Perfect time for fall crappies

Aside from a few weeks in May and June when they show up in shallow water to spawn, crappies typically disappear in most waters across Sunset Country over the course of the summer.
That’s a shame because they are fun to catch and great to eat.
Fortunately for anglers, they school up into large groups in the fall in deeper basins of the bays and lakes that they live in, where they will spend the winter.
Once they get into these deeper spots, they are easy for anglers to spot on their electronics and they are quite aggressive, so catching them typically is not all that tough.
They are easy to see on electronics because they get over mud flats and they usually are going to be suspended one-four feet above the bottom, so that gives them some separation, making them show up really well.
The sonar units on my boat are Humminbird Helix machines and they do a great job of showing what actually is under the boat. I will not drop my bait over the side of the boat until I see fish on the screen, so when I get in an area that I know or have an idea has crappies, I will idle around and find where a school of fish is.
Spending a few minutes driving around to find some crappies before you start fishing will pay off because when you find a big group, the catching part will be quick and easy most of the time.
When it comes to actually catching crappies, as I said earlier, they usually are not very difficult to trick into biting. The traditional jig and minnow that we all have used to catch walleyes across Northwestern Ontario will work, just downsize the jig to a 1/8-oz. size. Always works.
For the past several years, I have not used any meat on my jigs to catch crappies. Small spoons and Puppet Minnows that are designed for ice-fishing work great for fall crappies, as do small jigs tipped with soft plastic tubes or minnow baits.
Crappies have a relatively small mouth so basically anything that can fit in their mouths probably will catch them.
Since I have good electronics on my boat, I always find fish before I drop a line over the side of the boat. But if you are fishing some new water or maybe don’t have use of electronics, you can find fish by trolling with small crankbaits designed for panfish.
Simply get a three-way swivel and tie a sinker about three feet beneath the bottom tie loop. To another loop you tie your main line, then to the third loop, tie about six feet of line which is attached to the crankbait. This trolling rig will allow you to cover water.
When you catch a crappie or two, throw a marker buoy over the side to mark the spot, then get on top of the fish with jigs.
On most waters, you are going to want to spend your time looking for fish in 20-35 feet of water. Crappies like mud flats, where they feed heavily on invertebrates that emerge from the mud.
Again, as I said earlier, crappies usually are found in deeper holes in the lakes or bays that they live in.
Most of the larger waters across our region have good populations of crappies but they are isolated to specific areas. This is true on Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, Wabigoon Lake, and the Winnipeg River.
Many smaller lakes have great crappie populations, as well.
The best way to know whether a body of water has crappies is to look on at the Ontario Natural Resources Fish-ONLINE website. It is a great resource for showing us what species of fish live in each body of water in the province.
Happy fall fishing!

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