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Crappie Ice Fishing

When the fishing goes crappie, it’s not necessarily a sad day.

Really.

We’re talking crappie, some of the most delicious panfish you can land.

Aside from following the in-crowd and picking yourself a spot among other local anglers, there can be a bit of an art to finding these little nuggets under the ice. Plenty of factors can come into play: the crappie population, the size of the lake, timing, and your knowledge of the types of places where crappie may be.

It’s a good thing we have Angler Expert, Jonathan Dietz, on our side. He’s been fishing for crappie for as long as he can remember.

“There’s just something about this fish that makes them fun to go after,” he says. “I especially like fishing for them in the ice. They’re just a very interactive fish. It’s cool to watch how they react to your bait on the fish finder.”

Dietz takes us through how you can locate and land these fun fish for yourself.

Locations to Ice Fish for Crappie 

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“On more shallow lakes with a lot of vegetation, there are aquatic organisms that live within that deeper vegetation, so the crappie will position more in the grass,” Dietz explained. That’s where their food is. They’re almost always two to three feet off of the bottom, depending upon the depth of the water you’re fishing in. “You can go fish in five feet of water, just drop it to the bottom, reel it up a foot, and you’re good to go.” You won’t have to move around as much to find them. “You might have 10 different holes you punch, but you’re only going to be rotating them.”

“If you have a deeper reservoir, those same fish would be out and suspend offshore more. So that’s going to make targeting them a lot harder without an electronic unit because they could be in so many more different water columns.” That means you’ll be fishing over a much larger area because the fish are constantly on the move chasing bait or other smaller aquatic organisms.

The type of lake you’re fishing on is really going to dictate what type of gear you need and how you’re going to fish for them.

“At the beginning of winter, the water has a relatively high dissolved oxygen ratio, so those fish can afford to be on the bottom in those deeper fisheries, where the warmer water is,” explained Dietz. As the winter progresses, the dissolved oxygen becomes less and less as the fish use it up and vegetation isn’t able to produce more, sometimes using it up, themselves. Such is the case when there’s a lot of snow blocking out the sun on top of the ice.

“As the winter goes on, those fish get shallower and shallower, since the oxygen depletes at the bottom first, so you’ll find them suspended in those columns. Late in winter, you could be fishing in 40 feet of water, and the fish may only be six feet below the ice.”

The open water schools of fish tend to travel more, too. That means you’ve got to be willing to punch a few holes at first until you find where they’ve gone.

Crappie Ice Fishing: Feel The Bite

Fish tend to feed a little bit earlier in the morning, and later in the evening, they tend to be moving around more and feeding. You’ll have fewer lull periods and you’ll consistently catch more fish.

Crappies feed upward for the most part, so you’ll want to drop your bait down and keep it right above their heads for the most part. Their eyes are on the top of their head and their mouths are positioned so that they swim up to their prey and suck it in from below. That means you really have to pay attention to your rod. It may be bent just a little bit from the weight of your bait and will straighten up slightly when the fish eats it since they’ll be pushing up from underneath, taking the weight off.

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Dietz describes what you’re looking for. “Those bites can often be really, really subtle, especially if you’re fishing outside of a hut in the wind. You’ll get what is called ‘an up-hit,” which is when they feed upwards and just take the slack out, take the pressure off of the line.” He recommends using a very sensitive rod.

Once one fish bites, the rest of the school generally gets fired up, so the faster you can get your jig back down again, the better. Fishing with a friend over the open water can increase your chances. As one is reeling in, the other can be dropping, keeping the fish’s attention.

Crappie Ice Fishing Equipment

Aside from the obvious auger, you’ll want to be sure you’re loaded up with the proper gear.

Fish finders are really an awesome tool when it comes to crappies out on the open water because they like to suspend. Dietz explains, “They really work well when you’re out on those deeper water fisheries because if you’re fishing in, say, 30 feet of water, those fish can be anywhere from right on the bottom to 10 to five feet below the ice.” He uses a MarCum Showdown, which has a vertical screen.

Fishing in deeper water without one is still doable. Drop your bait all the way to the bottom, jig it for a couple of minutes, reel up five feet, jig it for another couple of minutes, and continue that routine all the way up to the surface until you start to figure out a pattern with those fish.

