Some days just turn out far better than you hoped for. After struggling for much of yesterday afternoon, trying to repair an issue with the truck, Darrell and I figured our planned fishing trip for today would need to be cancelled. To say we were disappointed would not even do justice to how we were feeling. After failing to fish this lake last winter, we were quite eager to make the trip, and fortunately, after some last minute work and grumbling on both our parts, we were on the road before 7AM this morning, with our gear in tow.
I had a much needed nap on the drive and arrived at the lake feeling much more refreshed, and a lot less cranky. Darrell’s friend, Adam, was joining us on this trip, and all three of us were hoping to have a good day of crappie fishing.
Although the ice was a little soft by shore, a short distance found thick, hard ice, and an extremely slick walk thanks to the recent thaw. The snow had disappeared and left a skating rink, and I was once again thankful to have my cleats that prevent me from wiping out every few feet.
We marked several fish in our first few holes but I couldn’t see them on the camera and a quick fish yielded no bites. Active fish were the goal of the day so we moved on, drilling holes and checking the fish finders.
Having fished this lake in previous summers, we decided to search an area where we caught them at in the past. One of the holes yielded a blip on the bottom so I dropped down a tiny spoon, not expecting much to come of it. I was using a rod and reel combo set for crappie, with 3-lb line that we have found to be less than stellar. After jigging for a few moments I decided to dead-stick the spoon. That was when I felt weight hit my line and I set the hook. I had no idea what I had hooked into – maybe a huge crappie (that was my hope), or maybe a walleye.
For awhile I made absolutely no gains on the fish. I reeled, she ran, I reeled, she ran some more. Keeping in mind that I had such a light setup, I had no choice but to let her run and bring her in when she agreed to it. It seemed like an eternity before I saw the fish flash under the hole, and I was beginning to wonder if I could get her in without breaking her off. I really didn’t want to lose that spoon as it’s proven to be an effective search tool for crappie, and we haven’t found it in stores since. With a little bit more patience, I finally got the fish to the hole and out, and found myself looking at a beautiful smallie. Bass never seem to know when they are out of season. I held her up for what I thought was a picture, but it turned out Darrell was actually taking video, then I put her back in the hole, and watched her swim away. What an exhilarating start to the day!
After that excitement we turned our attention back to the search for crappies, and a few minutes later I managed to entice one into eating my spoon and coming for a visit. It wasn’t a large crappie, but we work on the assumption that where there’s one, there’s more.
I continued to fish that hole and get a few more, but it was Adam who managed to find the perfect spot, and his fish finder lit up like a Christmas Tree. We were all marking crappies at that point, but the only thing that seemed to make them bite was the spoon. After Adam switched to a spoon and started pulling fish up consistently, Darrell and I setup nearby, ditched all the finesse gear, and started cycling through our more aggressive stuff.
For us, crappie fishing often requires finesse lures and techniques. Most of the lakes we fish do not have crappie populations that seem to enjoy a power presentation. Today was a welcome change. Rapala Jigging Raps and Jigging Shad Raps were on fire, so were the Lindy Darters, several spoons, and my favorite Fish Creek Spinners Depth Charge. Darrell was the first to upsize the lures and that helped to weed out some of the smaller fish. From there we just kept watching the finder and bringing fish in.
Fish were coming through holes at a pretty constant rate, but so far the slabs had eluded us. Then, while using my Rapala Jigging Shad Rap, I felt my lure get smashed and my rod bend in half. There was no doubt that I had hooked into a slab, but the violent head shakes as the fish neared the hole had me wondering just how big the fish would be. I was not disappointed. While it wasn’t even close to my PB crappie (caught on a wonderful night last spring), it was definitely my biggest through the ice. You can watch both this fish and the bass in the following video.
As far as I was concerned, the day could have ended right then and there. My hands smelled like crappies, I had landed a couple of real nice fish, and I had experienced a really awesome and aggressive crappie bite. These crappies were chasing the lures through the water column and inhaling them, even on the way down. It was fantastic!
However, the day wasn’t quite over yet as Adam still had to put on a show and pull in two slabs of his own. They were two more beautiful fish and none of us could say the day was anything but successful.
It was truly an amazing day of ice fishing. Lots of fish, a few slabs, and a ton of laughs. I’m pretty sure everyone on the lake could hear us as we weren’t quiet about how much fun we were having. By the time we called it a day everyone had caught a bunch of fish, and I for one was exhausted. I can’t wait for next time we can make a trip to this lake and visit the slabs.