Check Mid-Depths For November Crappies

By Ted Peck - November 1, 2008
Our recent monster cold front last weekend brought most fishing activity to a screeching halt. Exceptions to this pre-winter wake up call are walleyes, muskies and crappies.

Walleyes and muskies (and their respective kin saugers and northern pike) get most of the attention from the few who are still out there on the water. This suits retired Beloit firefighter Bobby Burnett just fine. Crappies are his favorite target.

"November is a time of profound change for those big slabbers" Burnett grins "Over the next 30 days crappies will move from suspending over the middle of the water column in deep water into the shallows where you'll find them when it's time to break out the ice fishing rods again".

In lakes and flowages main lake points with steep vertical breaklines and water several feet above prominent structure on the bottom are keys to November crappie location. Burnett likes to target the old creek channel on sprawling Lake Wisconsin, home of some of the biggest crappies in the southern part of the state. "Good electronics are critical in locating crappies this time of year unless you're targeting fish in a river" Burnett said "I can't imagine how Grandpa caught these fish in the fall. It had to be a combination of trial, error and experience. Invention of the old Lowrance 'green box' back in the 60's changed fishing forever".

With modern electronics Burnett said he has no problem fine tuning his crappie attack at places he used to fish randomly as a child. "There are a couple of main lake points and some bottom structure near the Merrimac trestle which really illustrate the value of electronics" Burnett said. "I still tie a little piece of thread on my line when I find suspended fish. But if it weren't for electronics I would never find the big pile of junk here that crappies suspend 10-14 feet above this time of year".

Burnett typically fishes two lines when probing for November crappies. One has a small minnow impaled under the dorsal fin fished under a slip bobber about two feet above the electronic signatures of fish on his flasher unit. "Crappies usually feed from below. They may rise vertically several feet to take a bait, but they will seldom go deeper than the depth where you find them holding. An 'in your face' presentation won't work either. Crappies are prey species. They need to feel like they are attacking smaller prey. Hang a minnow at the same depth they are holding and they tend to be afraid-maybe they think it's a little piranha or something".

Burnett's favorite fall crappie rod is an IM-7 graphite seven footer with an extremely fast tip. On the business end is a 1/16-1/32 oz. feather, marabou or plastic tail on a tiny jighead. "On stained waters like Lake Wisconsin chartreuse and white are usually the most productive colors" Burnett said "on a clear lake like Mendota off of Maple Bluff it seems like any color will work-so long as it's purple. Bait presentation is the most important component, followed by color". Burnett uses six pound test Crystal FireLine with a 2 lb. fluorocarbon leader when fishing clear lakes like Mendota. On flowages like Lake Wisconsin and probing deep timber on river systems like the Mississippi he doesn't use a leader. "FireLine and other super braids don't stretch so they telegraph the bite better" Burnett said "I always keep one eye on the electronics and my finger on top of the rod blank. Sometimes the bite is a negative sensation. You feel the little jig down there and all of a sudden the weight is gone. Chances are a crappie inhaled the thing from below and is swimming up in the water column".

Next to Lake Wisconsin my favorite place to chase fall crappies is over on the Mississippi" the retired firefighter said "I look for a fallen tree in the backwaters with the end of the brush over at least 10 feet of water, and then I drop the line four feet down between the branches. It seems like every tree which holds crappies has a sweet spot. Find that special location between two certain branches and you can leave the livewell open until you've caught a limit".

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.