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Minnesota Fishing Reports
Articles : Beat The Crowds For Pressured Ice-Out Crappies by Daniel Quade
Posted by LSF on Apr 28, 2013 (1643 reads) News by the same author

It’s been a long winter in the Ice Belt, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Winter’s demise signals the start of the annual panfish migration. Hungry crappies, bluegills and other sunfish species shift from deep-water holding areas into easily accessible, shallow shoreline feeding grounds.

This spring run offers amazing opportunities for fast fishing, but when crowds of anglers flock to popular hotspots, the combination of commotion and overwhelming pressure can stop a hot bite in its tracks.

Some savvy panfish fans break from the pack and find hidden honeyholes where broad-shouldered slabs swim blissfully unmolested by the masses. It’s a great strategy if you have access to such hidden gems, but another option is to tweak your tactics to milk the most fish possible out of community holes.

lindy nipperA lifetime of targeting pressured crappies has taught panfish fanatic Paul Fournier a few tricks for dealing with crowds. On his home waters in the shadows of Minnesota’s sprawling Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolis, it’s common for hundreds of fish-hungry anglers to line the shores of popular public fishing areas.

“The pressure gets pretty crazy sometimes,” he laughs. “Even though it might put the fish in a funk, they still hang around feeding areas and can be caught with the right presentations.”

Fournier begins by focusing on the best possible fishing areas, particularly classic fast-warming bays with dark bottoms. The muddy bottom absorbs sunlight and provides the perfect incubation area for aquatic insects.

“There’s an old wives’ tale about north bays being best, but on some lakes bays on the south side phenomenal,” he said.

Fournier isn’t deterred if his are hosts a horde of hungry fishermen. He simply gears up for combat fishing and gets to it. Most anglers use standard fishing gear and dunk minnows under bobbers in one spot. While there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when crappies are abundant and biting, he likes a more active approach with more refined tackle.

Fournier’s crowd-control arsenal consists of two spinning outfits, a 6-foot, 6-incher for middle-distance casting and a towering 10-footer for long-range strikes. The extra length gives him more leverage for long casts to reach gun-shy fish.

Both setups are spooled with 4-pound-test mono mainline and a 2-pound fluorocarbon leader. He connects the 2- to 4-foot leader to the main line with a swivel, which he feels makes the connection stronger.

lindy nipperHe uses a feather finesse jig like the Lindy Little Nipper because the feathers pulsate with the slightest movement. The Little Nipper is available in 1/16-, 1/32- and 1/64-ounce sizes, and Fournier uses them all depending on the mood of the fish and environmental conditions. On windy days he opts for the largest option, and will interchange the smaller sizes to match the conditions or mood of the fish.

He uses four primary patterns. In dingy water he likes pink/glow, chartreuse/lime or chartreuse/glow. In clear water, especially on a bright day, basic black gets the nod. He will tip the Nipper with a small minnow or other live bait, but experiments each day to find the most effective.

Fournier often modifies his Nipper for more solid hookups by twisting the hook slightly of it’s a little offset. If crappies are finicky he may also trim the feathers up to the hook bend for a smaller presentation. He also positions his knot to hold the jig horizontal before every cast.

Three casting tactics get the nod for pressured crappies: slow-rolling, dragging, and the more sedentary, sit-and-wait approach. Slow-rolling the jig allows him to cover water in search of fish. He rigs the jig on a slip float rig with the Thill Wobble Bobber or Crappie Cork, casts, lets it all settle, then begins a slow retrieve with the occasional pause thrown in.

Fournier’s years of tournament walleye fishing taught him the value of dragging a jig during a tough bite, and he says the approach translates well to ice-out crappies.

“Big crappies often hunker tight to bottom at the bases of dead vegetation,” he says. “I hook a small crappie minnow on a Little Nipper at the front corner of the eye, so the minnow lays sideways and struggles as you slide it slowly along the bottom. Hold your rod at a 45-degree angle to the water and reel slowly with lots of pauses.”

The waiting game is used to focus on specific areas Fournier believes hold fish. It’s essentially super-slow slow-rolling, with long pauses and very little movement of the float.

“Don’t give up on a spot you know holds fish,” Fournier says. “A lot of times the bite picks up in late afternoon or even after dark, once the crowds go home for the day.”

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