Ice-out crappies can offer some of the best fishing all year.
Early in the spring, as soon as the ice melts off lakes and ponds all across the northern parts of the United States, crappies start to make their way to shallow flats looking for anything they can eat. If you find yourself in the right place at the right time, large schools of these ice-out crappies can offer some of the best fishing you’ll have all year.
When crappies are looking to put on the feed bag in early spring, they head to the north side of the lake following warming water being pushed by spring southern winds. Early spring weed growth or standing timber deserves special attention since that is where the baitfish are eating plankton and early season insects.
Crappies this time of year aren’t worried about spawn or pre-spawn. Right now, crappies are just looking for warm water and doing everything they can to make sure they find it. The warm water is their kitchen and they need to replenish from a long winter.
They start getting in the pre-spawn stages a little later but for now, they are just cruising drop-offs near main lake basins followed by pushing up on flats in the backs of bays as shallow as they can go. If you set yourself up for success from the start, you can be there when these large schools of crappies go passing by.
A simple slip bobber and a small 1/32-ounce jig or beaded fly, like a nymph or clouser, is about all you need. Start to concentrate on areas on the north side of the lake or pond in shallow water with deep water near by.
You do not need to provide a whole lot of action to the fly or jig, a small twitch is about all you need. Depending on the main food sources in the the body of water, white or chartreuse colors tend to imitate baitfish whereas browns and blacks tend to imitate insects. Pay attention to what you see in the shallow water and match your lure accordingly.
Any slight movement to the bobber is probably indicating a strike. Often times ice-out crappies can be fairly finicky, but as the water continues to warm, they only get more aggressive. If you are like me, grab a fly rod and see what you can do. Catching some big slab crappies on a small fly rod can make a fly fisherman, or crappie fisherman, out of anyone.