It was a long haul to the back bay of our chosen lake. Even though our faces were well covered, the four wheeler ride was more than a little fresh. I was quite happy when we arrived at our destination!

My fishing partner, Steve Taylor, was well experienced in the art of locating fish. Working as a team, we started cruising through the deep basin we were targeting to see if we could pinpoint any suspended crappies.

We had both angled this area dozens of times over the years and were quite confident there would be fish somewhere in the basin. Some days, like today, it took a little more time to find them.

When we finally did start marking crappies on our Vexilars, we were a bit dismayed at the quantity. There didn’t appear to be any schools of fish but usually just one or two. Still, fish are fish and we began the process of drilling out a bunch of holes in the vicinity.

Past experience had taught us that these fish, like many other winter basin crappies, are real roamers. For that reason, we cut more than a dozen holes in the general area we were marking fish.

The process of hole-hopping to keep up with roaming crappies is just part of the game in the winter. By dropping a transducer into a hole, it is easy to see if there is anybody home. If there is, we drop a jig down to greet them, if not, we keep looking.

Although the bite was slow, we did manage to get numerous crappies on the ice. We also discovered that we had not cut nearly enough holes. As the morning progressed, we kept expanding our fishing area in an effort to keep up with the ever moving fish.

Gradually, our targeted fish disappeared and this spot was done. Since the day was still young, we loaded up the gear and moved on to search out another basin further down the lake.

Winter fishing for crappies and bluegills is often like this. It is a game of hide and seek where mobility is a critical factor for success. This is especially true of anglers like Taylor and me that do our fishing during the daylight hours.

Undoubtedly, we have locations where consistent evening bites do take place. Dozens of ice houses are set in these deep holes as anglers show up late in the day to take advantage of the crappies that move in at dusk.

Our goal is to locate these fish during the daylight hours and be home by the time darkness sets in. Sometimes it is easy to do and other times, not so much.

Daytime crappies are often very neutral biters. For this reason, small jigs, light line and sensitive rods are a must. I nearly always fish with plastic on my jig and usually tip it with one or two Euro larvae. I never use minnows for daytime crappies.

I won’t say we are successful 100 % of the time, but we are very consistent at locating fish. Again, it is a mobility thing. If they aren’t at one location, we check another. Typically, crappies are often found in the same deep basins year after year.

Everyone has their own approach to winter angling and it is important to do what a person enjoys. For me and my angling cronies, that means working through the location issues that are associated with frozen water success.

Aggressive searching for the correct location is the key. After all, winter panfish are experts at hide and seek.


About The Author

Jerry Carlson

Jerry started his outdoor career in 1987 when he began writing for Outdoors Weekly. He currently writes about a 130 articles a year for various publications in the Midwest. In addition to writing and giving numerous hunting and fishing seminars, Jerry does weekly radio shows on two St. Cloud, Minnesota stations; WJON and WWJO. He also authored a book called Details for Locating and Catching Fish. Hunting and fishing photos and articles written by Jerry, along with his email address, can be found at Jerry fishes all species but prefers crappies in the winter and bass in the summer. He also loves to hunt Canada geese in the fall.