Posts Tagged ‘fishing’

Early Ice Walleyes, Crappies and Northerns

Clam Ice House Had a great adventure on early ice a week ago.  My friends Eric, John and I headed out to find ice on Friday afternoon.  We ended up on a small lake we had never fished before by Alexandria, Minnesota and slowly made our way out on the ice.  We ventured out about 150 yards and found a nice break that went from 8 ft of water to 20 ft pretty quickly.  We each had our portables with, so we set up in a line running from about 13 ft to 19 ft.  We found a consistant 3 1/2 to 4 inches of good dark ice, so we felt pretty good about that.

Walleye and CrappieFriday evening ended up to be a great night on the water.  We ended up catching 6 walleye, 5 crappie and 4 northerns.  The walleyes all bit on set lines with fat heads, they didn’t seem to want a wide variety of more active presentations we were throwing at them.  The crappies all came in about 5-6 feet off the bottom and when we marked them on our electronics, we jigged up to them.  They were pretty aggressive hitting buckshot rattle spoons tipped with a minnow head.  The northerns all came before dark and like a typical northern, was slamming anything it could find.

Eric Ice Fishing

Saturday morning started off a bit slow, but we ended up getting four more walleyes to bite along with 4 more crappies.  Once the sun came up, the northerns were in full swing and we got 17 northerns in less than an hour.  None were huge, but fun anyway.

It was great to get back on the ice for the first of many trips this year.  I’m not going to be able to make it back out this weekend, but I’m sure I’ll be on the ice several times over the holidays, so look for more reports soon.

Fishing in the Wabakimi Provincial Park in Ontario

Drake DillA few weeks back my new friend Drake Dill asked if he could write a guest post on The Fishing Foodie. Given I’ve been so busy lately, I said of course.  Drake is the owner of Thunderhook Fly-Ins  in the Wabakimi Provincial Park in Northwestern Ontario.  While I haven’t had the opportunity to fish with Drake yet, after talking with him and learning more about Thunderhook Fly-Ins, it is only a matter of time.

Drake would love to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to send him an email at info@thunderhook.com.

Guest Post – Fishing in the Wabakimi Provincial Park in Ontario

Many folks do not get the chance to visit Northwestern Ontario to go on a fly-in fishing trip. Even fewer folks get to explore and fish in the Wabakimi Provincial Park, which at nearly 3 million acres is a true hidden gem in Canada. This park is different from most of its other wilderness counterparts. The Wabakimi is not just a “paddle only” park, and was created with a different intent than most other wilderness areas. You can visit this park and stay in a cabin with all of the comforts of home, use a motorized boat, and fish with live bait. One other thing to mention is that the Wabakimi has a very healthy population of both Woodland Caribou and Moose. These giants are truly majestic, and can add the finishing touch on one’s wilderness experience. Below I will outline the primary fish species found in this area and some great times to target each species.

Walleye Fishing

Wabakimi_WalleyeThe walleye fishing in the Wabakimi Provincial Park is absolutely fantastic. This could even be an understatement. The large bodies of water in the heart of the park such as Granite, Whitewater, Wabakimi, and Smoothrock lakes are absolute fish factories. These large lakes all have landmark Canadian river systems such as the Ogoki, Berg, and Allanwater Rivers running through them. These rivers provide the ultimate spring spawning ground for walleyes. During the summer the walleyes move out into deeper water and relate to rocky drop-offs, reefs, and sand flats. Arguably the best walleye fishing is after September 1st when turnover occurs and the lakes in this area de-stratify. An example of a beautiful late summer walleye can be seen below.

Northern Pike Fishing

Wabakimi_NorthernAlthough the pike fishing can be spectacular on many of the large lakes within the park, there is not a better time to fish for these giants than spring. During the spring the pike can be caught off guard in weedy bays that are very shallow. Casting spoons and large plugs into these shallow flats can produce fish in the 45-50 inch class. These areas are the best bet for big pike in late May and early June.  Once summer rolls around the fishing for pike can get a bit tougher. It is often quite common to catch a master angler northern pike in the dead heat of summer when fishing walleyes with a jig and minnow or lindy rig setup. The fall again begins to offer the best chance of a trophy pike (like spring) as the fish begin to move back into shallow water in preparation for the spawn the next spring.

