Ice Fishing for Crappie: 10 BEST Tips of All Time!

Ice Fishing for Crappie

There are a lot of recreational anglers who enjoy fishing only during warmer months.

Those who are a bit more adventurous can enjoy fishing year-round and test their skills on ice too!

Crappies are one of the best options for wintertime fishing, and when you know some little secrets, you can significantly increase your success.

Ice fishing for crappie can be great if you know where to present your bait, at what time to do it, what lures to use, and much more.

This is why is decided to share these 10 tips that I always use myself!

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Tip #1: Choose the Perfect Location

Ice fishing for crappie is successful only if you fish in the right spots. During early ice, crappies will spend time in deeper water, in the vicinity of large underwater structures. Steep drop-offs are one of the best locations, and should be the first place where you start fishing. Drill multiple holes in a zig zag patterns to cover both deeper and shallower area across the drop off.

Late in winter, crappies will come to the shallows, near water inlets.

Mid-winter, search for grass covered bottom, where crappies will eat small invertebrates and hide from predators. But make sure to place your bait over live vegetation, not dead one.

Also, in early winter, place your baits on the bottom, while mid-winter, you can try placing them in the middle of the water column.

Tip #2: Choose the Perfect Time of Day

Crappies are less active in winter, similar to the majority of fish species, however, that doesn’t mean that they are inactive.

To take advantage of their daily changes in activity, try fishing in the afternoon, when the air and water are warmer. Early mornings are not the best times for it.

In the afternoon, they will move towards shallower water, especially if there is a steep drop off. They will move up the drop off, and that is the place where you should drill holes.

Except for afternoons, you can ice fish for crappie at night. Try this nighttime approach around the cold front. Check for the weather forecast or install an app for it.

Of course, during night, go for bright jigs, which you can spice up with a worm.

Ice Fishing for Crappie - Perfect Time

Tip #3: Use Thinner Lines and Smaller Baits

Less active fish is of course slower, less hungry, and can be more cautious than during springtime feeding frenzy.

Crappies have excellent eyesight, so choose thinner lines than you would in summer. Think about using ice fishing lines instead of regular ones.

The same goes for your lures. Downsizing is a key. Slow fish is interested in easy meal, not in chasing. Therefore, your presentation technique should also be a bit slower than usual. Of course, this means that your hooks can be a bit smaller too.

Here is one more tip. Sensitive rods can help you here. You will be able to sense even the slightest movement.

Tip #4: Set the Hook and Retrieve Steadily

When crappie bites, you need to take it easy. Forget sudden pulling and twitching with your rod. When the crappie is hooked, keep an even and steady pressure.

Crappies are known for very soft mouth and strong pulling can pull out the hook while tearing the corner of their mouth, especially if the hook was set close to the lip end.

But, if you let some slack line, and your hooks are not barbed, the hook could slip out on its own.

Retrieve the fish calmly and gently, with just enough pressure to keep it hooked. I can`t tell you how many times I have seen anglers losing a fish on retrieve just because they had the wrong technique.

If you are a beginner, try practicing, and if you lose one or two, don’t stress out. Identify your mistakes and eliminate them with experience.

Tip #5: Learn About Fish Behavior

As you probably know, fish behave differently in different seasons, and are calmer in winter than in spring or autumn. But, some sub-species of the same fish can also have some significant differences in their behavioral patterns.

When talking about crappies, there are two main kinds. Black and white. When young, both behave similarly. They will feed on zooplankton and tiny invertebrates. But, as they grow bigger, their diet will slightly change. White ones will mostly feed on small fish and crayfish, while black ones like insects and worms.

Black ones prefer clear water, while white ones will be present even in murky water. All of this is important when selecting lures, especially live ones. Go for natural options interesting to specific specie.

Tip #6: Use Live Bait

Live bait is often the best option. Artificial ones will never move as good as the real one. The same goes for the scent of the bait. Of course, check if using live bait is legal in a specific location before you use it.

Minnows, wax worms, and meal worms are the best options. Hook a minnow at the base of a dorsal fin. Lip hooks are not the best options here. Add a split shot 16-20 inches above, and place the bait. Injured minnow will do the rest. This is excellent in early winter when crappies spend time in deeper water.

Worms are a great addition to jigs, but you can also use them on their own. I like combining them with jigs for maximum efficiency. Lazy winter fish sometimes requires you to put a bit more effort than you usually would.

Ice Fishing for Crappie - Live Bait

Tip #7: Switch to Soft Plastic

Jigging is one of the best ice fishing techniques, but anglers often choose wrong lures. Although you can use jigging spoons and similar hard lures, I would advise you to skip that and go for soft plastic.

Movement of soft plastic is the most similar to live organisms that are usually eaten by crappies. When choosing colors, you should observe the light conditions and water clarity. When visibility is low, go for brighter ones.

Crappies tend to feed “upwards” so except a bite when you are working the lure from the bottom up the water column. You can do this for just a couple of feet and feel a bite if you are doing it right.

Make sure that your movement is not repetitive. Make pauses between twitches and try to keep this movement less erratic that in warmer parts of the year.

Tip #8: Use a Tip-Down

Ice fishing for crappie can be great while using tip downs. Some will say that it is lazy method of fishing, but I disagree. You can cover multiple holes at a time and catch more.

It is also great for kids and complete beginners who may not have the best jigging technique. With tip downs, live bait is used. Minnows are excellent for this because they are natural prey frequently eaten by crappies, and they can survive in cold water for a long time.

These simple devices may be bought, or you can make them yourself with some basic tools and materials, with a bit of creativity.

Tip #9: Drill a Lot of Holes

I know that drilling holes, especially in thick ice, can be a tedious task. If you are drilling manually, it is even worse. But this is the key for success. Drilling a hole or two is not sufficient. Drill a lot of them and cover larger area.

I already mentioned the drop offs. Drill a few holes on a deeper side, then a few along the drop off, and a few on the shallower side.

Place your bat in the deeper area, and if there is no activity, try moving towards the shallows. Don’t spend too much time fishing a hole that doesn’t seem to be near any active fish.

Make sure that you properly mark the holes, especially if there are other anglers nearby. Safety is very important while you are on ice.

Tip #10: Think About Fishing Electronics

Locating fish under ice is not an easy task. To make it easier for yourself, think about getting a fish finder. Most of the models on the market can be used year-round. If you are looking for a versatile device, this is for you.

Some anglers prefer flashers for ice fishing, and if you plan to use them only in winter, they are a great option.

And lastly, there are underwater cameras that will show you what is happening below the ice. No matter which of these you choose, it will make your ice fishing for crappie experience much better.

Although electronics help, I still recommend learning about fish species and learning how to locate them without devices. Electronics are here to help, not to replace knowledge and the anglers` ability to adapt to specific conditions.

Ice Fishing for Crappie - Electronics

Conclusion

Ice fishing for crappie is fun and adventurous if you prepare right. It can be frustrating if you keep making the same mistakes, and by following these tips and tricks you will significantly improve your success.

Every body of water is different and you may need to adjust your technique a bit, so use this as a base of knowledge to build your experience on it.

When out on the ice, make sure that you follow all safety precaution measures and use essential ice fishing gear, to stay warm and safe.

And don’t forget a fishing license.

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I'm Sina, the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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