Although most crappie anglers have stowed away their poles for the winter, the die-hard crappie fishermen are still out on the lakes seeking that cold-weather catch.
That doesn't mean, though, that they aren't making mistakes that don't apply in warmer weather. These are our top winter crappie fishing mistakes that you'll want to avoid if you hope to fill your livewell in the winter:
Fishing Too Fast
Crappie's biting metabolism slows in the winter, and they don't want to expend the energy to chase bait. If you get in a hurry, you're not going to hook many crappie. Slow down your fishing and you're more likely to hook the fish.
Line Too Heavy
You don't want to use the same line for fishing in the winter as you do in the summer months. Many anglers believe that crappie are better able to see line in the winter months, so you'll want to respool your reels with a lighter line, preferably a six- to eight-pound test line.
Bait Too Big
Crappie don't eat as much in the wintertime, and they prefer smaller bait. Try fishing with a 1/32-ounce jig or small- to medium-sized minnows.
Fishing the Wrong Part of the Lake
Many fishermen try staying out the winter wind and will fish for crappie in the mouths and backs of creeks where they believe crappie are holding until they move up the channel to spawn during warmer weather. But experts fight the wind and rough water in the main lake where they catch more crappie.
Quitting Too Soon
While you might be tempted to call it a day if you haven't caught any fish within the first couple of hours, crappie don't bite all day during winter months. To catch them at the right time, you have to keep fishing until they decide they're ready to bite. If you stay on the lake from daylight to dark, you'll be there when they start biting.
Forgetting Your Map
The best crappie anglers highly depend on their lake maps during the winter months. The map will allow you to more easily locate river channels, drop-offs and ledges. By locating structures where crappie feed in the winter, you will know where to go to catch them. Crappie follow particular patterns in the winter, and if they are biting near one 16-foot dropoff, chances are good that they'll be biting on another dropoff that's 16 feet deep elsewhere in the lake.
Fishing in Deep Water
Although crappie--especially the big ones--like to hold in deep water in the winter, they move to the top 8 to 10 feet of water to feed in the afternoon when the water warms up. Even if you're catching crappie in 20- to 30-feet depths in the morning, you should usually move to the 8- to 10-feet range in the afternoon to continue successfully landing the fish.
Failing to Use Color
During the winter, crappie often prefer a little color with their meals. If they aren't biting a colorless minnow, try adding a little color or sparkle to your bait. Don't be afraid to experiment with jig and minnow combinations using various colors.
Remember, there's no one right way to catch crappie, so make sure you try different methods to determine what works. The fish are somewhere in the lake, and they have to eat sometime.
You just need to practice patience and get creative!