Fishing guide Brian Brosdahl doesnít mind fighting rough
water to reach the walleyes his clients often want to fish
for. But on his day off, Brosdahl likes to take things easy.
Thatís why he likes chasing crappies. ďI like crappie fishing
because itís relaxing,Ē said Brosdahl, who lives at Cass Lake
in northern Minnesota. ďIf the water is calm enough to have
a coffee cup sitting on the front without spilling, thatís
the kind of day I like.Ē Donít get the wrong idea. Weíre not
just talking about dropping a line with live bait to catch
a few small fish here and there. Brosdahl pursues trophy crappies
that top two pounds. He keeps a few of the ďsmallerĒ 1-pound
fish for the pan. Nowís the time of the year he looks forward
to most. Big fish become vulnerable as they go on a feeding
binge when lakes begin to thaw, he said. If the ice hasnít
started to recede in your area by now, it soon will. Northwoods
panfishermen get antsy during that period when the ice is
melting and before they can launch their boats. They know
crappies are moving into shallow bays to feed. ďInsect life
goes crazy when the ice goes out. Crappies are fantastic,Ē
Brosdahl said. The first three days after boats hit the water
are some of the best days of the calendar for big crappies,
he said. Then, weather and wind will inevitably push fish
out again. Never fear, they soon return and will snap at your
bait with a vengeance. Ice out Brosdahl arms himself with
a rod at least 6-feet long. Ultralights with soft tips are
best because crappie mouths are paper-thin. A hard hookset
will pull the hook right out. The slower rod action helps
make longer sweeping motions that set the hook without losing
the fish. Light line is a must.
||Water early in spring will be as clear as it will be
all year long. Four-pound line is OK. Brosdahl uses 3-pound
test. But, big crappies can break 2-pound line, which
you should avoid. Believe it or not, for the crappies
Brosdahl is after, a net is a good idea, too. ďYou can
try to lip them if you want, but Iíve seen really big
crappies, 2-pounders, lost beside the boat,Ē he said.
Use a slip-bobber rig. Brosdahl prefers Thill floats.
The clear water requires long-distance casts to avoid
spooking fish, and Thill floats are colorful and easy
to see. He can also weight them with split shot so they
cast farther while still being balanced to signal light
bites. Brosdahl uses Little Nipper jigs and Genz Bugs.
He adds a wax worm or a maggot or small minnow as live
bait. When the hot bite is on, Techni-Glo tails are often
enough. Brosdahl is among the crappie experts who believe
that color can be important. With Genz Bugs, he likes
red glow, blue glow, green and chartreuse. Sometimes,
plainer is better. With Little Nippers, try black with
a white head. Try one rod rigged with glow and one without
to see if crappies have a preference. Youíre generally
fishing in water from 4 to 6 feet deep. Set the bobber
with the jig suspended 1-foot down, then try setting it
deeper and deeper until you start getting bites.
|As a general rule, deeper settings work better on sunny
days. But, donít set the bait too low or it will be below
the view of the crappies. They feed up. Where to start?
Brosdahl said that northwest bays are the first to see
action. They warm first due to the angle of the sun and
the food chain gets underway in that section of nearly
every lake early in the year as a result. The calendar
will read late April or early May in Brosdahlís neighborhood.
Good sunglasses and stealth are both keys. Enter the bays
quietly and scan the water for weeds.
Watch for movement on the surface, which may indicate that
fish are present. Then cast beyond the weeds and reel the
slip bobber back over the vegetation. Any wood in the water
is another great target. That first short window of opportunity
produces some of Brosdahlís biggest crappies of the year.
But, weather changes often in the spring. The first severe
cold front, especially one with wind, will send crappies scurrying
out of the bay. They donít go far, usually only to the first
breakline towards deeper water. Water may be 15 feet deep
or so. There may be no weeds in the area at all and may relate
solely to the drop-off. Go slowly and quietly with your electric
trolling motor along the break looking for fish by fan-casting
as you move. Once you find fish, move upwind, anchor and cast
back to them.
ZT Underwater Viewing Camera
|It may be best to anchor on clear lakes while still
in the search mode rather than using your electric motor
to avoid spooking crappies. As water warms to the upper
40ís and low 50ís, minnows are numerous in the bays. Thatís
when crappies return to the shallow weeds and wood. When
the water reaches the mid-60ís, look for crappies near
hard-bottomed areas near a transition with soft bottom
where they spawn, Brosdahl said. They like bullrushes
and cabbage nearby. Surface temperature isnít always the
same as a few feet below. An Aqua-Vu with a temperature
gauge can help. If they arenít on spawning beds when you
think they should be, remember that large lakes take longer
to warm than small ones. It may take fish two or three
days to show up on the nests. If action is slow at one
lake, donít be afraid to trailer your boat to another
where the crappies could be in a frenzy. No matter the
species, it takes years for fish to reach trophy size.
Be content to take only a few smaller crappies for a meal.
Keep only one for the wall, or consider taking pictures
and measurements to have a graphite reproduction made.
Relax, take it easy. Itís crappie time
An Aqua-Vu with a temperature gauge can help. If they arenít
on spawning beds when you think they should be, remember that
large lakes take longer to warm than small ones. It may take
fish two or three days to show up on the nests. If action
is slow at one lake, donít be afraid to trailer your boat
to another where the crappies could be in a frenzy. No matter
the species, it takes years for fish to reach trophy size.
Be content to take only a few smaller crappies for a meal.
Keep only one for the wall, or consider taking pictures and
measurements to have a graphite reproduction made. Relax,
take it easy. Itís crappie time.