Having an underwater camera can be nice, sometimes, too, so you can see what fish are showing up on your sonar.

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“Your rod should be a really sensitive rod since you’ll be using very light jigs,” advises Dietz. You’ll be using those soft, presentation-style baits for the most part. Look to use anything from a 28” rod up to a 36” rod with a really soft tip so you can lift that bait up and see that tip move a little bit.

A softer rod will also cushion things when the fish are kicking back and forth a bit, since they have really soft mouths.

Most people use small tungsten or lead jig heads, down to around 1/32 or 1/64 ounce baits. Dietz advises using tungsten, because it’s much heavier than lead, so it gives you good weight, while still being able to maintain the smaller profile.

Most people tip their jigs with either minnows, maggots, or wax-worms. Dietz prefers wax worms or minnows, depending upon where you’re doing your fishing. Most crappies eat small macro-invertebrates, especially in the shallower waters within the grass. Those open-water  fish are cruising around more, and will eat more of the bait fish like minnows.

Sometimes soft plastics can come in handy. “Trigger-X makes some of my favorite soft plastic baits. Their Mustache Worm is phenomenal.” They can be advantageous in helping you not go through so much bait, and you don’t have to fidget with them when the fish are striking. They can give you many different options for size, color, weight, and profile.

“If you’re going to a fishery to specifically target bigger crappies, you’ll want to use small spoons or smaller lipless baits, even though they’re commonly thought of as bigger species baits,” he shared. They’ll get you less bites, but you’ll hook onto higher quality fish, eliminating the smaller fish because it’s a bigger profile meal.

Dietz isn’t as picky about the reels he uses when going after crappies. “Almost any reel will do, depending on how serious you want to be. If you’re going to get really serious, they make smaller fly-style reels, which will eliminate any spin that the bait will have.”

Dietz utilizes the wide variety and selection that FishUSA has to offer on all ice fishing gear. Their online shop is unmatched in this type of gear, which is why it’s his go to when he’s looking for more ice fishing gear.


GET STARTED ICE FISHING NOW!


Advice For Crappie Ice Fishing

Dietz shared one last word of wisdom. “ When you to go a fishery you don’t really know and you see an older guy sitting on the ice somewhere, he’s probably been fishing there a long time. He’s the guy you should be asking questions. I’ve never been afraid to walk up and ask questions.”

Take advantage of ice fishing forums, too! There’s a wealth of information out there!

 

Ice Fishing Forums For All Of The Bucket Butts Out There

The lakes aren’t yet frozen over, but soon they will be. Now is the time to start brushing up on some of your techniques and making sure that you have the right jig for the job. Just how do you do that in the off-season? By visiting an online forum geared toward ice fishing.

Just like those that partake in this rugged sport, ice fishing forums are few and far between and not always easy to spot. So how do you know which ones are worth visiting and paying attention to, and which ones you should slide on by?

Stick with us, as we go through some of the best ice fishing forums out there.

Why Visit a Forum?

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A forum is a great place to connect online with like-minded people that share similar interests. Users from across the globe can hold discussions, ask questions, share information, tell tales, and talk about the one that got away. Pros can offer advice, and beginners can expand their knowledge base. Often forums will include competitions hosted by sponsors where users can win prizes. Unlike a chat room, conversations are typically able to be viewed long after they started.

Just as ice fishing is seasonal, the ice fishing forums tend to go through a period of hibernation. During the off-season, the conversations can become a little quiet as many users take up other hobbies and endeavors. Some of the threads continue to be active, though most are left to rest until the season draws nearer. As the weather takes a colder turn in the fall, more and more anglers flock back to their favorite forums, getting geared up.

Ice Fishing Forums: IceShanty

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IceShanty is one of the most active and helpful sites around. Even through the offseason, members carry conversations throughout the day. This time of year, they’re motivating each other with videos of last season’s highlights and lamenting the fact that the lake can’t freeze over fast enough.

They tout themselves as the ice fishing spot for everyone. Whether you are a rookie ice-man or seasoned ice fishing master, you will definitely learn something. You can discover what jigging rod, reel, auger, fish locator, or portable or hard side shack is appropriate for your methods and budget. If you think ice fishing isn’t necessarily your sport because of the temperature, there’s a special section on “Dressing For Ice Fishing.”