 

Lake Trout Fishing

Wabakimi Lake TroutThe Lake Trout Fishing can be fantastic in this area, but is not generally the primary target of most anglers. Many of the lakes we are talking about in this area are not typical trout waters. In Northwestern Ontario, most trout fishermen target lakes along the border that are not only deep, but clear as well. The lakes in the Wabakimi are deep and cool but not clear (for the most part). This makes it quite difficult to target the fish in comparison to some of the famous trout lakes along the border such as Quetico and Cirrus Lakes, which are incidentally in the Quetico Provincial Park. The easiest way to catch large Lake Trout is to fish in September (trout spawn in the fall) when these fish move into shallow water to prepare to spawn. During the summer months the trout move into deep water and relate to humps that can be as deep as 80 to 100 feet. Summer can be a very difficult time to catch Lake Trout. Trout fishing can also be wonderful in the Spring, if the trout have not begun to move into the deeper water in preparation for summer.

Brook Trout Fishing

Wabakimi Brook TroutAlthough Brook Trout are not the “prime” target and species within this area, it does not mean that one should pass up the wonderful opportunities that are available for catching this tasty table fare. Brook Trout fishing is very labor intensive and often it can take hours in a small stream (generally below a rapids) to catch one of these beautiful fish. Generally, it is worth it to go after a trout. Many believe that these fish taste every bit as good as Salmon. I tend to believe so too. The easiest way to catch Brook Trout in Ontario is to target the fish in small bays and fast-moving streams within 2-3 weeks after ice out. The sooner… the better!

Accessing the Area

float_planeAs you can see from the pictures, it is not uncommon to catch trophy fish among all species in the park. There are many options when visiting the Wabakimi. Some options are camping, kayaking, canoeing, and fly-in outposts/lodges. Remember, the only way to access this pristine and virtually untouched area is via floatplane.  Thunderhook Fly-Ins is one of the outfitters that has exclusive access to this area. We offers an airbase, fly-in outpost camps, a fly-in lodge, and logistics services in the Armstrong Station, Ontario.

Lake Wabakimi Ontario – Fly In Fishing Trip Report

For the second year on a row I was lucky enough to fly into the Ontario wilderness with a great group of guys for some fantastic fishing, food and relaxation.  We spent a total of 5 days up there including our travel days, and you couldn’t have asked for a better trip.  Here is my account of the fishing.  The food will come in a later post, but it was just as great.

Six of us flew in.  Dale, Steve, John, Tuyen, Paul and me.  The trip was booked through Rusty Myers Outfitters.  We used them last year as well, and they have great camps and overall run a good operation.

Fly in camp

Wabakimi Fishing Report

Thursday:
Wabakimi WalleyeWe didn’t get to camp until about 2:30 on Thursday. I thought we had an earlier flight, but that was not the case. After quickly unloading our gear, we quickly shoved it all in the cabin and went straight for the boats. We were on the water by about 3:15 and it was game on! It was fairly windy, and since it was pretty late in the day we decided to explore Lower Wabakimi. John and I shot across to the south entrance to Lower Wabakimi, while the other two boats went through Rusty’s back door. John and I have never been to Wabakimi, so there was lots of orienting ourselves and figuring out where the fish were. We fished until about 7:30 and ended up with 14 walleyes and a couple small northerns. Even though we were on the water for 4 hours, much of that time was spent running and exploring, so we felt pretty good about it. The other two boats ended up with 27 walleyes and 6 walleyes fishing the current by Rusty’s back door (just south of the camp).

