As we head into the mid-season of this very trying ice season, anglers need to be aware that panfish such as crappies and bluegills start transitioning to shallower water and will often abandon their deep water haunts in favor of water depths in the 6 to 11 feet of water.
Crappies, like walleyes, don’t all do the same thing at the same time. Some populations inhabit deep structure while other stay right against the weeds and never leave. I believe there are distinct populations that do different things. The wonderful thing about shallow crappies hiding along weed structure is that they are aggressive and feeding often. These are fish that will bite versus their deep water cousins that need to be coaxed into biting.
I always start my crappie and bluegill fishing very shallow and work my way deeper. This means starting at 6 to 11 feet and drilling lots of holes to find a weed edge. I give this strategy about an hour before moving on. Too many anglers just plop down and sit for the duration hoping that the fish eventually move in. Success is very rare in this scenario.
My next move is to deeper water in the 11 to 18 feet depths looking for transitional fish that are the in-between biters, usually in these depths to rest and loaf. At times the bite can be very frustrating. Chances are these transitional fish will move to shallower water late in the day to feed. It’s not impossible to get these mid-depth to bite. Many times I get on these fish during mid-afternoons and then they vanish prior to sunset.
My final move is to very deep water as I am looking for suspended crappies in the deepest water of the lake. These will be very evident on your electronics as they are easily seen most often halfway down the water column.
The key to mid-season success is to try these three different areas and drill a ton of holes. Chances are you will hit them on one of the depths and on a good day, all three!