Here are 4 tips that will definitely help you catch the makings of your own cold weather fish fry.
1. Fish near bottom around steep ledges and drop offs, around heavy concentrations of shad.
2. Use small live minnows and jigs and move the baits vertically occasionally. The bite is very subtle and crappie will often simply suck in the bait and you will never feel the strike.
3. Move when the bite slows. When baitfish and crappie move, it’s necessary to locate another school.
4. If wind is light, use the trolling motor rather than the anchor to stay on the fish.
Like most casual crappie fisherman, the majority of my fishing has been in the spring when the fish are packed into the shallows during the spawn or, when they are stacked up around standing timber or brush during the summer. Fishing deep, open water as we were about to do is far different than dunking jigs or minnows in the shallows. I depend heavily on sonar and GPS to locate ideal bits of structure holding baitfish.
Some winter crappie fishermen simply use their trolling motor and move around until they catch a crappie, then they toss out a marker buoy and fish until the school moves out. This time of year, when the water temperature is at its lowest of the year, shad and crappie relate to deep ledges. I use GPS to first locate the ledges, often situated around sharp bends in the submerged creeks, then study my sonar and look for heavy concentrations of baitfish. Once the bait is located, crappie are almost always nearby, usually holding near bottom under the shad.
Small live minnows or brightly colored jigs are my favorite baits for deep cold water bottom fishing. Sometime the bite is very subtle, even with bigger crappie that push a couple pounds apiece. It’s hard to ‘feel’ the subtle bites during periods of heavy wind. Slowly lift and lower the bait occasionally. I catch lots of these ‘soft biters’ when I raise the rod tip and suddenly discover they have taken the baits.
Hooking Panama Gold: Monster Roosterfish