Enjoy the cold.
My absolute favorite time of the year to Crappie fish is the Fall/Winter. Don’t get me wrong I still do love the Spring and summer bite but catching Lots of big Crappie is a lot easier now than any other time of the year. During the cold the Crappie tend to stack up on stake beds and brush piles while putting on weight and eating everything that gets near them. The Threadfin Shad start to get very lethargic and make an easy meals for hungry fish. The Winter bite usually gets really productive when the water temp falls to 50 degrees and below.
I like the fact that you don’t have any need to buy, maintain or mess with minnows during this period. Those hungry Crappie will nail a jig harder than a minnow. It’s tough to say why they prefer a live minnows during the warm months. I’m sure it has to do with food availability and metabolism if I had to guess. The fact that they will try to knock the rod out of your hand is all that matters.
Don’t get in a hurry. Crappie are very active during the Winter unlike other species but sometimes it still may take a few minutes to entice a bite. Once the water hits the 35 degree mark they may prefer the bait sitting as still as you can hold it. This replicates those dying Shad we talked about earlier. Many fisherman think they should downsize now but I disagree. I still use a 3/16 ounce jig head and a 3″ slab slater bait usually. Sometimes on the lower end of a lake in the clearer water I will use a smaller bait. I always use 20# hi visable braided line. I got so tired of retying constantly after getting snagged. Once I started using braid it actually took me a while to get used to it. However, I quickly realized it was the best decision I made concerning my line. You will feel a lot more and be able to pull your hooks free and only need to bend it back with plyers. One of the biggest misconceptions of Crappie fishing is that we need to use light line, small baits and flimsy rods. Try a stout, high grade rod with some strong braid and a jig head you can actually feel and you will experience a whole new world of Crappie fishing .
The hardest part of Winter fishing is getting dressed! Layers, layers, layers. Never put cotton on your skin. Now we have some great materials and the comfort is amazing. Try some polyester made for cold weather as a under layer. Get some good wool/polyester socks and Hot Hands are a staple in my boat. I use these in my boots and in my gloves. Neck Gaiters are also a great invention. You will also need a quality pair of insulater Gortex bibs and a good parka. Don’t forget the hot coffee or some chicken noodle soup in a thermous. It’s amazing what hot food does for your body and soul.
I also have a couple of other tricks I use on a regular basis. I keep a towel in the boat so when I grab my wet marker buoy I can dry it off and hold with the towel. I also use one of those grabber to reach in the water to grab the marker. I even have a coat for Hank and he wears it with pride. Getting out of the boat and walking around or hopping in the truck to warm up and eat lunch is a great way to take a break and warm your toes and fingers.
I hope this helped a little. I wrote it tonight because it is in the 20s here and I am headed to the lake in the morning. I have all my clothes laid out so I don’t forget anything important. Take your time, move slow in the boat and be very carefull. Oh and wear your life jacket! Yes, I have fallen in the water in January and it sucked! Have fun out there and remember to take a kid fishing. It will mean the world to them. Andy.