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Things to think about – A few tips for the upcoming ice season

By Staff | Dec 7, 2007

As one fishing season winds down and another gets ready to start, I always like to think about some of the things that happened during the past year of fishing. Anglers learn or re-learn something every year, and this year has been no different for this fisherman.

Starting in February on an ice-fishing trip I learned that crappies don’t always act like crappies. We were on Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota. Upper Red Lake has had some tremendous crappie fishing the past few years, but reports were that crappie numbers were down.

Crappies are notorious for being fish that suspend in the water: They’ll often be several feet off the bottom. Anglers hadn’t been seeing very many suspended fish on their sonar, so they assumed the crappies weren’t there like they used to be.

When we started fishing, we didn’t see many suspended fish either, but we did see lots right on the bottom. The assumption was that they were walleyes.

We put our baits very close to the bottom, and we didn’t get bit. We tried different lures and different colors with no success. Then someone in our group held the bait a couple of feet above the fish.

It was amazing how quickly that fish swam up to the bait and smacked it. And it wasn’t a walleye, it was a jumbo crappie, one of those 14 inchers.

We got lots of crappies to move up to take the bait, but they wouldn’t take it when it was right in their face. Either the fishing pressure over the years had forced the crappies to hug the bottom, or maybe that’s just what older, more mature crappies prefer.

Don’t know, doesn’t matter. Just remember that sometimes it’s better to keep the bait above the fish, and hardly ever do you want it below the fish.

Planer boards are often considered to be a tool for multiple line fishing. While it is true that in-line planer boards enable an angler to effectively fish several lines, even in one line states they’ll help you catch more fish.

It was early July and we were on Lake Mille Lacs in central Minnesota, a one line state. There was a bug hatch going on, and the walleyes were 10-12 feet off the bottom eating the bugs as the floated to the surface.

There were four of us in the boat. We had two lines directly behind the boat and two lines on boards out to each side. The lines with boards out-produced the flat lines five to one! That’s a lot!

The boat going overhead evidently spooked the fish, while the fish out to the side of the boat were willing to eat. The in-line boards that Off Shore Tackle makes are easy to use and will help you put more walleyes in the boat. If you haven’t discovered how productive boards can help you be, next year would be a good time to find out.

Consider the two examples we just talked about. Traditional beliefs are that crappies are suspending fish and that walleyes are bottom-huggers.

Yet in these situations, the crappies were on the bottom and the walleyes were up high. That’s the primary thing I learned about fish again this year. I re-learned that you just can’t trust fish to do what they’re supposed to do.