(Editor’s note: This column was previously published in Farm and Dairy in April 2013. It is being republished because of its relevance, and because the author had a health issue to attend to.)
This year’s fishing season is off to a slow start, victimized by the lingering cool to cold weather. Anglers anxious to dunk baits have so far been disappointed, partially perhaps because they are spending time fishing their usual spring spots.
Crappie, the area’s “go-to” early season fish, aren’t using those usual spots yet, simply because the water is cold and the expected spring weather is slow to arrive.
Nationally known crappie expert Tom Neustrom sent along his advice to frustrated crappie chasers. It focuses on the obvious, that crappies aren’t where they are supposed to be because the season isn’t either.
In his words, “Think you’ve exhausted every feasible place to catch springtime crappies? Think again!
There are always places crappies hide where anglers fail to find them. Spend enough time chasing these big spring slabs, and you’ll learn to recognize and react to unfamiliar, yet highly rewarding conditions.”
According to Neustrom, when winter’s long lock finally loosens, he is already plotting his strategy for finding crappies, a game plan of sorts that includes pouring over maps and scouting for potential locations.
He said that pre-determining a milk-run of potentials keeps him in the boat searching, regardless of weather, rather than sitting at the landing making excuses for why they won’t bite.
Spend time in search mode using lake maps, electronics, and lures.
Eventually, you’ll discover the crappies that other anglers don’t, he said. Neustrom went on to say that like all species, crappies need to eat, and when the ice leaves the lake, some of the biggest crappies of the season go on a major hunt.
Reading the signs
At this early stage, you can have some great fishing when it’s still cold enough to make your nose run. Yet even though you can be catching some fish in shallow water, it doesn’t mean that crappies have already begun the spawning ritual.
Wrong! All species need nourishment before the spawn and crappies are no different. In actuality, spawn time in most lakes won’t occur until for a month or more after ice-out, once water temperatures reach into the 60s.
In short, Neustrom insists that the crappies are there and they’re ready to bite, they just aren’t in the shallow water yet, at least the big ones aren’t. So go looking in deeper water, fish the ledges, and other deeper structure.
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