Speak with any ice angler about their favorite fish to target on the ice and crappie is going to likely be in their top three. No, they’re not the largest or hardest fighting fish, but they’re well-populated and a blast to catch. Since they operate in schools, you’ll catch several of them in a row and can easily catch your limit each day. We’ll talk through the best ice fishing lures for crappie to make sure you can catch a cooler full of fish.
If you’re the type who wants to eat their catch, you’ll struggle to find a better-tasting freshwater fish than Crappie. It doesn’t take long to learn how to land these fish through the ice. Some patience and the right lure are going to put fish in your freezer.
Where to Catch Crappie When Ice Fishing
When you’re looking to find crappie through the ice, you’re going to have to get used to trial and error. Unless you know the lake well, study a map of the lake to find the depth and vegetation spread throughout the lake. A simple look at Google Maps or a local fishing forum will give you the necessary information to land fish.
Drill a few holes around 10 feet apart to gain an idea of the different depths. Drop your fish finder in the holes and see if you can mark any fish.
Weed Lines – Early Winter
When the lake has just frozen over, you should spend time fishing near the weed lines. Crappies are going to spend quite a bit of time along weed beds somewhere between 5 and 20 feet of water. Wherever there’s a healthy weed bed, you’re going to find crappie. These weeds are able to attract bait since the oxygen levels are higher than in other portions of the lake. Again, a scout of the lake online is going to show you where the weed lines are going to be. Have a few located in case the first weed bed you choose doesn’t have fish.
Deep Basin – Mid-Winter
As the temperatures cool and ice gets thicker, the fish are going to move towards the basin of the lake. Once here, they’ll suspend somewhere between 5 and 20 feet off of the bottom. Oxygen levels here should be sustainable and that’s going to cause the bait to follow. Crappie will sit in schools and feed on any bait that’s in the general area. Study the different depths of the lake before you make your visit, so you know where you need to go mid-winter.
Vegetation – Late Winter
As the temperatures warm, you’ll find that crappies start heading back to the weed beds. They’ll be sitting in that 5 to 15 feet of water looking to eat any late-season bait that they can find. Late-season crappie fishing can be hit or miss depending on temperatures.
Look for Others
Odds are, if you find a group of houses near each other, you can assume fish are schooling or there’s a healthy amount of bait in the area. Be respectful and don’t get too close to another house, but in the general vicinity is a great place to start.
Gear To Use to Catch Crappie Ice Fishing
Ice fishing for crappie isn’t going to require any special gear, but the standard ice fishing equipment is vital. You’re not going to be able to cut any corners if you can help it. You want to be comfortable and give yourself the best possible chance to land them.
Depending on the weather and temperature, you’re going to want an ice house. There are few days on the water that are good enough for spending the entire day out in the elements. Bring a portable or permanent ice house with you to the lake. Make sure you pay attention to the depth of the ice to know what it can hold. A portable house is easy to move and doesn’t take long to set up and tear down in case the bite goes cold.
In that ice house, you’re going to want a heater. A Mr. Buddy Heater is the perfect option. It’s going to easily heat your entire house and is durable. It’ll still work in below freezing weather. Get some small propane canisters and you’ll be good to go. Comfort is key while you’re ice fishing.
The most important piece of equipment you’re going to need is an auger. Without an auger, you’re not going to be able to get through the ice to get to the fish. You can purchase a gas, electric or drill auger depending on your budget. Without one of these, you’re in trouble.
A fish finder is another ideal piece of equipment. Yes, people ice fished for years without fish finders, but they definitely make life easier. Once you drill a hole, drop the fish finder in and check the depth as well as see if you’re able to mark any fish. It’s an absolutely amazing tool. Garmin and Vexilar are two common brands.
Ice Rod and Reel
A traditional panfish rod is going to be somewhere around 30”. A 30” ultralight rod is perfect. The ultralight aspect of it is going to help you detect the strikes when the fish bite. Crappie will grab your bait and drop it quickly, so it’s important to know when you get a strike. Also, the ultralight rod isn’t going to rip the mouth off of the fish. Crappie have sensitive skin around their mouth that could easily tear. You don’t want to set the hook so hard that you rip the mouth.