 

Friday:
This was our first full day of fishing. The wind was blowing a bit, but John and I decided to head up to the north side and fish around the long bays on the north end, and I’m sure glad we did.  In about an hour and a half of fishing, we had about 40 walleyes, 30 of them were over 20 inches. Just beautiful fish, and they were everywhere. After that, we explored a bit just picking up a few fish here and there, and then ended up finding some running water in the far east of the big bays on the north side, and we sat in there for about an hour and got another 45 or so walleyes. We ended up the day with 96 walleyes, 6 northern and 1 perch. What a great day. The other boats didn’t do as well, but still managed a great day with about 30-50 fish per boat.

Josh with a Wabakimi WalleyeJohn with a Wabakimi WalleyePerch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the highlights of our trip happend on Friday.  John and I were out fishing and the stringer came loose and one of our walleyes found its way to our prop.  Needless to say it got messed up.  About 5 minutes later, we were driving along and saw a beautiful Bald Eagle perched in a tree.  John got out his camera, I held up the walleye to get the Eagle’s attention and threw it about 20 feet from the boat.  The Eagle made one low pass over and came right in to get the 17 inch walleye.  It was amazing!

 

Bald Eagle catching Walleye

Saturday:
Running waterWith the success we had the day before, all three boats went up and followed our pattern from the previous day. The conditions were totally different though. The lake laid flat, and the sun was out. On Friday it was pretty choppy and cloudy/rainy, so I wasn’t sure how that would effect the fishing. The fish were still in both spots, but not as heavy as the day before, and they seemed to move away from the running water a bit to the deeper water that was right next to it. We finished the day with about 140 walleyes between the three boats.

Sunday:
Stringer of Wabakimi WalleyesThe wind was howling and it was rainy and pretty much just a crappy day, so we decided to stay on the south end of Wabakimi. John and I along with Dale and Steve’s boat headed to the south entrance and started fishing some moving water along the way. We picked up a few fish, but nothing great. We continued on to the south cross as we called it and fished a rock wall there and hammered the walleyes for about an hour before returning to camp for lunch. The other boat went south through Rusty’s back door and had some success too. After lunch we decided to head all the way south to fish the moving water which I think goes into Smoothrock lake (or something like that). Man, it was raging, and we couldn’t even get the boat close enough to fish it or we would have been sucked down it never to return. Since we were down there, we explored the bays and picked up a couple walleyes and a couple northerns, but nothing great. We decided to head back to the rock wall at the south cross. It was a pretty choppy ride back north, and the other boat with us tagged a big rock in the middle of the lake (no damage done), but we finally got up to our spot and continued to hammer them all evening. I caught the big fish of the trip there, landing a nice 27 inch walleye. We ended the day with well over 200 walleyes between our boats and had a great day.

27 inch Wabakimi Walleye

Monday:
Rusty Myers Caravan on FloatsWe cleaned up camp and looked out at the weather. Pretty low clouds and lots of rain in the morning. The rain stopped, but the clouds hung in there, so we really were not sure when we would be heading out. Finally, at about 3:00 our plane was in sight. I wish we would have know that, we would have fished the morning, but we didn’t. Really bumpy ride home and had to weave through a few thunderstorms, but we made it. What a great trip!

As for tackle, when the fish were on, it really didn’t matter. We had minnows and leaches with, but a gummy worm worked too (no lie). If you are heading up there, bring enough bait.  We brought in 30 dozen minnows and 2 pounds of leeches, and we ran out of minnows about half way through the last day.  We did have some dead loss though that became soft and not usable.

Most of the time we used a variety of jigs.  The Northland Gumball Jigs in a 3/8 oz size worked well for us.  For a time I used a couple different spinner jigs from bulk tackle and also some Scheels Sports brand spinner jigs, and they out fished regular jigs 3-1.  The ones I had were pretty light though, so I had trouble keeping them on the bottom, so I gave up after a while, but they sure worked well.  For colors, we found that pink and orange were the best colors when it was cloudy, and white seemed to do best when the sun came out, but color didn’t seem to be too much of a factor. The bigger thing was making sure you were jigging right on the bottom. If you were more than a foot off, you weren’t catching fish.

All in all, a great trip that I will remember for a lifetime!  Check out The Fishing Foodie on Facebook for more pictures.

