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Fall crappie tips: From one of the best

Bob Stulich of the Two Inlets area loves crappie fishing. While most area anglers focus on the pursuit for walleyes, smallmouth or big pike and musky, for Stulich it's fall crappie fishing.

Bob and his wife Pat moved to the Two Inlets area from Anoka, purchasing the Two Inlets Store in 1984 and operating it until selling and retiring in 1999. The commitment to the business was every day, seven days a week, at the height of the season. Today it's a different story, enjoying retirement and fishing as much as possible. Bob doesn't fish area walleyes a lot, he saves that for his Canadian fishing trips. Instead, he focuses on the prime crappie lakes of the area. Except in the spring he has the resource pretty much to himself, recommending to other anglers a practice of leaving the spring spawning crappie populations alone.

Timing is so important to Stulich.

"I study the solunar tables and focus my time on the water during major and minor periods, and prefer my time on the water three days after a high pressure system." Stulich explains.

No need to be on the water early, fall crappie action is best in the afternoon. Suspended over deep water for fall crappie, Bob recommends taking some time with good electronics to locate schools of crappie. A man of many details, this contributes to his consistent success. A crappie angler that designs jigs with a particular hook size and shape, Bob's preference is a 1/16 ounce for most of his fishing, then changing to 1/8 ounce for crappie found in deeper water. First choice in color is a "clown colored jig" with a orange and chartreuse head and rubber hackled tail - a tail not available anymore. A medium-light action spinning rod and reel spooled with bright 4# yellow monofilament line. To keep his jig in the fish zone Stulich uses a black Sharpie to mark 10-foot intervals on his line to 40 feet to insure his offering is always where the fish are. Scent is very important, particularly when using artificial lures without live bait. Instead, adding a small piece of Berkley power bait for scent. Stulich quit using minnow tipped jigs for crappie in 1972 when the twister tail came out.

On a recent outing together, Stulich spent time first looking for schools of crappie and found them suspended at 23 feet to over 31 feet. Maneuvering his 16-foot boat, transom into the wind, over the top of the schools of crappie, at a 1/2 a mile or less keeping our 1/16 ounce jigs vertical. Breeze increased and we had to go to 1/8 ounce jigs. Some crappie just "kissed" the jig, lightly hooking in the lip. Others engulfed the jig indicating a more intense bite. We landed a number of crappie with the larger ones 13 1/2 inches, which were released. Bob shared this tip when releasing crappie, especially important for crappie caught out of the deep water. Close the crappie's mouth, then drop the crappie mouth closed into the water head down.

My day on the water with Bob reenergized a desire to fish crappie in the fall again. My focus on walleyes caused a memory lapse of the challenge of finding and catching crappie, then the enjoyment that goes along with eating them. To guys like Stulich, I say thank you for your willingness to share your knowledge and respect of the resource.

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