By Eric Hustad

Another April is upon us and I can't help but get excited! What a great month: the Twins play meaningful games, the NFL draft, snow melting, longer days, and the start of what I consider my preseason fishing. Giving normal ice out, in the middle of April, crappie fishing is my preseason of fishing. It is a time to get the rust off and spend some quality time on the water. For me catching crappies ranks right up there with walleyes, and the few weeks before walleye opener can be great for crappies (again taking into account normal ice out). It takes some patience and a lot of movement to find where the fish are at, but when you catch one crappie you can bet there are a lot more there. So what works for me?

Crappies normally move into the reed beds to spawn when the water temperature reaches around 50 degrees. The lake I spend a lot of time fishing in the spring peaks at 51 degrees. The areas that will receive the most activity early on are the mud flats on the north side of the lake. That is the part of the lake that receives the most sun, and the mud bottom will absorb the sunlight. If you're having a problem finding fish, try to target these mud bottom reed flats. The
first place I go it the reed lines in the morning or a few hours before sundown. I will anchor off the reed lines and work different depths, but as sunset gets closer the shallower I go. I will use a slip bobber and a jig tipped with a minnow. Now I don't endorse one brand over another, but I have found that Northland's Gypsy jig really works well in the reeds. I use the 1/64 to 1/32 ounce and have found that the best colors seem to be yellow-green and white. Of course each lake is different and the fish may take orange or pink better so I usually have a variety of colors and see what works best. I cast in and let the wind work the jig around to find where those crappies are hiding. It is also a good idea to rig up and have three or four rods with you. The reason is that pike 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.

A key element used in all this is the wind. When I am looking on where to start fishing I will target the reed line that the waves are sweeping into. There is a pretty good chance that the crappies will come into the reeds searching for the baitfish blown up in there. My favorite situation is where you have had a 15 mph wind and it dies to almost nothing going into the evening. With the light wind cast to the edge of reeds and let the wind carry you rig in a ways. If crappies are in the reeds you will know in a few casts or if you will have to move to a different spot. If the wind is really blowing hard then I will fish in the calmer areas on the lake. My reason is that I hate trying to fight big waves and keep control of the rig. On a dead calm night you'll want to use the trolling motor and move just a little bit to find the fish. You also want to be quiet because a lot of noise in shallow water can really scare the fish. Don't be afraid to go back to places you tried and hour earlier because sometimes crappies will move in from deeper water and you might have left 10 minutes before they came in.

The crappie fishing gets better each week in the spring and can stay that way well into May 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 sink that really gets the heart pumping. There are some nights in the spring when you really can't get the line out fast enough. So when the ice goes off get out there and give crappies in the reeds a try, it can be a great time. Oh yeah, don't forget to bring a facemask and gloves with because that ride across the lake early in the spring can be a cold one. Tight Lines!!!