Crappies After DarkBy Dave Duwe - March 1, 2009
For late ice night fishing, I prefer fishing for the suspended crappies. I work 20-35 ft of water in the main lake basin. Focus on the locations where the basin comes tight to a steep weedline or a point. Crappies this time of year like to suspend. They will be at least 5 to 10 ft off bottom. A good fish locator is imperative to success. It will help determine where the fish are positioned in the water column. My choice is a Vexilar FL-12 with a 12" cone.
The presentation preference is a small Thill slip- bobber with a split shot and a Bait Rigs slo-poke crappie jig. For the jig, any color in glow tipped with a shiner or small fathead minnow will do. Most of the year, I will choose 1 or 2 lb test monofilament, however at night I will use 4 lb test. The larger diameter line will help visibility in low light conditions. Also, thinner diameter lines have a tendency to get tangled and hooked up on the ice around the hole. The larger diameter doesn't seem to affect the bite at all. I will always fish the maximum number of lines allowed; in Wisconsin that maximum is three. When fishing multiple lines in deep water, make sure your holes are far enough apart. Holes that are too close together will present an opportunity for lines to get tangled when a fish is on twisting and turning. Always use an augured hole 5 inch or larger, a 4 inch hole is sometimes just too small for the big slab crappies. Make sure you conserve the resource and always release the big females that are preparing to spawn. I will only keep the smaller males for the dinner table.
Some of my favorite night crappie destinations in Southern Wisconsin are Pleasant Lake and Delavan Lake, both in Walworth County; Big Cedar in Washington County, and Fox lake in Dodge County. Fox Lake has a great night bite, but the fish don't really suspend over the deep water. They tend to be in the 10-12 ft depth range.
With the warmer day time temperatures and the occasional rain, the ice conditions can deteriorate quickly. Always be aware of the current ice conditions before venturing out, especially at night when you can't see as well. The safest practice is always setting up in the daylight hours. Good Luck.