Monday, February 10, 2014

Snowy Saturday Crappies

I was up late Friday night so I didn't want to be up at the crack of dawn to go fishing on Saturday. The weather was supposed to be cold until early afternoon when we could expect warmer temperatures in the 20s and a forecasted 1-4 inches of snow. I packed up slowly and took my time getting to the lake I was planning on fishing today.  Maybe I took a little too much time.

I hadn't been parked long before my windshield was completely covered by big, fluffy snowflakes. I knew the slog from my car to the area I knew to be productive would be hindered by the snow. The deeper it gets the harder it is to drag a sled along behind you.  I'm 6'2".  I mention that to show what I was walking through for the first 50 yards pulling my Frabill Trekker Max shelter.

Those are my knees.  I have a strap tied to the rope for pulling the shelter.  I take this strap and loop it around my waist.  Then I walk until I need to stop to take a breather.  I finally got to an area I figured was in the basin I've identified as good multi-species area. I drilled holes and walked around flashing, looking for fish and a drop off. I drilled a bunch of holes and my depth stayed around seven feet.  I carried a new rod with me; a Frabill Straight-Line combo.  I found one hole with bottom activity.  I dropped the dark Bentley jig down to the level of the commotion on my flasher.  The commotion came up and ate my jig.  What would the commotion be?

Snow courtesy of Google Auto Awesome
It was a crappie!  I love catching crappies!  They are a fish with plenty of personality that hit minnows differently than they hit jigs, than they hit spoons, than they hit Darters and Zippers.  I decided to set up my shelter here.  At least there was one crappie here.  There is almost never only one crappie in an area as they are schooling fish.  I hadn't been in my shelter very long when I found another crappie.  

Then another...

The perch pattern Clam tungsten jig seemed to be the ticket for the crappies today.  The ticket to a 12"+ crappie for me!

I know, I need to get a bump-board to measure fish on before the Kayak Wars season starts up. For now I measure crappie against objects in my ice equipment. See the crappie overflowing the corner-to-corner hold.  The corner-to-corner measurement is 12".  The side to side measurement is 10.75".  That is important to remember after I change jigs.  That happens right about now.

That's an 11" crappie!  I changed to a big glow-in-the-dark Clam tungsten jig with red eyes and accents, tipped with a red maggie and red spikes for extra flavor.  It worked! Drop the jig to the bottom, whap it against the bottom a few times, then raise up a foot or two and watch the crappie zoom in and whack the jig.  I lost a few at the hole that I swear were larger than the 12" but they didn't stay stuck to the jig so I can't prove it.

I caught several more crappie, lost several more, finally what made me decide to stop fishing was I melted my 2# ice line with my heater and the jig dropped off behind it. 

The snow was still falling.  I had to shake it off my shelter as I packed it up.  I had readied my body for the long walk through deep snow back to my car and I still made several stops along the way to catch my breath. The shelter slides easily over ice but snow is a whole other matter.

The ice is good and thick and should stay that way for several more trips out on top of the lakes and ponds.  I hope the ice stays and the snow goes.  I don't mind fishing in the snow but it sure makes it hard to drag my creature comforts with me.  It's those comforts that make it nice to catch Snowy Saturday Crappies.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rippin' Lips with the Zipper

I got out on the ice early Saturday morning. Pondboy and I drove separately and DuPage Angler member JC1Crappies beat us to the pond.  JC1 drilled test holes before Pondboy and I arrived and was taunting us with pictures of crappie he was catching in the pre-dawn snow.  Pondboy and I dragged our sleds out onto the ice.

The snow we had earlier in the week was four inches deep for most of our walk to where JC1 was catching fish.  Pondboy got ahead of me but half way to JC1 he dropped to his knees and then fell on his back.  I yelled his name a few times before he popped up on his knees and resumed dragging his sled.  Once I caught up to him I found out he was making a snow angel.  I reminded him of our age and that I thought he could be having a heart attack.  He promised not to do any more snow angels unless I was close enough to know he was just playing around.

We drilled holes, flashed the holes, found bottom structure we liked and set up our shelters. Pretty soon after setup I was able to tease a mark up to my jig and get it to eat. 

A very nice sized crappie came up for a photo!  I thanked it for eating my jig and let it slip back into the cold water below my shelter.  The bite slowed and not many marks appeared on my Vexilar.  I decided to change tactics and stop using marmooska style jigs and use a bait that would call the fish to it.  Another DuPage Angler member CSimon caught a very decent perch from this pond two years ago.  This memory guided my lure choice.  I pulled out a Plano box and picked a Salmo Zipper in Hot Perch color.  

It wasn't long before the commotion made by ripping the Zipper up and down in the water column made light marks appear on my flasher.  I settled the lure down near the bottom and wiggled my rod to make the Zippper rattle lightly.  A mark moved in quickly.  I teased it up to mid-column before it bit.

A crappie ate my Zipper. Look how far down this fish's mouth the Zipper is.  This would be the way almost all fish would eat the Zipper today.  I released this nice speck and dropped in for a chance at another fish.  It didn't take long.

This guy T-Boned it!  That means he shot in from the side, opened his big crappie mouth and GULP!! This Zipper fishing is great fun!  I wonder if any other species will eat the Zipper.

That's what I figured.  Crappies and Bass are going to be feeding on small perch and this largemouth clobbered my Zipper!  I saw another mark on my flasher so I released the bass quickly and dropped the Zipper back down the hole.

ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!  The reel's drag squealed!  Bounce, bounce goes the rod tip with deep headshakes!  Three more runs later this estimated three pound bass whacked my Zipper and ran hard away from the hole when he figured out he was hooked.   That was tons of fun!

It was that much sweeter since I made the rod I caught it with.  The rod performed flawlessly after hardly being used last year. I just didn't have confidence in anything that wasn't a panfish jig.  I'm enjoying seeing the error of my ways manifesting in some great fish all caught on a baitless, crank-style jigging bait; the Salmo Zipper!

Most of my fish came on the Zipper.  A few fish ate my deadstick.  A deadstick is a rod that just sits there next to you.  Generally it's got a minnow on a ice jig floating under a slip-bobber all running down the hole.  I had the minnow positioned close to the bottom.  I was hoping to catch a decent perch.  All of a sudden Pondboy yells for me to come over to his shelter.  His deadstick got hit and he had a surprise for me.

The day's only perch.  It was a nice one too! It's always great to have a multi-species day that includes something other than panfish and largemouth.

The snow had stopped and the sun was out.  It was still a bit chilly but we'd had a great morning! I was pleased to call it a day after a lot of catching.  The key to my success today was simple; I thought outside of my little fishing box.  I used tackle that I had purchased to work with a rod I had built that I hadn't used.  It's great to get some confidence in a bait and I can say I now have fantastic confidence in the Salmo Zipper!