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Cool Water Crappies

By Dave Duwe - October 1, 2007
October is Crappie time. As the days get shorter and the nights are cool it signals the time that black Crappies once again start to school. And they are hungry, very hungry. Other than the spring spawn this is the best time of year to catch a bunch of fat and feisty crappies.

On the lakes I fish most, like Delavan Lake or Lake Geneva in Walworth County, WI, the fish will suspend over open water. For lakes in the northern parts of the state they move to the heavy wood.

"During the fall you catch some of the biggest crappies of the year..."
The controlling factor is the depth of the lake. The deeper the body of water the more the tendency is for the fish to suspend over open water. They are feeding on the ample fall minnows, switching to the zoo plankton food sources for the winter months.

The essential tool is a good graph. I prefer a Vexilar Edge 3, a great color unit with dual transducers, however any unit with high resolution should do. The reason for a good unit is it will help you locate the suspended schools which are readily seen. I prefer to start searching the main lake basin by main lake points. Don't start fishing until you find a school. The depth of water doesn't matter; it is the position of the fish in the water column. As a rule the fish are 10-15 ft down anywhere from 25-40 ft of water.

When schooled, crappies are relatively easy to catch as they are feeding, so one just needs to present the bait at the proper depth. This can be accomplished by slip bobber rigs, Bait Rigs, Willospoon, or an Arkie 1/32 oz lead head jig on a small twister tail. I find the best colors are white, purple or chartreuse. The slip bobber and Willospoon I will tip with wax worms or a minnow, the twister tails I will fish without any live bait. I will set the slip bobber at the depth of the active fish, the Willospoon I will fish straight beneath the boat. For the jig/twister tail combo I will make long casts with a countdown approach to achieve the desirable depth. It takes just a bit of experimentation to determine where the active fish are. Of course, the longer the pause, the deeper the jig will go. I use a slow retrieve, with numerous stops and starts, most of the time the fish will hit on the pause. I prefer using a shorter 6' light rod with ultra light reel spooled with 4 lb. SilverThread line. It seems the shorter rod is easier to control. Try experimenting with the retrieve to find what works for you, as a rule, slow is always pretty good for me.

"Don't start fishing until you find a school."

I normally drift fish or use my Minn-kota bow mount trolling motor to position my boat over the fish. Due to the relatively deep water, anchoring is tough to do because of the amount of anchor line you need to let out. In fall it always seems to be windy. During the fall you catch some of the biggest crappies of the year, they are bulking up for winter. Give fall crappie fishing a try, you won't be disappointed.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website .
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