensively in both my already mentioned books.
If you are
using minnows- and I've found myself leaving the minnow bucket
home more and more often when crappie and 'gill fishing over the
past several years - use minnows no longer
than inch and a half in length( if you can). My
choice of 'store bought'
LIVE bait for ice fishing crappie are wax worms,
mousies and maggots. I
like the maggots best when ice crappie are neutral or negative and
use the wax worms likely 75 % of the time when using 'store
bought' bait! Mousies are fine, but in
my neck-of-the-woods are tough to get regularly - and so I do OK
without 'em most of the time! But assuredly - there is a free bit
of bait that I use more than any of these previously mentioned
'store bought' baits - you need to buy my "Ice
Fishing Basics" - and
once you do so - you'll save more
money in bait than the cost of the book in short order
- and improve your overall catch too boot!
When fishing an ice hole at various depths, I
like to use a thread slip bobber stop to help me with depth
marking on my line - quick, easy, cheap and accurate! (TIP
= Folks not using or having a depth finder unit should heed this
last method - big time!) Once I
find the level crappie are at while using this 'thread marker'
method, I can go right back to the 'kill zone' quickly and stay
right on 'em. VERY OFTEN, but alas, not always, if I find
bluegills ALSO suspended in deeper water. When this is the case,
and if they are together I often find the slabs down about five
feet deeper - just bellow the bluegills. This happens
regularly and the fact is, this does happens enough to cause me to
be very attentive when you find 'gills out in deeper water - and
when they're suspended - look for the
slabs a few feet below!
I like to stay focused on my line - intently
focused - but by the end of a
day I may slack it a bit and use a ( full) slip bobber rig to help
me determine a bite which can be incredibly subtle and light when
crappie are neutral or negative. Indeed,
your line may slowly move around the hole, or even go slack,
and if using a slip bobber it may simply come up and lie on its
side - indicating a bite - fish
HAVE TO PRACTICE CONSERVATION, but in some waters, especially
small lakes and ponds, crappie and especially bluegills and
pumpkinseeds will get overpopulated and stunted out. Either
increase fishing pressure or by taking more fish out of these
locations to have fewer but larger fish overall, will beneficial;
this often takes several years to accomplish. Once can also put
larger predator fish such as walleye, pike or musky in the lake or
pond to take down the large numbers of smaller fish! I don't
recommend putting pike in such a place. Pike can spread
worms/parasites in fish - and if they breed - they can
almost decimate a smaller lake/pond of fish, pronto!
A FEW EXTRA
WORDS ABOUT A 'HORIZONTAL PRESENTATION' and NEUTRAL/NEGATIVE BITE
Horizontal presentation will
no doubt be new terminology for many fishers, and this 'lingo' is
simply describing how the ice fishing jig, or any jig for that
matter, hangs when suspended off bottom at the end of your line.
Fish seem to take a lure/jig with
a live bait offering more
quickly when they are in the neutral or
negative bite mode. This
neutral or negative bite mode is when you know fish are there and
may be all around your bait, but just don't seem interested in
biting. The horizontal presentation of how
your jig is 'hanging' or presented seems to be more subtle to the
fish. Often you can coax them into biting when using a lure
with horizontal presentation over a more standard vertical 'hang'
of the lure/bait. If you take a jig and tie
it onto your line and let it dangle and it hangs with the hook's
shank straight down, it is vertical;
but if it sits with the shank of the
hook horizontal, then it has a horizontal presentation.
Too, it should be noted that such a 'horizontal' jig,
when thrummed or triggered LIGHTLY
- AS IT SHOULD BE - NO HERKY-JERKY STUFF HERE PLEASE
- it will transmit the light jiggling
action very well and is
wonderfully seductive to a fish! NOTE:
This is sometimes called 'pounding' by some outdoor writers. This
is no doubt one of the reasons these ( horizontal) jigs work
so well under these 'tough going' situations! The
SUNFISH JIGS AND TEETER TOTTER JIGS FOUND HERE AND ONLY HERE
WITH MY UNIQUE AND VERY
SPECIFIC (EXCLUSIVE) GLOW On BLACK CONCEPTS -DO
HAVE A HORIZONTAL PRESENTATION! When ordering, and you have
questions about a product, do not hesitate to contact me by email
- that's what I'm here for - and I'll gladly answer any questions
you may have.
If you have enjoyed this write
up, then you are a true fisher - and I
urge you to surf-out ( right here at this web site where you are
right now) more info on, and ultimately
buy my "Ice
Fishing Basics" or "Just Crappie" book(s) -
where we go much more in-depth on all aspects of ice
fishing - and why we do what we do. -
both these books will save you money and time - and
will pay for themselves quickly!
here for more info on my "Ice Fishing Basics" Book!
HERE TO PURCHASE "ICE FISHING BASICS" BOOK!
Click here to purchase
my "Just Crappie" book
here for EXTENSIVE info on 'HOW TO' use Ticks, teeter totter and
sunfish jigs effectively!