Night-Bite Winter Crappie
By Tim Allard
The Invisible Nasties
By Justin Hoffman
Outwitting Whitefish On Ice
By Tyler Dunn
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By Tim Allard
The sun about to hit the tree tops. I was sitting on a great crappie
lake, charging up my glow jig and waiting for the start of the night
bite. It didnít take long and the action was fast and furious for
just under an hour.
While many anglers focus on walleye, crappie are another species
worth chasing at twilight. Hereís what you need to know about this
productive technique to catch more paper-mouths.
Although not to the same extent as walleye, crappie are light shy.
For this reason they often feed during twilight periods and during
night. During winter, crappie whereabouts can leave even seasoned
ice anglers scratching their heads during the day, but once dusk
starts fish can suddenly materialize on various structures and
aggressive feed. The good news is crappie school, so once you find
them youíre sure to ice a bunch.
One many lakes, finding points and reefs in 10 to 20 feet of water
are prime zones to ambush night-feeding crappie. Bays can also be
deadly, especially if they start around 15 to 20 feet with a
moderately fast taper up to shallower water. Look for areas adjacent
to the main basin, as crappie likely suspend off the last break
during the day. It will take some time to find the best night spots
on your favorite lake, but the effortís worth it.
The size of baits crappie will hit varies. Slabs will easily crush a
1.5-inch jigging spoon. Top jigging spoons include Northlandís
Forage Minnow, JB Lures Varmits, and Lindyís Frostee Jigging Spoon.
When crappie are picky, go with tiny ice jigs. Some need to be
tipped with live or artificial baits, while others come rigged with
plastic tails. The latter are handy when fish are aggressively
feeding and you donít want to waste time re-baiting.
Whether youíre using spoons or ice jigs, tipping lures will get you
more bites if you do the following. Work lures through the entire
water column as crappie often suspend and feed up. At night, itís
been my experience glow lures outperform regular baits. Charge lures
frequently. Often, bringing in a bait, charging it and dropping it
down is often all thatís needed to get a finicky fish to commit and
Tip lures with live or artificial bait to increase your strikes.
Live maggots are best. Some prefer scent-laden soft baits as theyíre
easier to find and keep. Be careful not to over tip baits. A small
0.5-inch piece or two maggots will suffice to sweeten a spoon or
enhance an ice jig. Do re-bait often as scent is big-time trigger
Although jigging will often hook you a ton of crappie, dead sticking
can produce a few slabs too. Once youíve found a good crappie hole
consider using out a dead stick rod (if fishing regulations allow
more than one line). Suspend baits below small, floats to indicate
when youíve got a strike. You can use tipped ice jigs like you would
jigging. A small minnow on a tiny, thin hook below a split shot is
deadly for big slabs.
Itís handy to have a few items available when fishing at night. A
fuel or battery powered lantern is an excellent accessory to light
up your fishing space. They help you detect light bites on spring
bobber rods or floats. Lanterns also give off plenty of light so
youíll be seen by any traffic on the ice. Headlamps are handy when
itís time to pack up and walk back to shore. Theyíre also lighter
than lanterns and a better option if trying to keep gear weight to a
Fishing for crappie and night can produce excellent catches. Be sure
to limit your harvest and release big slabs. Plus, fishing under the
stars of a clear, winter sky is an experience every ice angler
should do a few times a year.