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Spring crappies demand presentation skills

Catching nice crappies is common just after ice out. While some anglers wait for water temperatures to warm, others find success even in the chilly lakes. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

It's finally official or at least nearly official depending upon which lake you desire; the ice is gone (almost) and it's crappie time!

Though many anglers think it takes weeks for crappies and sunfish to become active and enter the shallows, it's actually not uncommon for panfish to seek out shallow refuge immediately following ice-out.

Good friend and fellow guide Jeremy Anderson decided to take a drive around several local lakes last weekend. As the road he traveled wound along the lakeshore of a good sized, deep lake, he saw a few schools of large sunfish dart out from the crusty brown reeds standing against the shoreline.

However, this lake still has plenty of ice currently covering its main basin.

Another good example is the north Long Lake access that sits along Highway 34 just east of Park Rapids.

It's no secret that shore fisherman frequent the shallow bay before the ice has disappeared from the rest of the lakes surface.

In other words, now is a great time to get out fishing.

Yet you won't find schools of crappie along every shallow water flat in the lake. There are a few specifics that attract crappie to certain areas.

First, shallow water could mean depths from 1 to 8 feet and will warm faster under spring skies if the bottom is dark in color.

Next, seek out small back bays and auxiliary arms that only have enough space to accommodate a couple boats.

Finally, concentrate on structure. Early season crappies prefer "things" that provide cover, both to hide from predators and simultaneously ambush prey such as wandering schools of minnows.

These structural elements include pencil reeds, cane, sticks, stumps, beaver lodges, lily pads, docks and literally anything that sits in the water.

Yet finding the perfect spring crappie area could prove fruitless if your presentation isn't desirable.

Immediately following ice-out, try using baits that are more akin to ice fishing; light 1/64 to 1/16 ounce jigs tipped with a tiny crappie minnow or gob of waxworms. Though earthworms are another fish favorite, they typically work much better for landing big sunfish versus crappies.

One of the most efficient ways to present a tiny jig to early crappies is by suspending it beneath a slip bobber.

One complaint anglers often have when using a slip bobber is that the float slides off the end of the line if the jig breaks off due to a larger fish, toothy pike or miscast into a tree or vegetation. The angler then has to go retrieve the slip-bobber, sometimes spooking the fish.

A simple solution is to utilize two slip-bobber knots; one in the standard position above the float and another several inches above your hook. If the line breaks near your jig, the second slip-bobber knot allows you to reel in the float.

And for a fun time crappie fishing with the kids, head to the annual Kids Crappie Tournament at the Marine Max Marina in Walker on May 8 from 1-3 p.m.