Canada is featured in prominence (where better to fish cold weather?), but each cold-wintered North American State from Alaska to Maryland has its own thread featured! This is where locals and visitors, alike, can share reports on their favorite ice. This forum maintains one of the most exhaustive lists of technical threads with conversations on equipment, “Ice Shack Tips,” and Darkhouse Spearing, to a very lengthy list of every kind of ice fish imaginable. If you’re looking to increase your knowledge base and make some friends across North America and beyond, IceShanty is a great forum.

There are typically upwards of 300 visitors to the site at any given time, and over 20 contributing members.

Ice Fishing Forums: In-Depth Outdoors

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In Depth Outdoors is another highly active forum, especially given the current off-season. Posts are updated within the hour daily, so there is always plenty of fresh new content to draw you in. If you’re looking for a new perch rod, or tip down system, there’s plenty of expert advice to be had. If you’ve got an opinion on which auger is the best for you, feel free to throw your 2-cents in on your favorite: hand powered, 2-stroke, 4-stroke, or electric.

While threads aren’t organized well into easy-to-locate-and-navigate sections, there is no lack of variety and information. You’ll have absolutely no trouble locating a wealth of knowledge. While they don’t list how many members are a part of this forum, or how many are currently active, we get the feeling the quantity and quality of posts speaks for itself.


This Ice Fishing Quick Start Guide Covers All You’ll Need!


Ice Fishing Forums: Ice Fishin 247

Ice Fishin 247 is also a relatively active site, though not quite to the extent of the previous two. Many conversations are updated daily and members are starting to really get in the mood for the upcoming season. There are generally over 200 users online at any given time, though the vast majority of them are guests, with less than five contributing members at a time. That appears to change during the ice season. This is likely the result that this forum doesn’t have the same quantity of members as the other ones.

Content is solid and extensive, with already over 8,000 topics garnering over 75,400 posts. Posts are easily organized and broken down into easy-to-digest topics. New to the sport? There’s an entire section dedicated to “Ice Fishing For Newbies,” where beginners can glean knowledge from more experienced experts. There’s a whole section dedicated to “Ice Safety” (making it hard to miss for those in a hurry). Just as with the larger IceShanty page, Ice Fishin 247 offers all the information you could desire on ice fishing in the States and beyond.

They even offer an occasional contest or giveaway.

Though the lakes aren’t yet frozen over, the time is coming! Get inspired to hit the ice with your cleats on this year by visiting one of these informative forums!

 

Ice Fishing Auger Comparisons – Interview With Minnesota’s Abby Olson

If you’re itching to get out there in the peace and quiet of the still winter air, alone on the ice with your thoughts and the fish, don’t think you’re alone.

If you’re counting down the days until you can spend time sharing the experience, trading back and forth between beer and coffee holed up in a shack with a couple of buddies, you’re not alone.

Coooooold is blowing in and the water is cooling down. The ice is coming.

Are you ready?

Do you have the tools it takes to get yourself set up with ease? Check out our comparisons of the Top Ice Fishing Augers. Fishing expert, Abby Olson shares her top picks and her experience with them.


LEARN MORE ABOUT ICE FISHING IN OUR QUICK START GUIDE


Best Hand Ice Fishing Auger: Strikemaster Lazer Hand Auger

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Lazer ice augers seem simple at first glance, but they’re designed for comfort, speed, and precision. The Strikemaster Lazer Hand Auger is efficient enough to match up to a powered performance. Don’t let the lack of power fool you. This auger is able to make every revolution count, so you won’t need to use as much energy as you do with other augers. It cuts through the ice as quickly and easily as a manual auger is able.

Because it only weighs between 5.5 and 8.5 pounds (depending on the size) it’s a great choice when you need to pack light. It also breaks down into two pieces to make it extra portable.

The chrome alloy, stainless steel blades are dipped in powder coated paint, which reduces the amount of ice build-up your stuck dealing with, and they stay sharp longer than the blades of most other models. They cut through most surfaces quickly. The ergonomic handle design helps to reduce fatigue and transfers your effort directly to the blade. It’s built to last for years out in the freezing cold temperatures.

