Crappies on Ice (Minnesota Ice Fishing)
First Ice Endeavors The ice is still “sketchy” on many area lakes but if you search out the small ones, you should be able to find “fishable” ice. We fished three lakes over the weekend
, all of which were somewhat small in size, and it took the last one before we really did well on the fish. On Saturday, we chipped ice out toward the middle of my first selection, only to find that it didn’t look safe enough to go any further. It had a light snow cover that was protecting the slush from freezing. If you were on bare ice, it was plenty thick, being 4”, but under all of that snow, there would be problems. Back near shore, it was thick enough for a four-wheeler but the further we went out, the thinner it got. We wanted to be “in the basin” but had to settle for fishing on the edge of it instead. This resulted in only a handful of crappies and some very slow fishing. You can’t catch fish if they aren’t under you. Unfortunately, the majority of them were only 50-100 feet away, under the slush area. Sunday’s excursion had us fishing two lakes. The first one was a good bluegill lake that had some decent crappies in it as well. An updated fishing report, from a local avid ice angler, filled me in on the excellent ice conditions. That was priority one. The actual act of catching fish would be a close second. He and some friends had been out there and done well, catching bluegills up to 10”, along with a number of 13” crappies. However, since then the fish had come up with a severe case of lockjaw, not wanting to bite anything and with that in mind, I selected it as our first lake of the day. Normally, when I hear that the fish aren’t biting, I’ll head that way with hopes that their fasting days are over and they will be hungry as all get out. This theory, by-the-way, rarely works but I always seem to try it. It didn’t work on this day either. Oh, we caught some gills but they were few and far between, with the largest going 9”. It was time for a move to “greener pastures” or should I say “fishier waters.” The next lake was undisturbed. No one had been on it yet and that made us slowly pick our way out there with caution. As it turned out, the lake had plenty of safe ice but one never knows. Checking first ice is ever an adventure and you’re always better off in playing it safe. I didn’t mind taking our time in getting out there because we would be pulling our fishing shelters over ½ mile one way. This stop-and-go method worked perfectly, as it gave me a chance to catch my breath. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad but I always pack everything but the kitchen sink, making my shelter as heavy as possible. I have to thank my two partners for the day, Mike Walsh and Blake Liend, who helped me out with occasional towing. Later on, Blake jokingly said “I got worked like a stolen pack mule.” At least I think he was joking. Once on “the spot”, it took some time to find the fish but eventually we did and it was game on! [IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v625/TuffEnuff/DSCF3492.jpg[/IMG] The best baits of the afternoon were plastics, with no live bait (waxworms) added. This particular lake has the crappies just loving minnows but we didn’t have any along and rarely do. Therefore, with Mike using a Custom Jigs & Spins “Shrimpo” and Blake a Northland Tackle “Mimic Minnow Fry”, several hungry, minnow-chasing crappies were caught. I added a few to the pile by using a variety of smaller baits tipped with waxies but it was clear that the fish wanted minnow “imitators”. It looks like the ice fishing season is heating up but you still need to use caution on many, many lakes. Yes, it was somewhat of a long walk to get these fish but better safe than sorry. Maybe a snowmobile can be used next weekend? Good luck and be safe.