Once the lakes lock up and are safe to walk on, crappie fishing is at it’s prime for this time of the season. Finding Crappies in early winter doesn’t have to be a chore.
Crappies tend to follow a predictable pattern, they are a predator fish and therefore chase smaller prey. During the daylight hours they will typically hold tight to weed beds, so finding standing weeds is your first goal.
The other thing you want to look for is a muddy bottom. This type of bottom holds invertebrate and other smaller organisms. You’ll want to drill a lot of holes so you’re able to hole hop and not sit in one spot.
Stay away from sandy or clay bottom areas as these typically won’t hold fish during the day. Once the sun sets you can move away from the weed lines and search out a bit deeper.
If you’re fishing deep clear lakes, the weed line is more than likely to be quite deep, so don’t be afraid to move deeper as needed. Again you’ll want to stay away from sandy and clay bottoms which is common in the deeper areas. Look for large flats that drop off or outside and inside turns that have gradual drop offs, these areas typically will have a more muddy bottom.
Finding crappies in early winter during the day can be more challenging than finding them after dark. Because of this a lot of people will start fishing for them 1-2 hours prior to sunset and then fish well into the night.
You can find crappies during the day, but I’ve always found they tend to be much more active after sunset. Work the weed edges along muddy bottoms, you’ll definitely catch an abundance of pan fish if you’re in the right area. Sifting through sunfish isn’t a bad thing and the occasional crappie is a bonus.
After sunset crappies will follow the bait fish out towards the basin areas as it gets dark. You’ll be able to mark crappies suspended anywhere from 5′-20′ off the bottom. Crappies in early winter will follow this pattern until the weeds begin to die off.
You don’t need to have top of the line gear to find and catch crappies, one major piece of gear you do need in my opinion is a good locator. There are 3 brands I suggest looking into: Marcum, Vexilar and HumminBird. Personally I like the Marcum products and they tend to work very well. Vexilar and HumminBird also make excellent locators in different models.
Each brand has it’s own feature offering and different price points, one of those being a sonar + GPS built into one unit. Now if you have the money to burn and feel like this will help you find fish, go for it!
The locator I have is a locator only, no GPS. It’s an older Marcum LX-5 that has worked great for the last 10 years or so. For a GPS I use my smartphone with the Navionics app. That app costs around $15 and works awesome. I also have a separate underwater camera that I use to find bottom structure, weeds etc. I typically don’t use the camera when I’m actively fishing and really don’t think it’s a necessity.
Here are the 3 brands I recommend and their entry level products.
Checkout the other post I have about ice safety and how to check the ice thickness. https://www.mnfishingblog.com/2019/12/09/ice-fishing-when-is-the-ice-safe-to-walk-on/