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how to catch crappie ice fishingIf you are thinking about ice fishing, crappies are one of the most popular fish to catch and learning how to catch crappie ice fishing at night will make heading out onto the ice way more fun when you decide to stay out on the ice after dark.

Crappies are small, wide fish compared to brook or lake trouts and they make fishing quite fun. Even if you intend to catch walleye, perch, trout, or another fish but they aren’t biting, there is a good chance you can catch some crappie instead.

With that said, let’s dive right in and show you how to catch crappie at night ice fishing.

Do Crappies Bite At Night Ice Fishing?

Crappies are fish that are nocturnal. Therefore, they will swim in the waters at night. To answer the question of whether they do bite at night, it’s a resounding yes. 

They are found in lakes and streams, so you’ll have plenty of places near you to look for them. It doesn’t matter where you start. As long as the ice is thick enough to handle you, catching crappie at night will be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

After all, not too many people will ice fish at night. Especially when the temperatures tend to get colder after sunset. Nighttime and even before the break of dawn will be your best chances to catch crappies. 

The best times of year during the ice fishing season where the probability is high is between January and February. The middle of winter may seem like the perfect time to achieve maximum success when it comes to catching what you want as an ice angler. 

Now that you know that they bite at night, you’re probably wondering what kind of bait works best for them. We’ll answer that question in the next section.

Best Bait For Night Crappie Ice Fishing

So what exactly is the best bait for night crappie fishing? Which ones will yield you the best success? Is it the same as if you’re fishing during the warmer months?

In this section, we’ll answer these questions. One thing you’ll want to note is any bait that you use during the day for crappie will be good enough for night time use. Let’s take a look at the following types of bait that will work to your advantage:

  • Jigs: Obviously, jigs are among one of the most popular types of bait you can find for ice fishing. They are small, come in different types, and are usually smaller in size. They are lively and will move around like crazy. You can attract all kinds of fish including crappies with jigs like the Swedish Pimple. 
  • Minnows: You can never go wrong with small baitfish. Minnows are no exception to the rule. If baitfish is something you’re going to rely on most of the time, it might as well be minnows since they are small and pretty much all over the place. And be sure that they can still be able to move around. A dead minnow means nothing to crappie.

These are two of the most popular choices for ice fishing regardless if you are catching trout or crappie. Keep in mind that the brighter the colors, the better chance you may have. Also, you may want to include a submersible light so the bait appears more visibly to crappies.

Night Ice Fishing For Crappie With Lights

As mentioned before, experienced ice anglers know that one of the best ways to catch crappies at night is to use lights to their advantage. Specifically, they will be using lights that will either float on the water’s surface or submerge. 

Since the water will pretty much be iced over, your only choice will be using the lights that can safely go underwater. The best option for you is a “plankton” fishing light. They are small and will do a good job lighting up the surrounding area. 

What makes these kinds of lights awesome is that when light is present, it will draw in smaller baitfish like minnows. And where there is a large presence of minnows, there is a more than likely chance that a crappy will be in the area. Catching one may not always be a guarantee, but you will have a better chance with plenty of baitfish present than never at all. 

Most of these plankton lights use LED lights, which are brighter and last longer. As for what color to choose, green never fails. It will be more of fluorescent color and it will be a bright enough shade that will be visible for crappies to see.

Night Ice Fishing Crappie Tips

Before you start ice fishing at night for crappie, it’s important to know these # tips. Whether you are new to the game or have been fishing trout for awhile now, it might be nice to change it up a bit. 

Not only will you follow these tips, but you will likely incorporate them quickly so you have the best success possible. These are some of the tips for ice fishing crappies at night:

  • Go when there’s a full (or a new) moon: Check your calendars for the months of January and February (which are the peak months). Mark the day when a full moon is scheduled to appear. Do not fish for crappie two nights before and after that. Also, you may want to go on the days closest to a new moon. On either of those days, you’re bound to get better results. The reason is light. During the new moon it will be darker so using your plankton light will come in handy here. 
  • Keep your bait small: Like most fish you will be catching during ice fishing season, you’ll want to make your bait as small as usual. Anything bigger than two inches and crappies (not to mention the other fish) will ignore it. Also, you’ll want to make sure they can move around properly in water. Remember, no moving bait will always equal bad luck.
  • Go deeper: Crappies tend to venture into the deeper parts of the water at night. And it is for this reason why a light will be essential for capturing this specific kind of fish. However, you don’t need to go too crazy deep like past 10 feet. You can still catch them at shallow levels so long as you are close to river banks or if you are ice fishing off areas where there are planks nearby. 
  • Go bright: At risk of repeating the same thing (since we discussed bright lights earlier), it’s better to go bright while using bait for crappies. In this case, you’ll want to go for colors like chartreuse. The brighter the colors, the better you’ll be able to get some strikes. 
  • Know the laws for specific lighting implements: Depending on your jurisdictions laws and regulations, you may be able to get away with using glow sticks as part of your ice fishing setup. Before you do, find out whether or not it’s actually legal to do. If the law allows it, go for it. If it’s prohibited, obviously you shouldn’t break the law. Glow stick may be prohibited, but that won’t mean other types of lights will be considered illegal either. 
  • Location, location, location: The location is important when you want to catch crappies during ice fishing season. If you have caught crappies before and know of a few areas, you’ll want to start there. You will probably have the same luck in the winter than you had during the warmer months. For newer ice anglers, lakes or reservoirs with water levels that are stable will be your best option. Another good area to hit up is where the water will drop off from shallow to even deeper levels. Ideally, crappies will be situated somewhere between 7 to 12 feet below the surface. Sometimes they’ll go deeper than that and sometimes on more shallow ends.

If you are planning to go ice fishing, crappies are one of the best fish that you’ll want to catch. The fun thing about doing this is going at night where no one else is around except for you and maybe a few of your buddies. 

You can find ice fishing to be a lot more fun to do compared to regular fishing during the warmer months. And let’s look on the bright side, you don’t have to deal with any insects biting you. But you will be dealing with cold temperatures that could be biting you (as in frostbite).

Keep warm, follow the tips listed above, and enjoy your next ice fishing adventure. Whether you catch crappies or any kind of fish, you’ll have a good time no matter what. 

Chris Kochan

Chris Kochan

I'm the owner of Man Cave Classifieds. As an outdoor enthusiast raised in Wisconsin, I enjoy sharing my passions for hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking, hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, and all things outdoors through my research and writing here on MCC.

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