Thursday, March 7, 2013

I Can't Believe it, Crappies!!

My first keeper crappie of the season
So, after chasing crappies on and off for the last 3 weeks, my neighbor Pete finally had the lead on the fish that we were looking for, a nice mess of crappies.  Based on our experience a few weeks ago when I went with him, he had better come up with something better than the last hot tip he got.  Actually I am a patient guy and trying new lakes is always interesting and one never knows, you could learn a thing or two.  Agreeing to meet at 12:30 on Saturday, he had minnows from the week before while I made an early morning run to my friend's Bill Lundeen to get my Vexilar and pick up some additional bait.  Having a cup of coffee with Bill and Kathy is a great way to spend the morning and with the new Mille Lacs regulations being discussed, we had plenty of things  to talk about.  After solving all of the days problems I grabbed a pack of Frosty ice jigs, a dozen waxies, my electronics, and a box of maggots then headed south.  Finishing up with a few things around the house I packed up my equipment, auger, and after deciding to fish out of one house, drove a block to pick up Pete.  Not sure how to get to his secret lake north of Princeton, we took the scenic route only to find upon arrival that there was no way to access the lake!  Discussing our options maybe his friend meant the lake across the street.  It certainly didn't appear that it was much of a secret as there were at least 200 houses and cars on the lake.  Well, it was the only lead we had and I wasn't going back to Green Lake again.  There was a vast area between 2 clumps of houses so we decided to look at this area as there was only one other guy in the area.  Asking how deep, he confirmed 17 feet, this was exactly what I was looking for.   Drilling about 10 holes to check things out, we got a good feel for the structure and started fishing.  Perch, perch. perch, they were everywhere and not a one over 7 inches.  Full of black spots, they weren't very inviting as we let all but a couple of the larger ones go.  As the sun began to set Pete decided we needed to be warmer so cleaning the snow off the ice, we set up his 2 man Clam and fired up the heater.  Although I don't mind fishing outside, once the sun went behind the clouds the holes started to freeze up pretty fast and I headed into the Clam.  As darkness grew I noticed marks higher up off the bottom, maybe 12 - 13 feet.  Bringing up my lure the fish struck but I missed.  With my waxie gone I knew that my lure had to change, a Frosty Ice jig with a #8 hook, something larger as crappies tend to simply inhale the lure and you need to set the hook as soon as the tension leaves your line.  That made a huge difference as the very next fish represented the first keeper crappie I had caught all season, not huge but a start!  For the next 90 minutes the bite simply got better.  As I kept hooking fish, I suggested to Pete that he change his lure as I thought the hook he was using was too small.  A quick change and he landed two immediately.  Unfortunately his urge to prove he could catch one on his own terms was way to much pressure and he went back to his old methods.  We ended up with 17 nice crappies ranging from 9 to 11.25 inches.  Crappies can be deceiving 
A nice batch of 9 to 11 inch fish

as an 11 incher looks just like one over 12 inches!  Deciding I needed a picture of our fish before forgetting we laid them on the ice for a pose.  As we were admiring our catch one of the fish nearest my hole took a flip, landed in the water and swam off before I could reach far enough down the hole to get it.  Damn, we'll have to stay to replace it.  By 9:30 we were successful in getting the one that got away, the bite had slowed so we packed up and headed to the bar for supper.  It definitely was my best day for crappies in 2 years as well finally broke my 2013 ice fishing drought.  One thing about larger crappies is they tend to swim up to the bait and just inhale it.  No tell tale tug, simply a slight movement of your line as the tension comes off the rod tip.  You better be quick and watch your line as they can spit it out as fast as they suck it in.  Although I used to be a big spring bobber fan, they can be somewhat delicate.  Learning from my friend Kevin, the master of line detection ice fishing, I'm getting much better with my Black Betty setup and not as good as him its close.

Just have to show another picture!

Dropping Pete off at his shed at 11:30, I decided to take care of the fish myself.  With a couple of smaller perch, I clean 19 fish.  On Sunday an impromptu fish fry developed at my neighbor Toolman Tim's where we fried up the fillets in my 20 inch frying pan while Pete's wife brought over the potatoes, I brought the beans and tarter sauce while Connie made a fruit dish.  It's amazing how many crappie fillets you can get in a 20 inch pan, we had them all fried up in about 10 minutes.  Nothing tastes better than a last minute fish fry with the neighbors!  The pressures on to do a repeat.  We had another 10 inches of snow early in the week and I expect the lakes to be difficult at best to travel on.  We are looking at rain on Saturday, maybe enough to knock the snow down and the prediction for next week is in the 40's.  The good news is we need the moisture as last fall was very dry, affecting the rivers and lakes.  With 10 - 15 inches of snow cover on most of the lakes, it will be interesting to see if I can get out this weekend and repeat my success.

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