Late Ice Season Crappies

Late Ice Season Crappies

Author: The Iowa Sportsman
Published: March 14, 2023

Check out this new article from The Iowa Sportsman!

“March is here and anglers are starting to look at their boats, bass and walleye rods, thinking about the open water season. February is the time of year when, in Iowa, most of the outdoor sports and recreation shows take place, giving a reason for thoughts of open water. The reality however soon sets in as they peek out the window and see a boat under a blanket of snow. Ice still dominates lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, and ice fishing is still the mainstay for going after crappie, though open water is not far off. March crappie fishing can be some of the most productive of the ice fishing season. Early ice, you’ll find the crappie shallow and relating to structure, by mid-season these fish have moved off to deeper water and are relating to lake contours and soft bottoms. March rolls around, the sun may be shinning a bit more on the ice and crappie will start staging and moving back into shallow water.

Open Water or Ice… That’s the Question
March is the transition time for many area lakes, early in the month you’ll likely find some decent ice to fish for crappies. March usually indicates the late ice period as far as crappies are concerned. Many of them will still be in their midwinter pattern, suspended over basin areas. There will be a lot of crappies, however, beginning the transition to staging areas in deeper water, very near the shallow bays that they will spawn in. If you draw a line directly between where you were catching them suspended over the basin during midwinter and their spring spawning areas, there’s a pretty good chance, you’ll intercept fish all along that line. During midwinter, you’ll catch more crappies at the deeper end of that line, but as ice out draws near, you’ll start to catch more crappies at the shallower end of that line. Brush piles or stump fields in deeper water, adjacent to their spawning areas can be pure gold during this time of year too, so don’t overlook those.

Electronics and a fast, light auger are ESSENTIAL! It’s not uncommon for to punch 150 holes or more over an average basin area. Go from hole to hole, dropping the transducer in and looking for suspended marks. If you don’t see one, move immediately to the next hole, repeating this process until you do see a mark. Once you find a mark, it’s simply a matter of dropping down your jig and finding out what presentation they want that day.

Late March, at least in Central and Southern Iowa you may be looking at more open water than anything. This time year we’ll still have very cool water temps, your best bet is to look for shallow open water in bays where the suns been shining or a southern breeze has been pushing into the lake. These areas will typically be warmer, attracting both predator and forage fish. Minnows suspended below a bobber next to brush piles, or if you can locate them, creek channels will be your target locations. Small plastic baits and jigs can produce as well. Weather, especially cold fronts will shut down the late March bite rather quickly, forcing fish to move back into deeper water, but they’ll continue stage off creek channels or along them, but in deeper reaches of the lake.

Where to Look
For ice fishing, the short answer is…look for the ice shacks. Anglers that fish a lake frequently have already patterned the fish, or historically will know where to look. So that’s a quick way to get into some crappie in March, but what if you’ve never been to out on this body of water, or what if you have very little experience finding crappies through the ice?”

The full article can be found here.

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