Tight Lines!

Fresh Grilled Mahi Mahi and Baby Romaine in the Bahamas

I’ve written a few posts about my time in Exuma, Bahamas, and here is one more.  There were just so many great culinary as well as fishing experiences, one post just wouldn’t do it justice.

Mahi Mahi from Exuma BahamasI spent a day sport fishing with my friend Eric just off the coast of Exuma.  We went out with Captain Robert of Robert’s Island Adventures.  Fishing was a bit slow, with one broken line and one Barracuda in the first few hours.  The next line was mine, and I’m sure glad it was.  The drag started screaming and my fish was on.  I’ve caught some pretty good fighters in my time on the water, and this one ranks right up there in my fishing battles.  After about 5-6 minutes we saw the flash of a bull Dolphin (otherwise known as Mahi Mahi or Dorado).  It wasn’t done yet though, taking a few long runs away from the boat.  We finally got the fish in the boat, and it was a beauty.  My first ever Mahi Mahi, and it is one I’ll remember for a long time.

Not only was it a fantastic fight, it was one of the best meals we ate while on Exuma.  In addition to the Mahi Mahi, we enjoyed fresh Lobster from our adventures with Harris the day before as well as roasted potatoes, a grilled romaine salad and some freshly made guacamole and chips.  Delicious.

Grilled Mahi Mahi Recipe

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Lobster12 Mahi Mahi fillets (which is what we got out of the fish)
2 Cloves chopped fresh garlic
3 Limes juiced
4-5 Green onions chopped
1/4 Cup olive oil
1 Anaheim chili chopped
1/2 Cup chopped Cilantro
1/2 tbsp Cumin
1/2 Cup white wine
1/2 tbsp Salt

Mix all the ingredients together  and pour over the Mahi Mahi fillets in a glass baking dish or plastic bag and refrigerate for about an hour.  Remove fillets from marinade and grill over medium heat until just cooked through (about 3-4 minutes per side).  Do not overcook the fish or it will dry out.

Grilled Baby Romaine Salad Recipe

Grilled Baby Romaine SaladThe grilled Romaine salad was such a simple thing to prepare, but it is a nice change of pace from a simple cold salad.

4 Baby Romaine sliced in half
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
3/4 Cup balsamic vinegar simmered on the stove until reduced by half

Drizzle about 4 tbsp of olive oil over the baby Romaine halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill cut side down over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes or until the cut side has defined char marks and is starting to wilt just slightly.  Remove from the grill and drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil over the top of the baby romaine.

Roasted Potatoes

Wonderful roasted potatoes

Fresh Guacamole

Fresh Guacamole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sure I’ll have one or two more posts about our trip to Exuma, but this has to be one of my favorite meals, not only because it was delicious, but also because I caught the Mahi Mahi, which makes it even better.  Fishing in Exuma was an absolute blast, but cooking what we caught was just as much fun!

Some other posts about our trip to Exuma:

Fresh from the Sea in Exuma Bahamas
Yellowtail Snapper Recipe – Three Ways

Fresh From the Sea in Exuma Bahamas

It’s been far too long since my last post.  Ever since I got back from my vacation in Exuma, life has kept me too busy to keep up with my writing, so this post is long overdue.

My family took a vacation down to Exuma in the Bahamas late January/early February.  Most of our time was spent relaxing in the sun, but I managed to get some fishing in while I was there too.  We went with our good friends Eric, Liz and their two kids.  We had a couple great trips on the water.

Conch from ExumaEric’s birthday was on a Tuesday, and we had planned to do a full day of deep sea fishing through Robert’s Island Adventures.  We met up with Robert at about 8:00 at the docks.  The wind was whipping, and while he said we could go out, the forecast for Wednesday was much better, so we decided to postpone for a day.  Needless to say both Eric and I were pretty disappointed we couldn’t get out on Tuesday.  When we got back to our condo, we started talking with Harris (Sugar) Smith who was doing some maintenance on one of the units near by.  We knew that he also did his share of fishing and tours on the island, and also that his boat was on the calm side.  Well, the day turned around quickly.  Harris said he would take both families out for an afternoon on the water, and what a great time it was.

