Fishing tips: locating and catching spring crappies before the water warms

Crappies are usually one of the first fish anglers target after ice-out. After the ice disappears, many anglers head for the cattails and bulrushes where crappies spawn to seek their reward, but when the water is slow to warm up the fish won’t be there. Just because these fish are not sitting where you expected doesn’t mean you can’t catch them.

These fish will stage just outside of their spawning grounds until the water warms. Use your electronics to locate suspended crappies in 8 to 12 feet of water near the areas where they normally spawn. Pay close attention to scattered suspended marks on your locator and note their depth.

Finding fish is only half the battle; now you have to catch them. I usually cast and retrieve small jigs with artificial baits to cover more water. Cast out and let your jig sink to the depth you were marking the fish, then begin a slow retrieve. You’ll want to move fast enough to give your artificial bait some action but slow enough to stay in the strike zone.

If fish are hesitant to hit, slow things down a bit. You can use lighter jigs that will allow you to reel slower without falling below the strike range or try setting a jig and artificial under a fixed bobber and slowly retrieve the bait waiting for a strike.

Still not getting any bites? Try the old jig-and-crappie-minnow setup suspended under a slip-bobber. I prefer jigs and artificial lures, but when the bite is tough, a jig and crappie minnow can be hard to beat.

We can catch limits of tasty slabs this time of year, but first we need to find them. Please practice selective harvest to protect the resource for future generations.

Good luck fishing!

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