It’s a crisp November day, and Derek Samson and I’ve a college of black crappie all to ourselves. The fish are suspending up 10 toes off backside over a 30-foot deep flat. Samson is vertically jigging and video-gaming fish utilizing the console’s sonar. I’m casting a Williams Ice Jig off the bow. I let the spoon freefall for 10 seconds, then start a retrieve of 12-inch lifts and pauses to let it flutter down tantalizingly.

It doesn’t take lengthy for a crappie to chunk and we have one other fish aboard for tonight’s supper. As I drop my catch into the livewell, he tosses in one other. “Doubleheader,” he says with a chuckle. It could not be the final time we doubled up that day.

Chasing deep-water crappie in autumn presents the right mixture of problem and reward in my guide. If I’ve piqued your curiosity, right here’s what you want to know to get on this enjoyable late-season chunk.

Areas and depths

There are two frequent patterns relating to autumn crappie areas in lakes. One is fish relate to deep, wholesome vegetation near deep water. The opposite, and our focus right here, is fish orienting round constructions and flats in 15 to 30-plus toes of water.

Mike Miller:

“In October and November, I’ve deer on the mind, so I might be mendacity if I stated I’m an professional at fall crappie; nonetheless, I do have a way for them solely as a result of I prefer to get out and discover some spots for ice fishing earlier than freeze up,” stated Mike Miller, host of Angler & Hunter Tv. “When the water drops into the 40s, I virtually all the time discover faculties of crappies on outdoors weed edges nearest the deepest break, often 16 to 19 toes.”

Miller finds that crappie desire the breaks of factors truly fizzling out flats in addition to the steep drop-offs of saddles connecting to the final areas the place weed development happens earlier than the basin. Usually fishing throughout noon (when he’s not in a deer stand), he commonly catches crappie from the underside of the break. Late afternoon till night, he notes crappie could slide up and place alongside deep weed edges.

Rob Jackson:

Southeastern Ontario fishing information Rob Jackson isn’t any stranger to catching fall crappie. He, too, catches deep crappie round constructions jutting into the basin.

“Discovering underwater rocky factors is necessary,” he stated. “I usually catch them on the second drop, the place it sort of steps down from 15 to 30 toes earlier than it goes into the basin.”

Travis Stromness:

For Travis Stromness of Dryden, rocky factors, remoted islands, and reefs close to deep basin flats are frequent hangouts for crappie throughout autumn in Sundown Nation lakes. These constructions maintain bait and crappie as they transition from their summer time areas, consisting of bays and factors, to deeper flats and holes the place they’ll spend winter, he explains.

“You can begin shallow in early fall, trying in 12 to fifteen toes for suspended fish,” Stromness stated. “In a while, I’ll be trying in that 15 to 23-foot vary, and presumably deeper relying on the water physique.”

By late fall, Stromness is catching crappie from deep mud flats within the 20 to 25-foot vary. Crappie collect round delicate rises, ridges, and holes situated on the dishpan terrain.

Sonar work

It is advisable use sonar. Conventional 2D sonar, together with side-imaging sonar (if in case you have it), is necessary for locating fall crappie. In case you’ve ice-fished for crappie on deep construction, you already know they are often glued to backside or suspended. Preserve each eventualities in thoughts when surveying areas. Be looking out, too, for education baitfish.

Use a GPS with lake contour maps to get on factors, saddles, reefs, and different constructions close to the basin. Maps may even reveal the 20 to 30-foot flats, however hardly ever reveal the delicate options recognized to pay attention crappie.

“Lakemaster or Navionics charting doesn’t present you these small rises or holes. It takes time to search out these candy spots,” Stromness stated.

Use waypoints to save lots of the placement of fish-holding gems. I additionally discover my chartplotter’s boat path function is a helpful visible for deciphering crappie motion patterns on deep flats.


Mike Miller:

“I really fish them the identical means I might by means of the ice, VMC Tungsten Nymph and Luv Bug jigs and small Rapala Slab Raps fished vertically proper overtop of them,” Miller stated. “I take advantage of my Humminbirds to search out ‘em and Minn Kota’s Spot-Lock function to remain over them. It’s like my Lund is a transportable ice shack.”

