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Using bobbers is a matter of choice

Nisswa area guide Richie Boggs shows off a mammoth spring crappie caught on an artificial jig beneath a bobber. Boggs released the big female so it will reproduce when the water warms. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

As the April days continue to pass, anglers considering a 2010-2011 Minnesota fishing license should make the purchase soon.

Though a current license is valid through April 30, new licenses may be purchased now and won't expire until May 1 of next year.

Additionally, lines at the counter to buy a fishing license tend to lengthen several days preceding the 2010 Minnesota fishing opener.

With the early spring and late opener, anglers have been taking advantage of the warm weather and spending some time looking for preseason panfish. And the fish have been eager to cooperate.

During a typical year, the ice would just be disappearing now, while a few of the larger lakes might have ice for a few more days.

Fortunately for open-water loving anglers, surface temperatures have crept into the lower 50-degree level, prompting panfish to accelerate in activity.

Swarms of minnows tickling the surface are now commonplace in shallow coves and auxiliary bays. But if you keep a few sunfish or crappies for the frying pan, you'll notice they actually haven't been eating many minnows, but rather tiny bugs.

Don't let this discourage you from using minnows as bait, since spring crappies are divinely affectionate for the naturally swimming fish fare.

For a crappie to catch a minnow or two in the wild requires a certain amount of energy and effort. That crappie minnow dangling below your bobber tempts the crappies since it circles and struggles but doesn't really manage to swim away.

Speaking of bobbers, I've had several e-mails this week from inquisitive anglers wondering which type of float, slip bobber or spring bobber, is best for these shallow water crappies and sunfish.

The answer, quite frankly, simply depends upon the fisherman's personal preference.

Slip bobbers are popular because they're easy to cast since they sit against your hook or sinker, eliminating a long length of line characteristic of a spring bobber set up. However, tying on a bobber knot, adding the bead, then threading the bobber on the line takes more time than simply clipping on a spring bobber.

If your hook breaks off on a pencil reed, bulrush or emerging lilypad, a slip bobber will slide off the fishing line, requiring retrieval and possibly spooking wary fish.

One way to remedy this is to tie a second bobber stop, minus the bead, below the slip bobber, between the hook and the float.

That way you'll still be able to reel your bobber in, even if your hook breaks off. A small split-shot also serves the same purpose.

A spring bobber is convenient because the float is easily attached and removed by simply compressing the spring attached to the stem and sliding your line through the open groove.

However, because the spring pinches the line, large crappies and inadvertently hooked bass or northern pike are sometimes lost to a line that breaks--right where the spring bobber clips onto the line.

Which design works best? That's entirely up to you.