Follow the forage: the sunfish and crappies of March
Regular ice anglers already are noticing an important rite of late winter: Sunfish are moving into shallower locations. They’re anticipating spring food sources coming shallow. A number of things trigger this movement. Melting ice delivers food and more oxygen to the shallows. Photoperiodism is another key. The angle of the sun is their calendar!
You better believe low oxygen is a factor during a long winter like this one. Thick ice, plus snow atop it limits light penetration and photosynthesis. I’m hearing guys complaining about marking fish, but seeing semi-dormant activity. That’s because those fish are just trying to stay alive.
Once some of this oxygen-rich meltwater hits lakes, however, it rejuvenates fish. That’s why late, late ice is prime time to catch crappies and sunfish. As the season wears on; however, watch for marginal ice.
Always consider the safety factor.
Basic locations for these fish are shallower bays, and we’re using the same baits and lures from the heart of winter. We need to get more aggressive and step it up a bit from jigging to the hookset.
Can weather affect that bite? You’d better believe it. A severe cold front can push crappies back into deeper water in the spring. Amp up your bait with waxworms or silver wigglers, but stick with basic jigging actions.
If you can find green weeds, or a consistent bottom of sand or mud, such substrates can hold these fish. Try to use your camera. Watch for anything different, like a hard-bottomed bay where it transitions to weeds. If you have running water down a hole, that fresh meltwater will have fish underneath. Drop a line!
We’ve all encountered a hot suspended crappie bite that suddenly vanishes. You assume fish have moved or otherwise stopped biting. Here’s a tip: Instead of a live minnow, drop down an ice lure with a waxworm to the bottom. Pound the bottom, stir up that sediment, and maybe draw those fish back in. It works in any depth, and when the bite turns less aggressive, you’ll catch slabs!