Hand to Hand Combat Crappie

Experience one of the most exciting ways to catch these big brutes in Ontario

People often ask me: what is the fascination with crappie fishing?

The answer is often the same three words: “they are fun,” period. Voted the second most popular and sought-after game fish in North America by angler surveys, the crappie is also one of the most delicious fish in terms of taste and texture.

But, stalking them down like bass is what really gets me going when it comes to hunting big slab crappie. Ontario has so many regions, lakes, and rivers that harbour these tasty little critters, which can be caught 12 months of the year across Ontario depending on regional open seasons.

On a recent road trip shooting shows for Xtreme Crappie Angler TV, our crew headed north on Highway 400 towards the pristine waters of Georgian Bay and surrounding lakes, to find some oversized late spring crappie hiding in thick bushes and trees prior to the summer move to deeper water.

We chose a lake that has a reputation as a bass and northern pike lake, but recent social media forums mentioned some big crappie being caught through the ice during the dead of winter. So we decided to check out this “sleeper” lake and headed directly to areas the fish had recently spawned: dark water back bays, shallow cuts, and sloughs that tend to warm quicker and attract the springtime slabs for spawning purposes.

(Photo credit: Karl Kalonka)

Rigged with tiny tube jigs suspended below sensitive balsa wood floats and 7-foot light action B 'n' M poles with 6-pound line, we fished the perimeter of the first shallow back bay approximately 3-4 feet from the shoreline in 2 feet of water with no results. Moving slightly to deeper water in the 5- to 6-foot range changed the game, big time. We began catching 12- to 14-inch black crappie that had the large round “dinner plate” appearance, as opposed to the longer white crappie in the south.

Slow twitches of the rod tip, and then letting the tube jig slowly fall below the slip float, triggered the most bites from these post-spawn slabs.

But nothing stays good forever, does it? Mother Nature decided to throw us a slight curveball with a high bright sun breaking through the morning mist of rain, which had earlier positioned the bigger crappie in the deeper edges, but now the fish had vanished. Where did they go? We tried slightly deeper, bigger baits, different cadence, different lure colours—nothing. Then it hit us: these big black slabs had moved tight to cover in the ultra-shallow buck brush and lily pads that resembled classic bass-holding cover.

We replaced the 7-foot float fishing poles with 12-foot B`n`M Sam's Super Sensitive jig poles with 8-pound line and soft-bodied jigs on 1/8-ounce jig heads in bright pink and chartreuse tones and began dipping our presentations into the thickest, nastiest cover we could find. And bam, just like that, we began connecting with some of the biggest black crappie of the year in the thick nasty stuff.

(Photo credit: Karl Kalonka)

Getting bit wasn't the issue now; the issue now was landing these oversized paper-mouthed slabs that did everything possible to break free once hooked.

Half of the fun was just trying to land plate-sized crappie that splashed water and made short powerful runs into the thicker bushes.

Nothing like hand-to-hand combat with a finned critter in thick cover! I don't care what species of fish it is—bass, pike, walleye or these thick-bodied crappies—the sheer excitement and hunting aspect of this technique is very addictive. Once hooked, never shaken.

We had an absolute blast on a brand new body of water catching some of the biggest crappie of the year, keeping just enough fish for a meal, and releasing the bigger fish to ensure a future fishery of big black Ontario crappie.

If big black slab crappie interests you and you want to experience one of the most exciting ways to catch these big brutes, come on down to Ontario—we have the lakes, the lodges, and the resources to satisfy any angling adventure.

Visit Lorimer Lake Resort for your next angling road trip. The resort lake offers great accommodations and fishing for bass, northern pike, lake trout, an assortment of panfish, and lakes in the district that harbour the big black crappie and the perfect holiday getaway. 

www.lorimerlakeresort.com or phone (705) 346-4006

About Karl Kalonka

It's possible Karl's love for fishing began as early as the age of five. His parents took the kids on weekend trips across Ontario fishing for panfish, catfish, and bass. "I started with a bobber and worm from the time I was five years old," says Karl. These days, he has the enviable task of doing what he loves for a living, travelling across Ontario fishing, filming and producing two outdoor series, Extreme Angler and Crappie Angler TV.

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