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Fall crappies will require decisions

Duane Peterson landed this nice fall crappie by using light line and a jig.  There are numerous ways to fish with a jig, so anglers need to experiment to find the one that works best each day. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

As the late summer period gradually turns to fall, crappie activity elevates.

That has certainly been the case in the Park Rapids area over the past few weeks. That increase in action should continue as the days of September pass.

A great way to catch crappies throughout the year is with a small jig with a soft plastic tail. Sizes from 1/32 up to 1/8 ounce are appropriate sizes, though a 1/16 ounce works best in most situations.

Hot crappie catching colors vary from lake to lake, but white, red/white, pink, white/pink, black, brown and yellow are popular selections.

People often ask what type of livebait they should use to tip the jig. Nightcrawlers and leeches typically don't tempt too many crappies, though they will garner a fish here and there. Crappie minnows and fathead minnows are a much better choice, though one of the most effective ways to catch crappies is without livebait. The bright colors of the jig are enough to fool big crappies (though you'll surely catch some small ones too).

The techniques used while presenting a jig for crappies is fairly simple, though there are a few different approaches.

The first is to cast. A long rod and light line will aid in a long cast. Once the jig hits the water, you have to make a decision. You can let it sink to the bottom and watch the slack line on the surface. If the line twitches or tightens, set the hook.

You can also "swim" the bait back to the boat by keeping your rod tip high, which allows the jig to slowly swing toward the boat like a pendulum. Any slight tick of the line should be treated like a strike.

The third option is to vertical jig. This is the easiest of the techniques since it only requires the angler to drop their bait over the side of the boat. You can jiggle, twitch and snap the jig using your rod tip to entice the fish, but determining the exact depth to set your jig takes some experimentation.

Crappies are sometimes referred to as "paper-mouths" because of the thin membranes surrounding their mouths. Hooks can easily tear free from a crappie's mouth so a short or sweeping hook-set should be used versus a swing-for-the-fences jerk like you might employ for largemouth bass.

The final decision to make for fall crappies is which area to fish. Schools of crappies will essentially relate to one of two types of spots; either weeds or open water.

Weed relative crappie prefer cabbage weeds, coontail, and grass, which all grow subsurface out to about 16 feet of water.

Those fish are the easiest to find since you can gradually work along a weedline or around weed-beds to find active fish.

Open water crappie relate to food. Whether its schools of minnows or zooplankton, suspended crappies are transient and follow the forage. Watching the sonar will help you locate the wandering fish.