Pair your rod with an ultralight ice fishing reel.
The ideal line for crappie ice fishing is a 4 pound test monofilament line. It does well in cold weather and is plenty strong for any crappie you find.
When to Ice Fish for Crappie
When you’re getting ready for your crappie ice fishing trip, you want to make sure you time the feeding hours right. Where you might be able to entertain yourself on a slow day in the summer, a slow day of ice fishing is extremely boring. The cold feels stronger and the walls of the portable can feel small.
An early morning bite is not uncommon for Crappie ice fishing. However, you’re going to have to get to the ice early! Crappie will feed as the light changes, so the sunrise is a great chance to land a few of these fish.
The most common time to land crappie is in the evening as the sun is setting. The prime feeding window begins right around sunset and can continue well into the evening. Evening crappie fishing on the ice is an absolute blast.
How to Ice Fish for Crappie
Ice fishing for crappie isn’t overly challenging. There are two primary methods that are going to work.
Jigging for crappie is the most common method. Get your jig, lure or live bait to the necessary depth and start bouncing the rod tip up and down. This will attract fish in the area. You may have to change up the ways in which you jig in case the method you chose doesn’t work.
Another common method to catch crappie through the ice is dead sticking. Attach a minnow to a hook with a split shot a few inches above it and let it sit. Put a bobber near your rod tip and let it sit. You’ll see the bobber dip under the water if you’re getting a nibble.
How to Land Crappie
The biggest thing to consider when you hook into the crappie is how aggressive you’re reeling in the fish. Don’t aggressively set the hook and reel up as fast as you can. Retrieving a fish too quickly can damage their organs and actually cause them to die. An overly aggressive hook set can tear through the mouth of the fish. Fight the fish when it’s running and reel in when it gives you the chance.
9 Best Ice Fishing Lures for Crappie Fishing
There are dozens of crappie fishing lures you can fish, however, the following 10 suggestions are our favorite and best ice fishing lures for crappie fishing!
YZD Silverside Minnow Crappie Jig
The YZD Crappie Jig is a colorful soft plastic jig that works great for early season crappie. Drop this down into the 10 to 15 feet of water and watch the crappie charge. It’s a great minnow representation, so you don’t necessarily need to attach live bait. Jig this up and down near a weed line and it won’t long for a school of crappie to take it. Depending on the depth you’re fishing, you may need to attach a split shot to get it lower in the water column.
Use the realistic appearance and flashy colors of this jig to your advantage. It’s 1.5 inches long, so it’ll stand out, but not be obviously fake!
Crappie Mo’ Glo Jig
The Mo’ Glo Jig is one of the more classic patterns in panfish ice fishing. This jig has a bright head with the hook eye extending at a 90 degree angle away from it. This eye allows for the jig to be balanced in its presentation. The long shank also holds plastics quite well! As it falls in the water column, be prepared to set the hook. Crappie will often feed on the fall. As soon as you raise the jig and drop it, they’ll strike.
If you’re fishing at night, this is an especially good option. It’ll clearly stand out to the fish.
Lindy Little Nipper Feather Jig
If you know the fish are going to require movement from your bait, the Little Nipper Feather Jig is a wonderful choice. The feather jigs work well in the summer, but many anglers choose to put them away in the winter. With even a small jib, you’ll find that these create all sorts of action. It has a heavy beadhead attached, so you won’t have to attach any split shot to get it lower in the water column. Slow and fast movement will both work with this bait. Keep trying different methods until you get a fish to strike.
Rapala Rippin Rap
The Rapala Rippin Rap is a great ice fishing bait, but it’s especially great for crappie. It’s not an overly large lure and it comes with BB’s on the inside to create that classic rattle sound. Let it fall in the water column all the way to the bottom. Start retrieving it in a variety of different ways. Short, fast reels as well as slow falls will work. Any little movement you give the rod tip is going to set off the BB’s. You won’t have to do much to start seeing fish on your finder.
