The deer are running a strange pattern for the time being, at least on the lands I have access to hunt on. They are either nocturnal, or nonexistent. Sometimes I even get confused whether that is one and the same since the results are also the same.
The bears are traveling in preparation of the coldest months ahead. Unfortunately, I have seen more lying motionless along the roadside or in the medians rather than gracing their presence in my vicinity while still alive.
The ducks are flying, if you can catch them at the right time. But again, they seem to have an internal clock more precise than anything the Swiss could manufacture, as they come in high during shooting times or low just after sunset.
And you would believe with the attempts at cold weather that Mother Nature has brought about occasionally, the fish bites would have become as rare as a snowman in July.
You would believe.
Now the saying goes “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him forever.” So let’s talk a little about one of my favorite cold water targets.
As the water temperatures have cooled down, one of the premiere pan fish have moved off the shore lines and into the deeper water. The crappie seek the deeper water during the cold and tend to stack up and school around submerged structure. When they do this, the fishing becomes fun.
First you need to know what to use to target the papermouths. Crappie love minnows. Love them! You can use live minnows or even artificial minnow jigs, but the live minnows are hard to resist.
You can fish for them just like you would bottom fish from a pier on the coast with a couple of variations. To make the drop jig, take several barrel swivels and tie on lengths of line, mostly between six and nine inches. At the other ends of the lines, tie on a small hook. Go ahead and make a half dozen of these short barrel swivel lines.
At the end of the line coming out of the rod and reel, tie on a small weight. It does not need to be more half an ounce in most places. Go up the line about six inches and loop the main line through the open barrel swivel eyelet. Pull the loop over the barrel swivel line and then pull tight. Go up another six inches and do the same. With this jig you can have an unlimited number of hooks dangling off at different depths, but start off with two.
Next, take a crappie minnow and hook it through the lower lip of the mouth through the top lip. This allows the minnow to live and be active in order to attract the crappie. You can also clip one of the tail fins which will cause the minnow to swim rather erratic, again attracting more attention to the predator fish.
If you notice most of your fish being caught on the top line, then move both lines up a little more. It will not take long before you will be bringing in doubles and maybe even triples.
I know I usually do not offer tips such as these in this column, that instead I tell stories of different events. I also know there are dozens if not hundreds of other ways to bring the slabs over the side of the boat or to shore. But give this a try and consider it a Christmas gift from me to you.
If you bring home a cooler full or just one outstanding memorable catch, send me a photo or two to BillHowardOutdoors@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.