Late-ice crappies eager to bite

Thanks to some cold weather over the past week, our ice-fishing season was extended for a few more days and now is the time to get after some crappies.
Late-ice crappies load up in predictable locations and are eager to bite.
My fishing buddies and I have spent a few days over the past week chasing crappies on area lakes with great success.
Crappies are known for grouping up in big schools for the winter. But now that we’ve reached the point where the snow has melted off the ice and light is starting the hit the fish, they are beginning to move towards shallow water, where they will spawn shortly after ice-out.
Fish are moving from wintering holes in the direction of these shallow bays. By drilling a lot of holes, they can be found,—and they usually are aggressive.
Crappies winter in the deepest basins of the bays that they live in, usually 30-50 feet of water, and they move very little during the mid-winter months.
The crappies we found were in these same basins, but they had moved from where they had been.
We actually found that they were moving while we were catching them. We would see them on our flashers before we dropped our baits down the hole, but by the time our bait got to their level, they already had moved.
The holes where we first found fish were good for a short time, then they dried up. Someone would catch one in a hole just a short distance away, we would all move, catch a few, then move again.
By the end of the day, we were able to stay on top of schools of crappies in the lakes we were fishing. We were basically trolling on the ice (it should be noted that our movements generally were directed towards shallower water).
I can remember fishing a lake really close to Kenora late in the year and the spot that had been really good all winter was ghost town. We knew there were fish around but drilled holes all morning without any action.
Eventually we found fish that once were in 30 feet of water now were in 12 feet right on the edge of a prominent summer weedline.
Don’t be afraid to look shallow once the snow is gone from the ice.
The good part about finding them in shallow water is they are easily releasable. Too many anglers keep too many crappies when they go out and this is evident on many of the heavily-fished waters.
Crappies are smaller in size and the numbers go away. You don’t have to keep your limit!
As far as bait selection goes, it was all about fishing fast-dropping, aggressive baits that we could get in front of the fish quickly if we saw them on our electronics.
We actually wouldn’t even fish a hole unless we saw fish on our sonar units.
These baits included small Northland Spoons and horizontal Jigging Raps that sink quickly. We never used live bait; instead, we tipped our lures with imitation Gulp and Trigger-X maggots—something that added a small amount of scent and body to the bait.
This time of year, it’s all about covering water and fishing fast. Fish will bite if you find them.
This likely will be the last weekend to spend on good ice, but anglers should be careful wherever they venture out. Truck travel is out of the question. The ice just got too punky last week during the warm spell we had and it is not consistent.
Things have tightened up over the past week and ATV travel has been good, but walking is another easy option on many Sunset Country waters.
Enjoy one last weekend on the ice because open water is just around the corner.
I can’t wait!

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