Clam Leech Flutter Spoon
Spoons are more common for pike and even walleye, but they work well for crappie, too. This spoon is shiny and has a great fluttering action. As it falls, it’ll flutter back and forth, but when you retrieve it, it stays still like a leech. The diversity that this lure brings to your tackle box is great. It’s easy to use and is guaranteed to catch fish. Attach a minnow head to the treble hook and that’ll make it even more appealing.
The Ratso Jig is something that every ice crappie angler has in their box. It’s similar to the Glo Jig in the sense that it sits horizontal in the water with the hook facing up. The body is flexible and it’s ideal for those fish that are extra finicky. The tail is going to move with any slight movement of the rod tip. Don’t make your life too complicated! This jig is perfect for all types of ice fishing.
Jeff’s Jigs Workin Man’s Jig
The Workin Man’s Jig also has a feather attached to it. This micro jig is colorful, heavy and everything that you need to land crappie through the ice. You can add a wax worm, minnow head or leave it empty depending on your preference. If you’re fishing shallow water, start with the Workin Man’s Jig. Odds are, that’s all you’ll need. You have a variety of colors you can choose from, but the chartreuse and pink pattern seems to be the most appealing.
Northland Tackle Puppet Minnow
The anglers who fish in the midwest are well-aware of the Northland Tackle Puppet Minnow. It is a great bait fish representation. They’re not overly large, so keep that in mind if you’re hoping to do some searching. This lure isn’t going to move a lot of water. If you’ve found a school, it’s definitely more than enough to attract the attention of the fish. You can jig with this pattern and that’ll be the most successful. As you lift up, the minnow moves from side to side.
Last but not least is the Demon Jig from Custom Jigs and Spins. This jig is as simple as they come and proves its worth over and over. Many anglers find that this is the only lure that they’ll use for an entire season of crappie fishing through the ice. You can attach a soft plastic, wax worm, or minnow head and fish it in a classic jig style.
There are several colors you can choose from. Usually, with some trial and error, you’ll find that one of the glow colors is going to work. Don’t give up until it does. If crappie aren’t willing to hit this jig, they’ll be willing to hit very few lures.
Frequently Asked Questions
What colors do Crappie Like Ice Fishing?
Jigs that are white, yellow, chartreuse and pink are all great colors. Anything that’s high is best. You could be fishing dark water at night, so a lighter color is going to stand out more and draw the attention of the fish. Stick with the bright colors until you know they’re absolutely not working.
How Do You Find Crappie in Ice Fishing?
Finding crappie doesn’t have to be overly complicated. In the early ice fishing season, stick shallow along the weed beds and lines. As it gets colder, find the basin of the lake and fish about 15 feet above the bottom. As the weather warms again, late season crappie are going to be back around the weed lines.
How Do You Catch Finicky Crappie in Ice Fishing?
Finicky crappie can be caught by using a jig with a lot of movement. Movement draws the attention of fish regardless of how picky they want to be. Bright colors and movement often seem to be too much for the crappie to handle.
What Is the Best Depth for Crappie in Ice Fishing?
Crappie most often seem to hit between 5 and 20 feet. If you can find water somewhere in this depth, you’re good to go. If you need to be precise, water around 10 feet deep seems to be the sweet spot. As long as you’re around some vegetation and bait, you’ll land crappie through the ice.
Do Crappie Bite At Night in Ice Fishing?
Yes, crappie feed at night! As soon as the sun starts setting, the crappie begins feeding. These feeding frenzies seem to last several hours after dark!
Ice fishing for crappie is an absolute blast. They’re not a challenging fish to catch, they’re high in numbers and they taste great! One evening of fishing for these is always a blast. The proper lures and location are going to put you in the best position possible to land a slab. Make sure to do your research about your local waters and get out there!