Ottertail County Crappies and Bluegills/Sunfish
by Jim McCrank
Another spring open water season is upon us and I can't help but get pumped! What a great time of the year when everyone is excited to get there boat out of storage or a brand new boat all rigged up and ready to go fishing: The Minnesota Twins playing, the ice is thawing and the snow is all melted. There are much longer days, and the start of what I consider the start to my fishing season. Typically, normal ice out, in the middle of April, early season crappie fishing is one of my favorite types of fishing. It is a time to spend some quality time on the water with a fishing buddy or just some time alone. For me catching crappies ranks right up there with walleyes, salmon, trout, and the few weeks before walleye opener can be great for slab crappies and bluegills. It takes some patience, some changing of tactics, bait and staying mobile to find where the fish are, but when you catch one crappie you can bet there are a lot more there. Here is what works for me:
Crappies and Sunfish normally move into the reed beds to spawn when the water temperature reaches around 50 degrees or higher. The lakes and rivers that I spend a lot of time fishing in the spring peaks around 51 degrees. The areas that will receive the most activity early on are on areas of mud on the northern end of the lake. The northern end of the lakes receives the most sun in the spring time, and the dark mud bottom will absorb the sunlight. I like to try to target these mud bottom reed flats right away.
A good option is to go to the reed lines in the morning or before sundown. I will use my electric trolling motor and be a quite as possible in the reed lines and work different depths, but as sunset gets closer the shallower I will fish. Boat control is the key to any fishing! Try to keep your boat positioned just far enough away from where you locate the fish. Then cast into those reeds or break lines without spooking the fish. If you do this you will increase your opportunities 100%!
I often use a slip bobber and a jig tipped with a minnow or a small jig or fly tipped with larva or a grub. I am always in search of what these pan fish are feeding on, at the time. As the water temps increase you will see different forage hatching. That is why it is important to have multiple bait presentations with you at all times.
I mainly use the 1/64 to 1/32 ounce and have found that the best colors seem to be yellow-green-red and white. Of course each lake and river is different with water clarity and the fish may take another color better so I usually have a variety of colors and see what works the best. I feel that it is also a great idea to rig up and have three or four rods with you. The reason is that pike, walleye and bass can hit your jig and take the whole works with them. Nothing is worse than finding and getting into crappies and then having to take time to retie your line because jaws just hit your rig. The other reason is to be able to try a different color of bait presentation without having to re-tie your line every time.
Another key element I use is the wind. When I am searching on where to start fishing I will target the reed line that the waves are going into. There is a pretty good chance that the pan fish will be in these reeds searching for the baitfish and other forage that has blown in there by the wind. One of my favorite situations is where I have had a 15 mph wind all day and it dies to almost nothing in the evening hours. With light tackle I like to go into these areas very quietly. If crappies are in these reeds you will know after a few casts. More than likely they will be there. If there is a lot of wind, I will use my anchor and let my bait drift into the areas that I want to fish. I do this because it will be much easier to manage the boat rather than trying to fight the waves with the trolling motor.
On a dead calm night you'll want to again use the trolling motor and move just a little bit to find the fish. Again, you want to be quiet because a lot of noise in shallow water can really scare the fish. And always don't be afraid to go back to places you tried and hour earlier because sometimes pan fish will move in from deeper water and you might have left 10 minutes before they came in these areas.
The pan fish fishing gets better each week in the spring and can stay that way well into May and June as far as fishing in reeds goes. There are other methods that work well such as casting beetle spins but I seem to have better luck in June when it comes to spinners etc. There is something about watching that bobber go down that really gets exciting and fun. There are some nights in the spring when you really can't get the line out fast enough. So when the ice gets off the lake and get out there and give crappies and sunfish in the reeds a try, it can be a great time. Listen, take your wife/girlfriend and especially a kid out fishing this time of year. There is lots of action and it's a great way to introduce someone into our greatest past time and that's fishing! Oh yeah, don't forget to bring warmer clothes, facemask and gloves with because that ride across the lake early in the spring can be a cold one.
For those who do not know that Ottertail County has some of the best fishing there is in the State of Minnesota. Especially when it comes to panfish. There are some just unbelievable crappie and sun fish lakes near Perham, Minnesota in Ottertail County. Lakes like Big Pine, Little Pine, Lake Lizze, Lake Lidia, Ottertail Lake, Battle Lake, Lake Rose, Long Lake, Pelican Lake, Dead Lake, Star Lake and the list goes on and on. There are 1000 lakes in Ottertail County alone!
For those who have never been to this area to fish. I invite you to Perham, Minnesota and please stay at the Cactus Resort & RV Park (waterpark too!!). Take a tour through the resort. Rent one of the four cabin suites or buy your own piece of paradise with your own Park Model RV Cabin. This area has some of this states premier fishing, hunting & family activiies! To learn more Click Here
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