Adventures in crappies’ land

When it comes to finding places to fish in Sunset Country, we are pretty lucky. There is always an open season for several species, and the choices of waters are endless.
I grew up fishing many small lakes throughout the year—for walleyes, lake trout, and crappies. My dad and I had plenty of good trips into the many stocked trout lakes in the Kenora District, as well.
Over the past decade or so, I have really focused much of my fishing effort during all seasons on the larger lakes in the region, like Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. These massive bodies of water have world-class fishing for seven or eight different species of fish and you always can find new water to fish.
Access is easy and there is always something biting.
This past week, however, a group of us got off the big lakes and took a day trip for some backwater crappies. Dave Bennett took Jamie Bruce, Bryan Gustafson, Dean Howard, and I into a small lake that I’m not sure even has a name (Dave didn’t mention it and I didn’t ask).
We drove our trucks in a ways on a small dirt road, unloaded four-wheelers and snowmobiles, and took the seven-km ride into a small remote lake that would have no access during the open water season except by float plane.
This is the beauty of fishing the back lakes in the winter–access is available to water that cannot be reached without flying during the summer months.
Most of these lakes offer some fantastic fishing no matter which species of fish you are after.
Our trip took us into a lake that obviously not a lot of people know about because the only holes in the ice were from an earlier trip that Dave had made a couple weeks of prior.
He was tipped off that this particular lake holds crappies by an old-timer angler who knew the area well. We picked one of the nice days last week and went in and spent the day catching crappies.
The fishing was spectacular—it was likely the most crappies that I had ever seen caught in one day before. In one hole, Bryan dropped his jig down and had a fish on before it hit the bottom 15 times in a row.
It was impressive.
This was a relatively shallow dark water lake that Dave felt may hold some big pike, as well, so we packed some tip-ups and frozen ciscos to try our luck with pike. Although we did not experience crazy pike action, we did catch one nice fish that would have went about 15 pounds and a few in the 10-pound range.
Maybe we’ll try setting up in some different areas for pike when we go back next year.
For those of you that have an interest in exploring some of the many backwater lakes across the region, a little bit of work and some equipment goes a long way in finding success.
No matter what the species, whether you are looking for crappies, walleye, or lake trout, it’s about understanding the nature of the fish and their seasonal movements to point you in the right direction with regards to finding them.
Knowing that crappies spend the winter in the deepest basin areas of the lake they live in, or that walleyes make a move towards shallower water late in the ice season and stage in front of spawning areas, will give you a good start when it comes to finding fish.
That is always the most important aspect of any kind of fishing. If you are not around fish, you can’t catch them, so always remember finding fish is more important than your lure.
To aid in finding fish, a flasher or some kind of sonar unit is very important. I use a Humminbird ICE 55 unit and in all honesty, I would not go ice-fishing without it.
I know, you catch fish fine without using a flasher; we all did for years. But after using these easy-to-use machines, you quickly can determine if there are fish around and you can watch how they react to your presentation so you can figure what you need to do to trigger them to strike.
For exploring new water, this is a huge advantage.
We have just a few more days of safe travel on the ice, it’s almost over! When you think back, it’s hard to believe that winter will ever end during those short, cold days in January.
We have six months of open water on the way. Life is good!

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