Outdoor Notebook: Fishing for crappies
The 10 p.m. weather forecast reported that the weather the next day was for calm winds and temperatures would be in the 30s. Dawn that next morning was calm and warm. After several days in a row of relatively high winds, it was an invitation for me to go out and sit on the ice.
Upon arrival at the boat landing, it was obvious that several persons had walked out on the ice, but there were no vehicle tracks in the snow. I have made it a practice to never make the first vehicle tracks on the ice of any lake. There is a story to be told about that decision, but that can wait for another day.
After sitting in the pickup looking at the ice, I decided to drive over to another access point that was quite close to where I intended to fish. With only a few inches of snow on the ice, the walk out to the area where I wanted to fish was easy. Even pulling my sled out, it was an easy walk. As I walked out, I checked my watch and was pleased that there was still an hour left in the major feeding period.
I arrived in the area where we had been fishing several times this year and had been quite successful. As I picked the auger out of the sled, I could not believe how quiet it was on the ice. The auger broke the silence and scared several crows off the ice. They were gathered in an area where numerous holes had been drilled through the ice. They were most likely eating minnows left on the ice.
The auger made quick work of drilling five holes through the ice. A quick measurement of the ice showed that it was 10 inches thick and it was good, clear ice. That is plenty of ice to support a pickup, but there is always the thought that there is no such thing as “safe ice” and there were no vehicle tracks on the ice, which made me satisfied with my decision to walk out.
The holes were cleared out and two tip-downs were set with tiny crappie minnows suspended about two feet above the bottom. Although I drilled five holes, I only fished in three of them; but once I am set up, my preference is to reduce noise on the ice as much as possible.
My target was to catch some crappies and I planned to set out two tip-downs and a jig in the other hole. The first tip-down was set and I was trying to get a second tip-down, again baited with a tiny crappie minnow hooked lightly under the dorsal fin with a number 16 gold treble hook. Just as I was dropping the second line with a lead weight on it, the first tip-down began to move. The second line was left sitting and the first one yielded a decent crappie.
The hook was removed and a fresh minnow hooked and dropped back into the water. For the next hour, the action was steady and seven crappies were laid on the ice. After that hour, the bite slowed to almost nothing. I fished for two more hours and only caught one more crappie after the major was over.
Following that morning, several guys fishing other lakes told me that their action was about the same as mine. Once the major was over, so was the bite.
The most recent intense cold spell has definitely kept me off the ice.
During the past several meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, we have received requests to lower the bag limit on crappies to 10 per day. I have solved that problem by telling anyone who goes crappie fishing in my boat that the limit is 10 crappies per day. The same rule is in effect on the ice from my little tent.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.