Spearing a GrouperAfter a short 15-20 minute boat ride the fun began.  Harris asked me if I had driven a boat before, and when I said yes, he jumped in the water with his mask and snorkel and told me to follow him.  About a minute later, he dove down and quickly surfaced with a huge conch.  This happened repeatedly for about 10 minutes and he quickly had a dozen conch in the boat.  A couple minutes later, he asked Eric to hand him his Hawaiian Sling (spear), and he did.  Harris was under water for about 30 seconds, and then he popped out of the water with a beautiful Grouper hanging from his spear.

Spearing LobsterAfter that adventure, Harris hopped back in the boat and drove for about 5 minutes, stopped and jumped back in the water with spear in hand.  What happened next was even more amazing for us Minnesota folks.  Harris snorkeled on the surface for a minute, dove down and this time came up with a beautiful Lobster on his Hawaiian Sling.  Lobster after lobster came in the boat, and one was a monster!

 

 

Giant Lobster

Giant starfish

Harris even brought up this beautiful giant starfish for the kids to hold. (It was quickly released after a few pictures)

 

 

Shore lunch on the fireWith plenty of great seafood in the boat, Harris pulled up to a beautiful beach on a small uninhabited island.  Our kids jumped out and started playing in the sand and Harris made a fire and got to work.  He shelled the Conch and made an Lobster shore lunchabsolutely fantastic Conch salad right there on the beach.  After making a fire on the beach, he cleaned the Grouper and the lobsters too and made the freshest, most fantastic shore lunch anyone could ever dream up.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a shore lunch up on Lake of the Woods or a fresh Walleye meal in the ice house as much as the next guy, but this was amazing!

I’m already dreaming of heading back to Exuma, and Harris will be the first guy I call.  He is fantastic, and I would recommend him to anyone visiting Exuma in the Bahamas.

There were too many great pictures from our day with Harris, so here are a few more.

Speared Lobster

Watching Harris spear

The Chef's Table

On the boat in Exuma

Eric and Harris in Exuma

Hopefully I’ll have a bit more time to write.  I have some great photos from our deep sea fishing trip the next day (spoiler alert, I got my first Mahi Mahi ever, and it was a beauty), and we ate some great food too.  If you are thinking of heading to Exuma, let me know, I’d be happy to share more, just ask.

Wahoo – Fun To Catch, Great To Eat

Curacao WahooI can’t say how excited I am for my upcoming trip to the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas.  We have a day of sport fishing already booked with Captain Robert Thompson of Robert’s Island Adventures.  In addition to that, we also have our own boat reserved for a day of jumping from beach to beach as well as some reef fishing mixed in.  Hoping to also get another day of fishing/spearing in if possible.  Look for a post or two from that trip in the near future.  Hopefully there will be some great pictures of monster Wahoo, Mahi Mahi and if I’m lucky a a Marlin or Tuna.

Thinking about my upcoming trip got me thinking about my last trip that involved some sport fishing.  I was down in Curacao, which is part of the Netherlands Antilles just north of Venezuela.  I spent a day on the sportfishing boat “Second Chance” targeting Wahoo, and I was fortunate to hook up with the first and only Wahoo of my life (hopefully that will change soon).  We ran a variety of baits on the spread, but the Ballyhoo (I think) was on the majority of the lines, and that is also the bait that produced my fish.  The crew on the Second Chance was great and we had a good time.  I wish we would have gotten into more fish, but that’s how it goes.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

Second Chance Fishing Charter Curacao

Second Chace Sportfishing Boat

Ballyhoo

Getting the Ballyhoo all ready to go

Deep sea fishing in Curacao

Lines are all set

Curacao Wahoo

My first Wahoo!

Cleaning the Wahoo

That is going to be some good eating!

