An early open water fishing crappie caught by a fisherman.

Ice out is just around the corner thanks to a super mild winter and an unseasonably warm March. Even though it brought the ice fishing season to a screeching halt it will all be worthwhile when we’re able to get back out on the water a good month or so ahead of time. One of the best ways to get a quick start to the fishing season is to go fishing for crappies.  They can easily be caught and make for some super early-season fun.

One of the hottest ice-out patterns is fishing the back ends of shallow bays which can really light up when big schools of crappies move in with a serious snackin’ attitude. They’ll suddenly show up sucking in anything that gets in the way and includes small minnows and lots and lots of bugs. Those shallower black bottom bays heat up quickly especially under a cloudless sky with the sun bearing down. The extra heat triggers plankton blooms and prompts bug hatches and is the real reason why slabs will make the move into shallow water. It can all happen as soon as the ice recedes and may continue off and on for several weeks or more. The thing is; if you’re there when the fish are in you can have a ball, if not you might have some slack time on your hands and give you a chance to ponder more important things like the meaning of life. Although you can’t always predict when fish are going to move up you can increase your odds by watching the weather and getting on the bank when the timing is right. Optimum conditions would be a stretch of steady sunny weather with a nice prolonged warm-up. Every day that it warms the more bugs that hatch and the more food that is available for foraging crappies. A cold front that pushes through and cools things off can bring a hot bite to a screeching halt and is something to definitely be aware of.

Effective crappie presentations include the standard stuff like small jigs tipped with minnows and are always a good option. On the other hand; smaller baits like you’d use for ice fishing tipped with plastic or a maggot might mean more fish hooked and landed. A small jig like a 1/32oz Northland Tackle RZ Jig tipped with an Impulse® Water Bug is perfect for either casting or slowly retrieving back in or fished below a Lite-Bite Slip Bobber, and set at the right depth by using a Slip-Knot Stop. The Water Bug has little legs that kick and undulate is deadly on ice-out crappies. Light line is another important part of the program and includes two and three-pound test monofilament.  The light line is just about invisible and allows for longer casts and less wind resistance giving you a better feel and feel is what it’s all about when you’re casting. See you on the water.

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