There is a good deal of variation to be had with this model with the size range from four to eight inches auger length. The handle is also adjustable, making it easy for different people to work with it, and the rubber grips make the auger comfortable on your hands. The blade guard protects you from harm.

The auger can be adjusted to move from 48” to 57”, so cutting through 15” of ice in a minute is no problem.

Best Electric Ice Fishing Auger: K-Drill Electric Ice Auger System

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The electric auger movement hasn’t yet swept completely across the nation; experienced ice-angers are a bit skeptical still. But ANGLR Expert, Abby Olson was introduced to her cousin’s K-Drill Ice Auger System last winter, and she fell in love with its ease of use and lightweight design. It’s been designed specifically for modern high-powered, brushless, handheld cordless electric drills, making it a very lightweight system.

“When driving out to a spot is not an option, it takes a load off of the weight of the sled,” says Olson. “Unlike the Ion (22#) or the Strikemaster (24-27#) electric ice augers, the weight of the K-Drill auger is only five pounds.” That lightweight design “will make it easy for any ice fisherman or woman to “hole hop” quickly and easily,” she explains.

You can purchase the system by itself to use with your own electric drill, but it also comes as a combo package with either a Milwaukee or DeWalt Drill. With no gas or propane involved, there is no exhaust or “smell” left in the ice shack.

The efficient chipper blade design ensures you’ll be able to drill easier and with more confidence than ever before. That’s thanks to the unique three-blade high carbon steel chipper design which chews through both fresh ice and old frozen holes. So far, it’s the lightest and easiest ice auger system ever developed and the ONLY system designed specifically for cordless electric drills.

“The best part of the K-Drill system is the high speed,” explains Olson. “The drill chews through the ice. Even a pre-drilled hole that has frozen over, common in permanent ice shacks, is no problem for the K-Drill’s efficient chipper blade design.”

It has a float at the attachment point of the auger, allowing the bit to float in the water should it become unattached from the dill.

Big bonus? Olson tells us the Chromalloy blades that are made in Minnesota can be sharpened by the company for free!

Best Gas Ice Fishing Auger: Eskimo Mako 43cc Quantum Ice Auger

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The two-stroke gas-powered Eskimo Mako 43cc Quantum Ice Auger ($378) runs on a high-performance, 43cc Viper® engine and has cutting ability far above the rest of the crowd thanks to a combination of the powerful engine and Quantum blades. This makes it a great choice if you’re getting a later start in the season and the ice is already thick and hard. It’s easy to operate with just a light touch to the controls, so you don’t have to remove your gloves or mittens to use it.

Extremely reliable, it doesn’t take but a tug or two before it’s ready and raring to go, no matter how frigid the temperatures are, in part thanks to the included primer. Fuel efficiency isn’t a problem. People tout they can cut multiple holes without having to refuel. We think it’s also one of the most pleasant augers to hold since there are minimal vibrations. There’s no jarring your cold bones with this one, especially given the anti-vibration foam-grip handlebars.

8” model weighs 31 pounds. 

10” model weighs 33 pounds. 

Things to watch out for:

  • The pull cord is a bit more fragile, so you may want to use a little TLC when tugging. Since you don’t ever have to really manhandle it, it shouldn’t be a problem.
  • The tank takes a mixture of fuel and oil, so it requires a little work before you fill the tank, but what a small price to pay for a great high-performance auger!

Best Propane Ice Fishing Auger: Eskimo Mako HIGH COMPRESSION 40cc Propane

If you’re going with propane, who doesn’t love an auto-prime fuel system? All you need to do is flip the switch to ON and start drilling. No priming. You can’t argue with that! The Eskimo Mako 40cc with 10” Quantum Ice Auger is both lightweight and powerful, and the high compression ratio makes it eat through ice like it’s butter.

The auger features a 40cc, four-stroke with a 10-inch two-blade system that’s 42 inches long, making it both lightweight, and powerful. The transmission is ball bearing and this auger operates well in most cold conditions.

Though propane, there aren’t gas fumes, so it’s a great choice for indoor drilling. This Mako is easy to start and a one pound tank should get you around 100 holes with no effort.