Location is a key to fishing success no matter what you’re after and what time of year you hit the water, but seldom is it more important than when fishing for crappies in winter. Wintertime finds crappies less spread out than in summer. In cold water, these fish congregate in specific areas, but this is a double-edged sword. When you find crappies, the fishing can be tremendous, but if you’re fishing in the wrong area, you might as well be dropping a line in your bathtub.
Early on in the winter, just after ice forms, crappies can be found in many of the same areas they inhabited before ice-up. Start by looking for them around the deeper side of shallow weed beds, and just outside the weed line. Some of the best and most productive weed beds tend to be those associated with points and drop-offs.
As winter progresses, crappie location becomes very much tied to food. Crappies follow minnows, which in turn follow plankton. Crappies typically move into deeper water in mid-winter, usually the nearest deep basin to the weed beds they inhabited earlier in the season. If woody cover like brush or standing timber is available in deep water, start there. Crappies often suspend during the dead of winter, so let your bait hover at the same level as the structure they are using.
In late winter, crappies gradually make their way back toward shallow water again in anticipation of spring. You can typically find them closer to the dark-bottomed bays where they will be spawning in the months to come, so focus your efforts on deep weed lines, drop-offs, and points at the mouth of shallower bays.
Even when you have a general idea where to find fish, you can still take other measures to gain the advantage. Drill multiple holes in the same general area to cover more ground, and use flashers and other electronics to help you nail down the crappies’ exact location. Underwater cameras are a great tool in wintertime as well. And as with any other type of fishing, location is only part of the puzzle. Fine-tune your presentation to help bring fish up through the ice when fishing for crappies in winter.