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Crappies on Ice (Minnesota Ice Fishing)

Greg Clusiau's picture

By Greg Clusiau - Posted on 07 December 2010

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][/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.

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Woods's picture

Greg, those are some good looking crappiei and the extent we crappie fisherman will go to catch them. Woods

danny malone's picture

John, if you will send Greg a pair of your yellow sun glasses you and he will look just alike, are you'll really brothers??? danny.

danny malone's picture

Greg, thanks for info and great pictures and nice looking crappiei. Dumb question to you: How do you know where to fish?? I thought you might GPS spots in summer also how deep were you fishing? This is all so new info for crappie 101 as 85 percent or so of us are in deep south, thanks danny.

Greg Clusiau's picture

Danny ~

A lot of it is through trial and error, or "experience". I use a gps unit summer and winter but found out that many spots that may look good in summer (for winter fishing) aren't all cracked up to what they may seem for winter fishing. During the winter months of walking/driving on ice, I'll mark spots like sunken humps, reefs, main lake basins, etc.

I always say "each lake is it's own animal", meaning NO two lakes are the same, no matter what they may look like on paper. A lot of my winter crappie fishingi is done by fishing the "holes" or basin areas. Then it's a matter of marking the spots that produce and before too long, you'll have a "milk-run" of sorts and plenty of spots to fish.

I live in Itasca County, which is famous for it's 1,000 lakes and several years ago I had fished over 250 of them. I'm probably around 300 by now! And that's not counting dozens of trips across the border to Ontario.

A Vexilar or any other piece of electronics is used to see how deep and where the fish are. Most of my crappies are caught in the 25-35' range, although I have caught them down to 45' or better in the winter.

That's all for now. Tight lines to you all!

Ray's picture

Now this is interesting to me. Keep the info coming as I want to learn more about this Ice fishing and even make a trip up there to try it for myself.


Greg Clusiau's picture

Ray, you're more than welcome to come on up and fish with me. I've been ice fishing this area for 50 years and even guided for over 20 of them. Don't do much guiding anymore but am still out on the water/ice every weekend except for two where I am deer hunting. Regards.....Greg

Ray's picture

I seriously may take you up on this Greg. I have a few customers up there in MN I visit a couple times a year. Thanks for your support of the site and please let us hear more about this Ice fishing.




Greg Clusiau's picture

Certainly will do. We're just getting started here with "walkable/fishable" ice and it's a looooong season. Tight lines.

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Physical features and shapes of the bottom of lakes, rivers, or impoundments, especially those that influence fish behavior. Some examples of structure are humps, depressions, sandbars, ledges, and drop-offs. Some examples that are not structure: a stump, tree, or brush pile (these are cover).

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