We stayed at the Scuba Lodge in Curacao for our 10 year anniversary.  It was a fantastic bed and breakfast, and they took fantastic care of us.  I would recommend them to anyone!  The accommodations were great, and the staff was absolutely fantastic!

After catching my Wahoo, they let me have the run of their kitchen to make an anniversary dinner for Ann.  It was a fantastic time, and we had a fantastic dinner.  The starter consisted of Wahoo medallions with a Balsamic reduction, and the main course was Wahoo tacos with black beans and salsa fresca.  What a great way to celebrate our anniversary and also my first Wahoo!

Wahoo medallions with balsamic reduction

Wahoo medallions with a balsomic reduction

Wahoo tacos with black beans and salsa fresca

Wahoo tacos with black beans and salsa fresca

Dinner in Curacao

What a great end to a great day!

Locating Early Ice Fishing Slabs

Special thanks to Matt Johnson for this guest post.  To learn more about Matt visit him on Facebook, or you can contact him through the Matt Johnson Outdoors website to plan your next ice fishing trip.

Early Ice Crappies

Crappies are a sophisticated fish, especially those slabs, and at times it can be rather confusing and frustrating for ice anglers to pinpoint slab patterns. Some lakes are abundant with slab crappies, while others are more inclined to hold smaller fish, and then you have those lakes where you can catch a mixed bag. Regardless of the lake or body of water, location is important when it comes down to being a successful crappie fisherman during the winter months. Flashers allow ice anglers to quickly determine whether or not fish are in the area and locating the elusive slab crappie is more than half the battle. If you can establish a pattern of where these fish will be holding then the rewards will come.

I always pay close attention to fall patterns, especially at late fall as the water plunges into near freezing temps. Crappies will begin staging for early ice towards the end of summer, and as fall approaches they will begin to stake out areas that they will utilize at early ice. The turn-over period is where I start. This is when the thermocline diminishes and the cool and warm water start to mix. The typically deeper water crappie patterns of the hot summer months will turn into shallower water patterns. (Keep in mind that rivers will be different and not every lake will experience the same effects either, every body of water may be different from the next). When the water mixes you will typically find the crappies in some sort of migration stage (in lakes) and they will start to slide to the initial breaks and suspend off shallow water edges instead of constantly roaming the deeper depths.

The turn-over period might not last too long. Once the water turns over and the temps drop more and more, you will begin to find fish staging in their early ice locations. Summer and late-summer crappies will stage, often times, suspended in deeper water at the same level of the top of the initial break line (flat). So if you have the top of your break reading at 10 feet on your flasher, and you drop into about 25 feet at the basin, you will find crappies suspended 15 feet off the bottom out on the basin. These fish will roam and you will often times mistake them for baitfish, or when you try to pinpoint them they just keep moving (that’s part of the reason it can be tough to find the big slabs in the hot summer months). These fish will begin staging for the winter once fall approaches and will feed on whatever is in front of them if the opportunity presents itself.

Intercepting these fish can be tough on lakes with large basins and limited structure.

I don’t typically heavily follow the crappie movements during the hot summer months since they are so sporadic, but once they begin moving into winter patterns that’s when they get my attention (I’m an ice fishing geek). Learning the fall (turn-over period and into early ice) patterns has a lot to do with finding the slabs at early ice. Smaller crappies will stack up in obvious shallow(er) spots at early ice, but you will still find some of your larger fish off the “so called” prime hotspots at early ice.

Early ice crappies will relate to the weeds, at least as long as they provide oxygen (which may last quite a ways into winter or even throughout winter in some cases). I personally don’t think that the larger crappies need to relate to those weeds, I’m not saying that you won’t catch slabs in the weeds at early ice, but I’m just saying that those weed areas tend to draw in more smaller fish as well as potato chip bluegills and hungry roaming pike. The larger crappies (concentration of fish) that I do typically find in the weeds are located in lakes where the weed line pushes out into deeper water, say 12-15 feet or even more, and I find the slabs right out on the deeper portions at early ice. Meanwhile, the smaller fish are holding shallower. Once the thermocline does a flip-flop (and disappears) and you complete the turn-over, you will notice that the crappies adjusted to a whole new area. During this time you won’t find the crappies suspended over the deeper water 24 hours a day, or even at all anymore. They will somehow relate to shallower water, whether it’s off the break, or along the deep weed edge. Once they move up into the weeds they will relate to the shallower weeds until they die off (assuming that they do in a typical lake situation), then they will cling to the oxygen-rich (slightly deeper) weeds until those are gone. Now, this is a general crappie pattern, and not true for every lake and not always true for all the larger fish. This is, how should we call it… “Crappie intuition”