Tim Allard:

I additionally catch fall crappie utilizing numerous ice-fishing lures. I begin with 1.5 to three-inch minnow imitating baits to enchantment to aggressive fish. A Rapala Jigging Rap (dimension 3), or the same gliding lure, together with jigging spoons are good locations to begin.

A lift-fall-pause-shake sequence is commonly all that’s wanted to persuade a crappie to chew. Anticipate strikes because the lure falls or because it involves relaxation.

Jigs additionally put lots of crappie in my boat. When crappie are fired up, they’ll eat a three-inch plastic. I’ve had success with Berkley PowerBait TwitchTail Minnows, Berkley MaxScent Minnows and Z-Man Hula Stickz trimmed down. If unsuccessful, I’ll downsize and comply with the same troubleshooting sequence as Stromness (see under). Having buddies within the boat experimenting with totally different baits quickens this course of.

Rob Jackson:

When crappie are tight to backside, Jackson says drop-shotting is efficient. He runs a #1 hook about 18 inches off backside. A small dwell minnow on this rig is irresistible. He additionally drop-shots a three-inch Berkley Gulp! Minnow. The factitious catches loads of crappie and is extra sturdy than dwell bait.

“Minnows are nice if you’ll be able to get them and hold them,” Stromness stated. “I’ll go as massive as a medium grade minnow on a 1⁄8-ounce jig when I’m attempting to find these hungry, jumbo crappie.”

Travis Stromness:

Nymphs and different invertebrates comprise a lot of a crappie’s weight loss program within the lakes Stromness fishes. Not surprisingly, he does nicely with one and-a-half to two-inch tubes, minnows, crayfish, and different buggy profiled plastics fished on 1⁄16 and 1⁄8-ounce heads. Tied jigs additionally issue closely in his arsenal.

Keep above them

“You will need to perceive that crappie feed upward, so that you need to all the time hold your bait above their head moderately than bouncing backside such as you would for walleyes,” Stromness stated. Working the bait a number of toes above the herd attracts fish up and out of the college, which implies a hooked fish is much less prone to spook the herd. 

There are exceptions, although. Impartial temper crappie can require extra finessing and is probably not considering rising far to strike a bait. On this case, begin a number of toes over the fish, then progressively drop the presentation nearer to the fish till you attain the strike zone. 

3 baits for casting

After you’ve vertically jigged crappie for some time, the motion can wane. Attempt making just a few casts earlier than shifting on. Pitching and retrieving a lure exhibits fish one thing totally different. Additionally strive staying again from a college and tossing a bait to them.

Suspending crappie will strike numerous lures retrieved over their heads. A number of I’ve had good success with not too long ago are the Williams Ice Jig (facet hooks eliminated), Lunkerhunt Large Eye tail spin, VMC Sizzling Skirt Glow Jig, and the soft-plastic and jig mixtures famous above.

It could take a while to determine the most effective retrieve. A sluggish one to two-foot carry adopted by a managed fall is one confirmed cadence. Gradual reeling and frivolously nodding the rod tip can be potent.

It’s important to put within the time

“It’s okay to have sluggish days,” Stromness stated. “It permits you to exclude the lifeless water and work in direction of discovering the productive areas of a lake.”

I couldn’t agree extra and have been humbled by crappie previously. What’s necessary to bear in mind, to paraphrase Miller, is you don’t have to be an professional to get on a crappie chunk in autumn. Decide to placing within the time to discover deep constructions and flats, and shortly sufficient you’ll be rewarded with incredible fall fishing and engaging fillets for the frying pan.

Catch & hold

Anglers should pay attention to the potential dangers of barotrauma when catching crappie from deep water. Hooking fish off ledges in 16 to 19 toes of water is one factor, however bringing up a crappie from 30 toes is one other and prone to finish badly for the fish if launched. Plan to reap sufficient deep-caught fish for a meal, then transfer and take a look at discovering them round weed edges, change to a different species, or head to your deer stand.

Initially revealed within the Fall 2022 problem of Ontario OUT of DOORS

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