CROW WING COUNTY – Having missed the easy-pickings run of black crappies to warm, shallow water shortly after ice-out, I nevertheless headed to this part of the state the other day hoping to find a meal of these slab-shaped fish.
My wife, Jan, was along, and while I rigged a few spinning rods at lakeside and provisioned a small aluminum boat, she assembled a fly rod, tied on a miniature popper and started casting from shore to the edge of an emergent weedline.
This was in late morning, and I figured any crappies that had sought zooplankton, baitfish and other munchies near shore in the hour or two after sunup had already split for deeper environs.
But in no time my wife proved me wrong, a not uncommon occurrence. “This is a good one,’’ she said, and I turned to see her beach a bigger-than-hand-size sample of our targeted fish.
Eager now to catch crappies myself, I quickened my preparation pace. But before we pushed from shore in the boat, Jan had two more crappies on our stringer, both caught on the fly. This will be a no-brainer, I figured, and as we patrolled the lake’s shoreline, I also looped a popper into the shallows.
Fishing, ultimately, is shrouded in mystery. So perhaps it should have come as no surprise that our fly casting didn’t fool another fish. “We have to try something else,’’ I said.
Using a sonar unit, we found the lake’s greatest depth, about 20 feet. Storing the fly rods, we rigged two spinning rods with 1/32nd-ounce jigs with plastic tubes and crappie minnows, then lowered the rigs to a foot or so off the bottom.
Only minutes passed before fish suddenly appeared and disappeared on the locator, finning by in 10 to 12 feet of water. “Reel up,’’ I said. Jan did, and as quickly we both hooked keeper crappies.
Had we waited until evening, say the last hour of light, we likely could have again caught crappies on poppers in shallow water.
But we didn’t have that kind of time, and anyway, jig-fishing for crappies is fun.
The trick now in early summer is finding these fish as they transition from their springtime warm-water haunts to deeper, cooler water, before returning again to shallower water to spawn.
Usually this occurs when temperatures of waters 6 to 8 feet deep reach about 60 degrees — a benchmark that’s fast occurring, or soon will occur, across the southern and central parts of Minnesota.