Here’s how I pattern crappies throughout late summer and into early ice:

Deep Water Patterns – Your summer to late-summer pattern. Crappies will roam deeper water.

Turn-Over (thermocline dies) – Crappies move from deeper water and stage off shallower water. Keep an eye on areas where you know the crappies where at during early ice in the past and move out from there. (In between this period and the next is where I find my larger crappies at early ice)

Thermocline is Dead…Full Turn-over

Full Turn-Over – Crappies are holding off shallow structure, more tight though. Weeds are dying and fish gradually slide deeper. This can also be an early ice stage on occasion.

Early Ice – Shallow, oxygen rich weeds and primary breaks. Look for depths anywhere from 3-15 feet. Weeds will die as ice thickens and crappies will gradually move deeper. Narrows can be good too.

This is my view of a typical crappie movement from late summer to early ice for your typical lake. I have some lakes where the pattern is very different, and some lakes where you catch your early ice crappies in deeper holes. Keep in mind that these crappies that are found in the deeper holes at early ice might have already migrated shallow and already moved back out into deeper water (crappies will move back out as ice thickens, oxygen diminishes and light penetration gets worse…).

So, with that being said, where are the crappies at early ice?

Well, for one, we have the weeds, an obvious option for a good number of crappies at early ice. Shallow bays on large bodies of water are good early ice locations. Any depressions in the bays should be marked on a map and checked out as well. These are “pockets” in the weeds. I also like to find the weed edge and punch a line of holes across that as well. Breaks just off the weed edge will also hold crappies at early ice, both suspending and bottom hugging. Some of these areas will have no weeds on the actual slope, but once it flattens out again you will see more weeds, this is a prime example of an early ice slab spot. Work those deeper weeds and stay moving until you locate a school of fish. Depths of 10-15 feet are not uncommon. Also check out humps and saddles too. Weeds are good, but don’t only judge early ice spots by where the weeds are, stay open minded. Wooded areas can also hold a good number of crappies at early ice, same with rocks and muddy areas.

I also like to find spots where there is a narrow area between different portions of the lake, like “bottlenecks” and deeper channels (deep could only mean 6-7 feet). These channel areas often times freeze first and the crappies fishing can be excellent during first ice. These spots are short lived though, and the bite might only last a week or so. If you find the crappies holding in these areas at first ice, than there’s a good chance that those fish will relate to adjacent deeper water once they move towards the main lake basin.

Mouths of shallow bays are good areas to target too. Crappies will relate to the transition areas in these mouths, and once they move out from the bay these areas might be the new hot spot.

Early ice crappie locations are going to be different from body of water to body of water, but the general principles still apply:

• Look for shallow green weeds
• Focus on “structure” in the weeds (pockets, humps, edges, etc…)
• Search the primary breaks just off the shallow weeds (deeper weed lines)
• Look for any flats just off the weed line, as well as off the first break
• Narrows
• Also check deeper holes in the lakes where the average depth is shallow

Location is number one for most of the winter when it comes to crappies. Locate the aggressive school of fish and then figuring what they want is the easy part. If you find fish but there are negative than move, there typically are some active fish somewhere, and often times they won’t be far.

Early ice can produce some nice catches, and hopefully some of this will help you ice more slabs this winter.

Good Fishing,
Matt Johnson

Don’t forget to visit the Matt Johnson Outdoors website for more posts, videos, recipes, fishing reports, information on guided ice fishing trips and other great information.

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